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DIARY Red tide sweeps away election blues

Radical change came home in every sense of the word

THE first thing I must do this week is offer huge congratulations to my wife Robina on becoming the first-ever Labour councillor for our home ward, Southwick Green, situated around the entrance to Shoreham Port on the West Sussex coast.

She increased the vote share by 20 per cent and made the local TV news — you should have seen the faces of the Tories at the count when they lost a seat considered such a shoe-in they have never even bothered to canvass there. I was moved to verse:

When once, in misty moments before time,
Huge dinosaurs trod heavy on the earth:
When three wise pilgrims travelled from
the East
Inspired by tidings of a virgin birth:
When Shakespeare cried “Once more unto the breach!”
And Dickens, nervous, penned his first short story:
When Bobby raised the cup in ’66
In that Cup Final, our home ward was Tory.
Things will not be as they have always been.
My wife Robina has won Southwick Green!

And her amazing victory was mirrored just up the road in Worthing where our brilliant comrades took Labour’s first five county council seats off the Tories and are just one seat away from gaining parity with them on the city council.

Five years ago, Beccy Cooper won Worthing’s first Labour city council seat for 43 years and now they have 15.

West Sussex saw more Labour gains from the Tories than anywhere else in the country and the reason is clear to see: they are local activists, embedded in their local communities, organising foodbanks during the pandemic, supporting local people in need in areas which Tories have run in a dislocated and complacent fashion for generations.  

In Robina’s case, she has been doing the kind of things in our community off her own bat for decades which in many cases would be associated with the work of a local councillor. So her election is completely logical. But it is still amazing. I was moved to verse again:

I’m not a politician, I’m a poet and musician
And a party line’s not always going to fit in my position
But I’m prouder of Robina than I’ve been in my whole life
And that’s really saying something —
’cos I truly love my wife
I truly love my wife and I’m so happy in our marriage
There’s not one tiny bit of it that I want to disparage
So I hope I don’t embarrass her, I hope that I don’t blow it
She’s now a local councillor —  I’m still
a punk rock poet.

We would have had even more success if the left vote in some areas hadn’t been split by the increasingly powerful Greens. It is essential that pacts are made and sectarianism put to one side: Greens share our values and neither of us wants to see Tories elected on minority votes due to our ludicrously undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. PR must be the ultimate goal but in the meantime we have to be clever.

Saturday is Levellers’ Day, when radicals across the country commemorate the lives of the three Levellers executed in Burford Churchyard in May 1649 for their part in the New Model Army mutiny against Oliver Cromwell.

This year’s celebration is online, starting at 10.30am, and at 5pm I shall be doing a live stream at http://mstar.link/levellersday performing many of the songs from my 2018 album Restoration Tragedy about the Levellers, Diggers and Ranters and the flight of Charles II from Shoreham Port at the end of our road. The general event will be happening on Zoom and details can be found at https://www.facebook.com/levellersday

And later this month, after two jabs, I shall start gigging live again. I can’t wait. First one is in Devon at Ashburton Arts on Saturday May 29 with my great friend TV Smith.

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