“The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich”, goes Idles‘ ‘Mother’ from their debut album Brutalism. It’s a line that’s always rubbed me up the wrong way to be perfectly honest. The best way to become a Tory is to read the wrong thing and get rich, because there’s nothing that rich people like less than contributing more of their earnings in tax in order to improve life for people who don’t earn as much.
Idles’ second album, 2018’s Joy As An Act of Resistance, went top 5 in the UK and went on to win them an Ivor Novello award and a Mercury nomination. This has raised their profile to more than half a million monthly plays on Spotify, more than 80,000 followers on Facebook and 48,000 Twitter followers. They’re inarguably one of the biggest punk bands in the country right now. The Guardian called them “Britain’s most necessary band”. Its lead single ‘Danny Nedelko’ looked at immigration through the experiences of singer Joe Talbot’s titular friend. On ‘I’m Scum’ he boasts of putting “homophobes in coffins”. ‘Great’ pokes fun of Brexit. All of which begs the question: why aren’t Idles talking about the general election?
Boris Johnson called gay men “tank topped bum boys” and hasn’t apologised. The Conservative justice minister Chris Philp has said he was right not to apologise because it wasn’t offensive. He says that actions speak louder than words, referring to the fact that equal marriage was recently introduced in Northern Ireland, while neglecting to mention that of the 73 MPs who voted against the amendment, the majority were Tory MPs, not to mention that Johnson didn’t vote either way.
Just days ago Johnson said that people who move to the UK from other countries had been “treating Britain as their own” for too long. This classic dogwhistle racism comes in the wake of the Tory party’s “hostile environment” policy that led to the illegal deportation of Windrush migrants.
Johnson’s much trumpeted Brexit deal threatens the very existence of the UK as we know it. By effectively keeping Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU, which is the only way of keeping an open border with the Republic of Ireland, which is of course essential to peace. But it brings the possibility of a united Ireland closer than it’s ever been since partition, which also lends sway to arguments for an independent Scotland. Regardless of how you feel about either of those things, threatening the existence of the UK as we know it is pretty significant. GIITTV editor Bill Cummings wrote a lengthy and exhaustively-researched piece on why a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for music in the UK in October.
Clearly, it’s important to do whatever we can to vote the Tories out. As a band who consider themselves political, you’d expect Idles to care deeply about all of these things. And indeed, when voter registration was coming to an end in November they declared this election “the last chance for a peaceful revolution” in a series of tweets. They said “There is a class war going on… driven by the greed of the elite and the apathy of the disenfranchised”, and they’re right. But since then, nothing. Not a single tweet from their band account about the election or either of the two main political parties.
This election is tight, so the Labour party need every seat they can get in order to get into power on Friday and enact a genuinely exciting manifesto. In 2017, Boris Johnson’s seat was only won by a majority of just over 5,000 votes. Iain Duncan Smith’s seat was won by less than 2,500 votes. The best way to scare a Tory is to use your platform as one of the most popular punk bands in the country and your reputation for being political to encourage people to vote for Labour.