The news that the singer-songwriter (I use the term with extreme laxity) Billy Bragg has been the subject of mail which has the temerity to point out the disjunction between his ostensible political views and his manner of life. Headed “The Village Idiot” the letter ran:
‘ Billy “BIGHEAD” Bragg can orate as long as he likes about his “England” but the message that comes from this bilious Marxist singer is that he has shunned the poor embattled English he was raised amongst to bask in celebrity style in Burton Bradstock overlooking the English Channel.
In his own words the only ‘person of colour’ in the area is the Asian who runs the local garage/store but Bragg is always harping onto people not to vote BNP.
“ Billy ‘socialist leftist marxist’ moved out of multicultural London years ago to live in a mansion in Dorset which is just about the whitest part of England.
I would say that the man is a “hypocrite” to put it mildly.
Racial attacks on white people in England (by mostly males) are now reaching something like epidemic proportions , and Billy “BIGHEAD” wants this for Dorset.
He is a sad, sad apology for an Englishman. He even wants to pull down the Union Jack.
Bragg is useless as a singer and as a man, you traitor.’ (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1344406/Musician-Billy-Bragg-victim-malicious-hate-mail-attack-Dorset-village.html)
Not the most fluent or elegant piece of writing, but it does make its point which is an increasingly potent one, namely, that those who incessantly bang on about the joys of diversity invariably show a remarkable aversion to being one of its beneficiaries in their own lives.
Those unfamiliar with Bragg need a few facts about him to understand what the writer of the anonymous note is getting at. Bragg has made his living and reputation as a political anima through his songs and ordinary political campaigning. He promotes both the idea of an England of allcomers – a subject he deals with in his book The Progressive Patriot (2006) – and traditional socialist values wrapped in what he fondly but mistakenly imagines are the roots of English socialism, namely, the Levellers who arose during the English civil. (He is mistaken because the Levellers were fighting not for economic but political change, for the right of most but not all men to vote with women completely left out of the enfranchisement equation. The Levellers far from wanting socialist measures, developed ideas which foreshadowed much of the political thinking of Locke, the arch political and economic individualist. )
Bragg’s socialism came before his “ progressive patriotism” . He backed the miners’ strike of 1984 and became part of Red Wedge, a group of musicians who campaigned against Thatcher in the 1987 general election. His interest in what it is to be an English patriot is a relative latecomer with his first serious public foray being his 2002 album England, Half-English. Bragg’s idea of what constitutes both patriotism and Englishness is distinctly rum, for what he calls his patriotism is a recipe for dissolving Englishness which in turn would render the idea of patriotism in an English context an absurdity.
What does Bragg mean by Englishness? Essentially whatever it evolves into. He religiously promotes the idea of England as being a land of immigrants, even citing the expression “Anglo-Saxon” as evidence of mixed roots. Of course if you go back far enough all nations are the creation of migrants., but that misses the point of nations, namely, they are the tribe writ large. A nation only exists when all those enclosed within it see themselves as belonging to it and are accepted by the others in the nation as belonging. What Bragg advocates is the inclusion within Englishness of any migrant from any background regardless of whether or not they can realistically be accepted as English or think of themselves as English. The logical end of Bragg’s mentality is that it would not matter if not a single person who would now be considered unequivocally English existed provided there was a land called England filled by whomsoever. This stands to patriotism as anti-matter stands to matter.
In his “anti-racist” crusade Bragg advocates the “re-claiming” of symbols of English patriotism such as the cross of St George from what he fondly imagines is “the extreme Right”. As polls relating to immigration and multiculturalism invariably show large majorities opposed at some level to both, to say that those expressing concern about the way this is changing England represent “the extreme Right” is clearly nonsense. All Bragg is encountering is the entirely natural human resistance to the invasion of territory by those who do not belong to the nation.
Back to the complaints made by the anonymous writer. It is very odd indeed that someone who professes such a love of diversity should choose to live in a Dorset village which is probably as white and English a place you could find these days. If diversity is such a wonderful thing why is Bragg not choosing to live amongst it? Tellingly, he has not moved to a village in the county of birth and upbringing, Essex. Parts of Essex are rural, so he could have found similar physical surroundings to where he now lives. The difference with Dorset of course is that Essex is rapidly being filled with immigrants. Writing in the Telegraph (12 4 2010) Ed West got to the heart of Bragg’s unspoken situation:
‘Laban Tall has an interesting take on it, pointing out that Bragg now echoes the revised Labour policy. The official line used to be “multiculturalism is great for everyone”; these days it’s “we realise now that mass immigration is actually pretty terrible for the poor, but we’ve gone this far, so you’ll have to put it up with it; or vote for a party founded by a man who used to spend his weekends dressing up in brown shirt uniforms.”
‘Many people considering that party are not, I suspect, very keen on “sending back” their ethnic friends, but on stopping the Government importing any more people. And they know Labour are not going to stop now – they’re too much in thrall to the race relations industry and too many MPs rely on ethnic minority votes. They’ve invested too much in mass immigration. To admit mistakes would be like a cult member entertaining the possibility that the guy who says we’re all going to be beamed up to heaven in a spaceship is not, after all, the reincarnation of Jesus, but a mental case.’ (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100033896/billy-bragg-battles-the-bnp-over-englands-soul-%E2%80%93-but-does-it-have-one-any-more/)
Bragg is doubly a hypocrite. Not only does he shun the joy of diversity, but he lives the life of a rich man. His house in Dorset is large with a fair sized garden. The Daily Telegraph value it at £1.5 million. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/music-news/8241614/Hate-mail-urges-villagers-to-drive-out-Billy-Bragg.html) . It is more than a little difficult to see how someone living the life of a rich man can really understand what it is to be poor, especially poor, white and English in areas of heavy immigrant settlement. He has a further problem. Someone who proclaims themselves to be a socialist is faced with the moral question of why should I have so much when so many have so little? How does that fit into the socialist dictum of “ to each according to his need”? Frankly, it cannot. Moreover, Bragg makes a great thing of personal freedom. As my old history teacher never ceased saying “Money is power”. That being so, equality of material circumstances ought to be his aim.
Material success brings a change in mentality and experience. Bragg has gone from being one of the have-nots to the haves. His position is now essentially that of patron/leftist celebrity not the grass roots “I’m defending myself and my class” red radical he appears to still imagine himself to be.