Poetry should come from the heart and speak the truth. Or, as a real poet said,
Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
- Leonard Cohen
The Speaker's Forum is a phenomenally interesting space at Glastonbury Festival. You get a broad range of political and countercultural figures there, not just declaiming to the adoring masses but having involved Q&A sessions. You can find someone good and get them to expand on an idea that a mass-media interview would never allow, or you can cross-examine on an issue that they're dubious on. This year saw Ben Goldacre, Tony Benn and Glasto godfather Michael Eavis.
I was in a team who did performance poetry there, and we were interestingly scheduled. On the Saturday we were before Mark Thomas, which was cool, and appropriate in a flattering way. But on the Sunday we were on between Daily Mail astrologer Jonathan Cainer and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
It was obvious that Clegg would be doing a touchy-feely greenwash performance, and so I hastily composed a poem to do at the end of our set to undermine his bullshit.
There's already been a back-and-forth in the comments of an earlier post about the confrontational attitude of the poem. It comes across as angry, and that's for a very simple reason. I am angry. The LibDems are neo-colonialists who masquerade as responsible green sustainability folk.
Wakey wakey time. Rampant freemarket capitalism is not neatly compatible with tackling social injustice and the environmental crises caused by overconsumption. It creates and exacerbates them.
Those, like the LibDems, who pretend we can have perpetual economic growth whilst dealing with those fundamental problems are - in the phrase used in the performance's preamble - the agents and engines of destruction.
And whilst the poem is certainly angry and aggressive, it's not puerile. I think I did quite well in avoiding rhyming Liberal Democrats with twats.
There were a couple of people filming it (both of whom had batteries fail) but the various clips have been spliced together to get a complete version.
For completeness' (and googlability's) sake, here's the text of it too. Performance poetry rarely reads well on the page, the rhymes aren't at regular intervals nor does it stick to a single meter de-de de-de de-dumming along.
The wording's been tweaked a little (the original was done written in hurry with all the distraction and brain-inhibiting factors associated with proper festival enjoyment).
FUCK YOU LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
Everything in this is absolutely true.
I learned about environmental action fast
I was given a masterclass
Up the trees that were in the path
Of the infamous Newbury bypass
It was an issue so clear-cut
A plan that was so far gone
That before it was built the Tories who ordered it
Admitted that they were wrong.
But there were two voices in favour then
Unrepentant to this day, in fact;
Newbury's council and MP David Rendel
Both of them: Liberal Democrats.
LibDem councils were at it again in Kingston on Thames
Taking on tree protesters there to defend
Mature poplar trees the LibDems said that
Spoiled the view for new luxury flats.
No prizes for guessing who won, protesters or interests vested.
The copse was cut down, the monies moved in and the protesters all got arrested.
When it came to GM then the LibDems
Volunteered themselves as biotech's friend.
The people wanted modified crops
To be banned, and the trials to stop.
In Westminster, where they had no power
The LibDems said we should go no further
But at the the same time in Scotland, in government,
They voted unanimously in favour.
With Manchester airport's second runway
In Stockport, where they held no sway,
The LibDems said such a monstrous plan should be fought
But in Manchester council, who own the airport,
The LibDems gave it wholehearted support.
I'm from central Leeds and the other year
The LibDem council of our city
Came up with a plan to spend 170 grand
To make my local park look pretty;
Turn it into car parking spaces.
Well, you should've seen our faces.
Not even their rigged 'consultation'
Was enough to allay our consternation.
The LibDems bullshat and backpedalled
And tried to win a spin gold medal
Saying it could have shrubs and nice coloured tarmac
But that risible attempt to fudge it
Isn't the punchline - no, that's the fact that
The 170K was the 'Parks Renaissance' budget.
The Green Party quit the city government
Not for the park but an environmental crime even greater
The LibDems plan to choke their voters
With a PFI waste incinerator.
They say now they were always against the war
But those who remember 2003 know the score
They were proudly "not the all-out anti-war party" then
They just wanted approval for war from the UN.
Not against the war, just after one more vote,
And the reasons for the war?
Well they said - and I quote -
It was "ridiculous" to say it was all about oil
No, Saddam's a bad man with WMDs on his soil.
When the troops went in the LibDems said
We shouldn't object to this war crime's colossal violence
Their leader said, I quote again,
"Now is the time for silence".
Well if you feel shamed and stained
By the threat of mass murder in your name
You've got to shout louder when troops go over the border
So fuck you, Liberal Democrats, and your collaborators gagging order.
They're the same when it comes to climate change
Whatever they try to spin
I though Chris Huhne was just a buffoon
Their environmental spokesman
But then I saw him dodge and weave and lie
And I knew he was really a man on a mission
To hand governance to corporations
Like every other mainstream politician.
He said he's against carbon rationing
Cos it'd take too long to implement
As if it's quicker to wait for elections
That'll bring us LibDem government.
The LibDems, Huhne said, won't stop airport expansion
No matter what devastation it may bring
"There's a contradiction in you wanting to relocalise life
Yet have a central ban on things".
So you see, it's not stupidity
But something much more sinister
"I don't want to see things run from some
office in Whitehall," says the man who wants to be a Minister.
The LibDems policy paper called "Setting Business Free"
Says they "start with a bias in favour of market solutions". Why's that? Me,
I start with a bias for effective solutions
And ones that are sustainable and fair,
And if the markets have taught us anything
It's that we won't find those values there.
If there's ever any conflict
Between anything and profit
Then the holy market doctrine doth decree
Profit wins every time
And the losers are
Social justice and sustainability.
When they say they want to "cut red tape" they mean the regulation
That stands between corporations and employee exploitation,
The accountability of directors, and environmental devastation.
So if profit isn't primary to you join me
In saying this one thing, that's
'Shove your "Manifesto For Business" up your arse,
Always promise everything to everyone
We saw it from Labour before 97
Now we see it from Cameron.
Being in opposition most places most times
Makes it easy for LibDems to claim compassionate intent
But look at where they've been in power
And you'll see that they're no different.
So you freemarket fucks, you'll be judged
Not by your spin but by your acts,
We know who you are, we've seen what you do,
And we know that yellow isn't green, it's blue
Fuck you from here to Timbuktu,