an open letter to Tony Parsons on his coming out as a Tory in GQ magazine
I read your blog on the GQ website about your turn to the dark side and how you now have come out and become a ‘reluctant conservative’. You expected abuse but abuse is pointless and shouting Tory scum at the passer-bye is counterproductive. These days these kind of revelations are not even a surprise. Maybe you thought your revelation would have been a shock like Bowie coming out in 1972 but to be honest most people already assumed you were a Tory already like most people from the punk days and from pop culture who made a few quid have crossed the line.
It was sad to see your hatred of the NHS and sneering at the ‘saintly nurses’ – I know sticking up for the NHS is not very sexy but…and your long list of reasons for not being on the left anymore were a bit misguided and conveniently exaggerated but that’s the craft of writing for you.
Also I think we all know that whoever defaced “he Whitehall memorial dedicated to the women who fought in the Second World War with ‘F*** TORY SCUM’ was not representing the whole of the Labour movement or any movement apart from the one that likes spraying things with dumb slogans.
And the Tories? I’ve met some of the other side, the Tory MPs and they were decent people who had views on life I don’t agree with and were to be debated so reducing the debate to ‘scum’ is a waste of breath even if you disagree on fundamental issues.
Tony, in my callow and excitable youth I used to enjoy reading your missives from the punk rock frontline. Those articles caught with the thrill and the idealism of punk as it exploded everywhere. You were a good writer at the heart of something important.
I guess the dissatisfaction you chronicled in your book with Julie Birchall, ‘The Boy Looked At Johnny’ was the first sign of a different future than the one that punk was portraying.
As the years rolled by you were in another world of best selling books that I never read but I kinda enjoyed your pithy-ish TV appearances for some reason.
It’s one of life’s truism’s – every young rebel becomes the establishment. That’s the way of the world. ‘He who fucks nuns will later join the church’ as your old mate late Joe Strummer once sung and it is foolish to put our lives in the hands of rock n roll bands or their commentators – they usually have less clue about the world than anyone.
It’s interesting the way you write about being a Tory. You deal with Labour like the way you would sneer at the hippies in the punk days – that Labour are trolls and gollums and Bilbo Baggins and hippyish do-gooders and that was part of punk’s contradiction. On one level it was the final counter culture and on another level it was the freak hating scene with a conservative mind set. Punk could be the most radical youth movement of all time and also as English as the royal family. It was an on going argument that seemed comfortable with its own contradictions. Those contradictions have always made punk fascinating and it is interesting to see them played out across that generation as it splinters further and further away into middle age.
For some old punks Corbyn is a reminder of the idealism they thought punk was about. To others, and, I guess this is you Tony, he is the beardy, weirdy old hippie. Punk v hippy! maybe it’s the last time these battle lines will be played out.
Tony it seems that there comes a time in every gentleman’s life when the middle aged spread becomes too much. That bloating of the middle section and the bloating of the bank account seem to go hand in hand with the bloating of the mind and the former young rebel wakes up one morning and realises that they are a fully fledged conservative. But does it have to be so inevitable?
These things happen.
To some people.
Punk was always an interesting movement. At the time it felt like the firebrand of rebellion. A high decibel blow torch against the establishment with all those cries of ‘anarchy’ and ‘I am an individual’. I guess that years later a lot of it looks antiquated. Of course there are still life changing moments contained in its cultural DNA but all that individual stuff could easily be misconstrued away from the big bang of its roots.
There is argument to had that the line between Margaret Thatcher with her mad staring eyes, exploding hair and iconic and terrifying steely responses and love of the individual and Johnny Rotten with his mad staring eyes, exploding hair and iconic and terrifying steely responses and love of the individual is, er, very, very thin.
It’s a loose argument and one that is not fully fair to the Rotten one – who is far too contradictory to be in anyone’s party and it is an argument that is full of holes but one that jolts you up from the slumbers of England’s Dreaming -the other England’s Dreaming of being a complacent middle aged punk who fought in the punk wars.
There is nothing shocking any more. Just a scramble to respectability from the cultural wreckage – the money is made, tax is to be saved, allegiances switch – it’s the cycle of life. Everyone got what they wanted from punk. What once seemed really important is just another plaything. Another T shirt. ‘A Tory in the UK’ as the Sex Pistols would maybe have to sing now…
Punk meant everything and it meant nothing.