90s Britpop Star Hits the Campaign Trail to Convince Mystics and Fishermen to Undo Brexit (Guest Column)
Songwriter and former Longpigs frontman Crispin Hunt is running for European Parliament in SW England -- a job he would ultimately lose if the UK leaves the EU.
The upcoming elections for UK Members of European Parliament is now seen as a dress-rehearsal for a second referendum on Brexit -- an unintended consequence of the (Eton?) mess British Politic's now finds itself in.
If you've followed my recent Billboard column you'd know that I'm a British songwriter running for election to the European Parliament. If you've followed Brexit you'd know this is literally committing career suicide, only twice, if that's possible? Once, because even if elected, if the UK leaves the EU I'll be out of a job by Christmas, (along with millions of other Brits and EU nationals) and twice because no-one in their right mind will want to write songs with a politician. Caught between rock and a hard place? Oh well, whatever, never mind. With 25% of the European population predicted to vote for the hard right I won't feel much like singing anyway.
I'm running to represent people in the Southwest region of England, my home. An area comprising the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bristol and Gloucestershire: About as far west from London as you can get. This week I've been back on the road, touring the SW region electioneering for votes to "remain."
The South West is a healing mecca for artists and malcontent media sorts, new age travelers, purveyors of crystals and surfers seeking budget California on the beaches of the Cornish Atlantic. Think Disney's England with a touch of Woodstock. Pirates of Penzance with a touch of Baywatch and you'll get a glimpse. Glastonbury Festival, Europe's largest Music and Arts Festival sits near one of the mystic ley-lines that criss-cross the UK through Stone Henge to Tintagel Castle ( the claimed site of King Arthur's Camelot, now a Scientologist hotel). The regions mysticism has drawn "differents" since before history. As one of the multiplex of musicians migrating from London to the South West (seeking solace rather than solstice), I'm now obliged to partake in essential oils but as a campaigner, I've yet to master the snake oil of electioneering.
Climate Change in Totnes -- a beautiful medieval town in Devon- is the hot topic. I hand out election leaflets to four Witches, a Wizard and a Pirate queuing piously for vegan lattes. We discuss Sir David Attenborough's apocalyptic climate forecast while their parked horses frustrate passing traffic, deliberately. Totnes' 10th-century organic farmer's market is a "paved paradise," my kind of paradise. Think Game of Thrones only with Starbucks. Like the nursery rhyme we're here "gathering nuts in May." Nuts like me. The target market for "remain."
Convincing new-age travelers to vote for freedom of movement is hardly a challenge. Convincing the local fishing and farming communities, understandably... is. The Southwest voted determinedly to leave the EU, but recent polls suggest its mood changed as the reality of Brexit dawns over the peninsula. Cornwall alone has received more than a billion in EU funding, while local delicacies (currently protected by the EU) like the Cornish pasty, clotted cream and West Country cider could lose their protected status post Brexit. Imagine Jack Daniel's bottling Scotch and you see the threat. We may reclaim our sovereignty, but we'll no longer claim their sovereigns. D'oh!
The coastline here is gaspingly beautiful. On a sunny day the waves bob with surfers, weekend beach-boys and California girls making waves while the sun shines ( albeit in wetsuits). Tourism is big business, but the regions real businesses have been hard hit by EU quotas. Embroiling us in a decades long "Cod War" for fishing rights. Brexit would undoubtedly benefit our fishing industry. But it risks leaving the UK beached -- big fish in a tiny pond.
Brexit was a fake-out from the beginning: a "cod" war against a made-up enemy with shots sniped from the barrel-chests of Tory Eurosceptics and pitched-battles waged by escaped characters from P.G. Wodehouse novels. Political generals whose self-interest masqueraded itself as Patriotism. Openly enemies of 'the state', the Eurosceptics adhere to a neo-liberal mantra of deregulation at any cost. Cunningly, they harnessed their "trickle-down" unicorn to an inherited grudge: the jealous suspicion that we won two world wars only to end up ruled by the enemy. OMG! As Islanders, framing foreigners comes naturally and plays well to an audience inflamed by the Internet. Conveniently, it also drew attention from the probable causes of social and economic inequality: Themselves.
A sociology professor friend of mine has wondered aloud if Britons have a weakness for self-destruction, if the upper-class habit of saying "sorry" for the slightest reason rouses elites to create crises to apologize for? Like, say, accidentally toppling the first of the world's neo-nationalist dominos, then implying that the Brits will "once more save the day." Indeed, one could argue that the stiff upper lip of the Blitz has become the country's own worst enemy. Think "We bloody well voted for it -- let's get on with it and to hell with the consequences." Or "Put up and shut up," "Mother knows best," "Keep calm and carry on." Choose your codswallop.
The flippancy with which Brexiteer's now resign others to years of social and economic upheaval before Brexit's fabled benefits might reach the population lies in stark contrast to the balking reaction of business to the suggestion it might need a change of habit to avert an imminent biodiversity catastrophe. After all, Global Warming, to some, just means more time for Cricket. What's not to like?
Next week, the final countdown. Brexit referendum the demo-tapes.
Crispin Hunt is the former lead singer of the '90s Britpop band Longpigs, as well as a multi-platinum songwriter and music producer who has written or worked with Jake Bugg, Florence and The Machine, Lana Del Ray, Ellie Goulding, Natalie Imbruglia, Bat For Lashes and Rod Stewart, among others. He has been elected as a Director of PRS and PPL, sits on the U.K. Intellectual Property Office Advisory Panel and is a former CEO of the Featured Artist Coalition.