The Panel (edit)

I posted this poem is October. It was a visceral writing experience and something I felt I really had to put out into the world. I’ve been performing it on the John Cooper Clarke tour and it’s been getting a good response. I think a lot of us feel the same: we see the most vulnerable in society losing right after right; we see the working classes underemployed and disenfranchised, then demonised by the press; we see a floundering Labour party falling behind in the polls, when they should be trouncing a rightly unpopular Tory party; and then we see UKIP gaining ground with working class votes. The world feels upside down and deeply, deeply depressing.

But in a rush to get this poem out I neglected to give it enough of an edit. Here it is again, tweaked and slicker. There’s lots of different voices in this: mine, the UKIP voice, various voters, middle class media observers etc. I’ve done my best to differentiate by using tabs and italics. The recording helps it make better sense.

I would love for you to read it, or listen – Soundcloud player below.


Broken Britain, all the rage
send documentary crews
to catalogue our grievances
and put them on the news:

In Jaywick post-war prefabs
sprout the weeds of disengagement
they struggle with the jargon of
the Westminster arrangement.

A Labour man who’s never worked
my god he’s just like me
But every time that weird bloke speaks
it’s just bad poetry …

And someone shut the Surestart down
and cut the country bus
I’m not sure who they stand for
but it sure as hell ain’t us.

The nurses strike for better pay
the teacher’s strike for pensions
but when you’ve never had a job
how do you get attention?

In ninety-seven they turned out
and Labour turned them down.
Relaxed about the filthy rich
in stone cold London town.

And now the swines are on the take
they tax then cook the books
they condescend with dumbed-down ads
and disapproving looks …

Don’t smoke in pubs! Eat five-a-day!
Remember booze is bad!
Now stare into your little phones
at things you’ve never had ….

That panel show is on again
it’s sexed-up for the ratings game
and in among the geeky blokes
a normal fella making jokes
talking English, firm but breezy:
Out of Europe easy-peasy
No to rules and yes to jobs

at least he’s not ignoring us
at least he’s not ignoring us
at least he’s not ignoring us …

In flat roof pubs St George is cross:
They’re coming over here!
They take our pay! They shag our birds!
They drink our fucking beer!

And yes his face looks ugly
when he wraps it in his flag
I know my social history and
it makes me want to gag.

I’ve learned to doubt the powers that be,
employment law that flinches
my foe is right there every day
in blogs and column inches.

But he sees burqas on the high street,
Poles in factories
That’s what’s changing Britain, mate
it has to fucking be …

The panel show is raging now
a mess of ums and sweaty brows
as pallid lefties try and fail
to out-demagogue the Daily Mail
It’s complex, really…
No it’s NOT
You’re the problem! Stop the rot!
All ‘board the Clacton omnibus!

at least he’s not ignoring us
at least he’s not ignoring us
at least he’s not ignoring us …

Or sneering like the Twitterati:
Racist, racist, racist
who pay their Slovak cleaners
cash in hand in leafy places.

Who buy their books from Amazon
in Starbuck’s wifi mist
who tut-tut-tut at apathy
then shake a cyber fist

when people go and cross the box,
they balk at it or LOL-it
but cast their own votes every day
for evil with their wallets.

Still, none of us is perfect
we’re a mess of other’s views.
I’m looking for some answers
in the aftermath of news

The panel full of jargon SPADs
who look like paunchy undergrads
all trotting out their tired tracts
but look that natty Nigel’s back
The big gin grin Tim Nice-but-Dim look
ranting from his yellowed hymn book.
Come along and join his song
grab your rose-tints stick them on
for BNP in Barbour jacket!
Raise a haunchy thigh then slap it!
Vaudeville meets British Legion,
keen as mustard (Not the Dijon!)
God he’s good, all ease and wit
if only he weren’t full of shit:
We must protect our sovereignty!
We must protect our sovereignty!
We must protect our sovereignty!

The sovereignty of you and me?
What sovereignty is that I wonder
trade unions torn asunder?
What’s the answer? Crank our rent?
Tax cuts for the one percent?
Then let the plebs all smoke in pubs
stop the proles from rising up.

The Scottish damn-near turned to go
the press declared: Resounding NO!
And so the word on British streets:
Get angry mate, attack elites
makes sense, and no it isn’t wrong
defend the weak, attack the strong
but look around the towns and shires
at all these glowing steel glass spires
and retail parks and malls so dear
and have a guess who’s thriving here!
Apocalyptic Friday Sales
and zero-hour contract fails.
Austerity and bedroom tax
while banks and business tip their hats
to politicians flush with chips
and healthcare firm directorships:
the safe seats and consultancies
that strangle our democracy.
You think that Nige’ll sort the mess
and save our treasured NHS?
Public school man, former banker
How refreshing, stop your rancour!
Working fellows needn’t fret
with right-wing Tories in his set!

So cross his box and let him loose
commit this act of self-abuse
Britain, smitten on a lie
still strung up by the old school tie.

10 thoughts on “The Panel (edit)

  1. I came hear today via a link in the Guardian (07/11/2019), so nearly five years after you posted it. Very good indeed; but who’d have thought that things would have got so much worse between then and now?
    I suppose the main difference between is that the closet racists of then are now completely open about it. The most pathetic reason for voting leave I’ve yet heard was given me by a neighbour – he said his wife had been insulted by three Indian blokes.
    I fear that the coming election won’t change a thing – I used to be chuffed to bits to be a Briton, in a ‘1066 and all that’ sort of way, but when Farage and his MEP thugs turned their backs as the EU anthem was played something inside me broke.

    Well said.

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