Anyone that hoped Prime Minister Theresa “Maimed” May would fulfill the democratic wishes of the people to execute Brexit, should have prepared themselves for a crushing let down. Britain’s globalist political elite are experts at harnessing populistic fervor, and then deflating it at the right time. In recent history, there is no better example than Britpop and New Labour.
The year was 1995 and on airwaves across Britain the gentle rhythm of cellos and violins — reminiscent of a 1960s soap commercial — opened for Damon Albarn’s prophetic swoon:
“This is the Next Century/ Where the Universal’s Free/ You Can Find It Anywhere/ Yes, the Future’s Been Sold.”
Britpop was not just a music genre. It was a rebellion against the corporatization, globalization and perceived degradation of British society and communities.
Whether it was “Yanks Go Home!” printed across the bellybutton of Suede’s Brett Anderson on the cover of Select magazine or Pulp’s “Common People” that saw Jarvis Cocker whinging about wealthy Continentals wanting to live like Essex’s poor but glamorous down-and-out, the Brits had had enough and, like the bitter bulldogs they are, they revolted.
In the Eighties there was a feeling that Britain had been invaded and fractured by outside, mostly American, forces. As the Nineties arrived, this festering malaise finally found its outlet in the likes of Oasis, the Stone Roses, Suede, Elastica, Pulp, Blur, and so on.
Of Britpop’s sonic masterminds, none were as cognizant of this malaise as the quartet, Blur. Their 1995 album, The Great Escape, deliberately critiqued the corporatization of society. “Yuko and Hiro,” for example, portrayed a modern love story about a Japanese couple that loyally works six-days a week for their separate companies. The band wryly picks fun of the stereotype of overly devoted corporate workers who cling desperately to their sterile, multinational corporations for protection. The song’s subjects are unfazed by it, of course, but Albarn seems to have feared Britain adopting such culture.
Bands like Pulp, on the other hand, rebelled against globalization, by bringing the plights of England’s misfits to the mainstream. In the Nineties, there was a perceived sociopathy among London’s political and financial elite. Pulp’s songs about uncomfortable topics addressed classism by focusing on characters unique to the society, like haggard prostitutes and working class dropouts up who all had no future.
Unfortunately, as the cultural leaders of the movement (i.e. Oasis, Blur, and Pulp) got lost in hard drugs and a rapidly changing music industry, the movement culminated in “New Labour.” Britain, feeling stifled by years of conservative rule naturally revolted against the Tories -who they blamed for all their ills- by turning to the baby-faced Tony Blair. Britpop represented a fear of the future, and Blair -with his twinkling smile and snappy wit- seemed like he was the remedy to Brit’s concerns. Someone who would optimistically steer the country to the Utopian 21st Century everyone had been waiting for.
Sadly, Blair is just a politician and a master one at that. Seeing the pent up frustration of the electorate and the concerns subconsciously voiced in British pop music, he saw a prime electoral opportunity in co-opting the angst of Britpop.
As Noel Gallagher described the feeling in The New Statesman, “the grip of Thatcherism was being smashed. New Labour had been brilliant in opposition. When Tony Blair spoke, his words seemed to speak to people, young people. Call me naive but I felt something – I’m not quite sure what it was, but I felt it all the same.” People saw Tony Blair as the answer to what they had been waiting for, and in May 1997, New Labour won in a landslide.
The love affair was short lived, and in one way or another Britpop stars realized that Tony Blair took them for a ride and dropped them the minute the results were in. Whether they had the premonition before or after the Elections, or it took them till the Iraq War to wake up, the momentum of the movement was co-opted and then squandered.
As Damon Albarn said in an NME interview,
“I met Tony Blair and had a sort of premature insight into the dark mechanics of politics and at that point I honestly felt terrified about Tony Blair.” He continued, “I picked up on something kind of odd about him that I didn’t understand. I was a bit scared of him, if I’m honest with you.”
Even Noel Gallagher, who still doesn’t regret supporting Labour, regretted the infamous photo op at Downing Street and his overly public support.
Looking at Britain and the European Union since Blair took office it’s not surprising that the quieter, graying parts of the United Kingdom voted to jump ship and chart their own course. Much like America, the UK has been devolving, not only politically and economically, but culturally. After decades of perpetual wars in the Middle East and North Africa, a biblical influx of refugees, a recession that saw the political elite bailout mega-banks over taxpayers, two decades of growing income disparity, and the steady death of the middle class, it’s no wonder why Brits who experienced England through some of its best years want to take back control of their country, communities and destiny.
Brexit, unlike New Labour, was the true political manifestation of Britpop. It was Brits wanting to be British again. It was Brits turning inwards, realizing the amount of culture, history and diversity sprinkled throughout the Kingdom already. It was Brits revolting against the antipathy of the ruling classes.
But as Brexit negotiations hung in limbo, thanks to Maimed May’s failed General Election gamble and feeble governance style, Brits –who have become increasingly supportive of the departure — should not have trusted Downing Street to manifest the movement in full. That is until their democratic wish was in the hands of a nationalist or populist, like Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Moog, which is rare to find sitting in Number 10 Downing Street.
As we saw with Britpop, the British establishment is great at harnessing and then deflating populistic fervor. Britpop was a collective rebellion against American-led corporate globalism, which was ultimately co-opted and then deflated by, “New Labour.” It was a cultural movement that saw where globalism was taking British society, and wanted to avert course. They put their faith in Tony Blair and were scorched.
Liberty-loving nationalists should pay mind to the lessons of Britpop, as Downing Hall grapples with its EU divorce paperwork, and keep as much heat on politicians as possible. Otherwise, democracy will die along with British culture. Without effective, daring leadership that eventually came in Brexit would have been lead astray.
Looking at the events that unfolded between New Labour took charge and May’s exit, makes one wonder whether Britpop would have indeed been Britain’s swan song. For libertarians, conservatives, and even Old Labour, Brexit provided much needed hope for a revitalized culture and society unshackled from decades of political correctness, European regulations, meaningless wars, poor leadership, and general malaise.
Britpop was a harbinger. Brits, always more feisty and rebellious than their Continental counterparts, love to whinge and make noise. But without proper leadership Brexit will go the way of Britpop. It would have, and maybe still, devolve once the globalist corporatist establishment hijacks it.