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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, May 02, 2008
    Compassion. Empathy. On election night
     
    Those gigs you go to on election nights: you tend to remember them vividly. For me, Clwb Ifor Bach, 11 June 1987 stands out: the crushing pain of Thatcher's third consecutive victory salved by Clive Gregson and Christine Collister: wonderful, witty and very well-oiled (well, we all were) they turned our mourning into dancing. Good to share long nights like those with the folk singers, with their keen sense of radical politics, comradeship and determined celebration.

    Onstage in Liverpool tonight Billy Bragg recalled being in Belfast on 22 November 1990, celebrating with his audience the night Thatcher resigned. And he said he was glad to be out of London on this awful night (London, Londoners, what have you done?), and especially to be here in Liverpool, our political exceptionalism demonstrated once again in these local elections, as here we've made Labour gains.

    Billy Bragg was glad to be here tonight, he said, because of all British cities he knows that ours particularly understands the meaning of solidarity. It was our strong instinct for communal support which Boris Johnston fatuously described as 'sentimentality' in a nasty attack on a city grieving a death felt by all here four years ago. It's not the worst thing he's said about a particular group of people he dislikes: he reserves most bile for people of other races. But it's the measure of the man and his party.

    Perhaps the Labour movement will be energised by the revival of crass and bigoted conservatism shown in some parts of the country this week. Billy Bragg hopes so. 'I keep faith in you,' he sang, reinforcing his strong identification with the ordinary person, and keen sense of the power which the ordinary person holds.

    And 'When the world falls apart some things stay in place...' Compassion. Empathy. It was good to be again in the company of Billy at the Liverpool Phil tonight.