Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

What Can a Poor Boy Do, except Sing for a Rock 'N' Roll Band? but the Sleepy New Statesman Was Just No Place for a New Labour Man

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

What Can a Poor Boy Do, except Sing for a Rock 'N' Roll Band? but the Sleepy New Statesman Was Just No Place for a New Labour Man

Article excerpt

Glancing at the Labour leader's fascinating new book, I notice a courageous boast on the dust-jacket: "Tony Blair has nothing to hide." Courageous, but not strictly true. Although New Britain: My Vision of a Young Country purports to be a collection of his newspaper articles, there is one striking omission.

It was, I think, in the autumn of 1975 that the editor of the New Statesman, Anthony Howard, made the first of many doomed efforts to woo young readers to the ailing mag. "These people don't speak our language, Pritt," he explained sadly, "so we must learn to speak theirs. I have decided to appoint a 'rock critic'."

Howard himself was ill-equipped to find such a person, since his musical education had ceased some time before the advent of Lonnie Donegan. I, by contrast, had always felt duty-bound to keep in touch with contemporary culture, and was able to whistle many of the "hot hits" of the moment - "Wombling Merry Christmas", "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)" and Carl Douglas's delightful "Kung Fu Fighting". The editor therefore proposed that I should vet applicants for the new vacancy.

Most of them were plainly unsuitable - unwashed scruffs and surly ragamuffins who didn't even have the elementary courtesy to wear a collar and tie for the interview. Just as I was beginning to despair, however, in walked a smart-suited fellow carrying a black leather briefcase.

"Anthony Blair," he announced, extending a neatly manicured hand. "Labour Party member, law student and rock 'n' roll animal - in moderation, of course. Have you heard the ugly rumours?"

I had indeed, but I was shocked that he should mention them. "Young man," I warned him sternly, "I can assure you that Harold and Marcia are nothing more than good friends. And if you wish to join the NS, you would be well advised not to repeat malicious tittle-tattle from the Tory press. …

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