an open letter to Tony Parsons on his coming out as a Tory in GQ magazine


Dear Tony,

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.


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20 comments on “an open letter to Tony Parsons on his coming out as a Tory in GQ magazine”

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  1. Good piece, John – very fair, very balanced, and quietly devastating of Tony P’s apologetics. Like you, I’m not remotely surprised at his “conversion” – he hasn’t really said anything challenging for years. Like you, I loved his early “NME” stuff, and even recently bought a paperback of his collected journalism for some of those 70s columns, but much of the rest of it was piss-poor. He’s comfortable, he’s well-off, and doesn’t he love telling us that ? This is just the latest stage. Your conclusion – ‘Punk meant everything and it meant nothing’ – is brilliant, btw.

  2. What happened to the Parsons of ‘Tattooed Jungle’, ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ eh Tone?
    Enjoy your smug cushy life while millions fight like dogs to survive you utter chump.

  3. I guess there is not a lot down for growing old,nasal hair, dribbling over a toilet bowl late at night and like Tony Parsons case becoming a reactionary pub bore. Parsons can be dismissed anyway as he takes his Judas money from a rag that hacks peoples phones, makes up an interview with the widow of a Falklands War VC holder, defames the people of Liverpool,calls Frank Bruno a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder `bonkers` and so on ad nausea.Tony Parsons writes it I file it under forget.

  4. His coming out as a Tory in GQ is hardly a surprise, hasn’t he been writing for the s-n for quite some time? Even back in the day he slagged The Clash when he realised that they didn’t need his sycophantic articles to aid their career. Comes to something when people get tagged ageing hippies for sticking to principles held for many years.

  5. Perhaps it fair to say that Some feel that to keep themselves relevant they have to continue to do/say things that Might cause controversy in order to keep there column in a newspaper or sell another book.
    Im never quite sure if its a genuine feeling or some elaborate wind up, but whichever it is , Let him sail that ship, i for one feel no desire to climb on board.
    Ive often laughed loudly at some of his articles , the one about john peel was particularly amusing , describing tony blackburn as a better broadcaster and yet in a pre internet era, so many of the bands tony parson was writing enthusiastically about in the late 1970’s would never have found the ears of a large section of the public without john peel opening the door for them.
    He said that for every big name he discovered there was an infinite amount of dreary bands that were swiftly returned to the obscurity they so richly deserved , well maybe , but the reality is that he gave them an opportunity and a chance to be heard , opportunity is the key word there , something we all need to better ourselves aye Mr Cameron ? .
    Did Tony Blackburn give bands opportunity’s ? agreed , tony blackburn was a music fan and was as passionate about soul music as john was about his choices , perhaps we could argue that they were both relevant in some strange way .
    Tony also once said of peel’s show’s ‘You had to wade through an awful lot of crap to find the gems ‘ well , that’s also true of one or two writers out there tony my friend .

  6. Tony you mug

  7. Parshole’s been a Tory for years. The prick.

  8. If there’s one thing I fucking hate, it’s increasingly irrelevant journalists that go right wing for shock factor. Parsons – you were one of the poorest recorders of the punk movement at the best of times. Well done for the fridge. Now fuck off.

  9. he’s been a tory for years really as anyone who has read any of his piss poor book would know

  10. I read that Tony went beyond the blue and into the purple for the EU 2014 election: endorsing and voting for UKIP because he “felt that politicians are just completely removed from any kind of life experiences”.

    The Tory party must have won him back with their increased engagement with people and their dedication to making it possible for as many as possible to have harsher life experiences.

  11. Such shallow reasoning behind his decision to be a lifelong Tory voter in future. The man clearly has about as much depth as a puddle.

  12. i still have a mirror column written by him – Monday march 25 2002. it berates all that thatcher was and did. its last line – rot in hell thatcher. this 10 years before she finally did. its a great piece. shame he has turned. i cant believe how you can do that .

  13. Nothings gonna change when we wake in the morning, and it doesn’t really matter what Tony Parsons thinks, he just became another Victor Meldew, and is irrelevant. To surmise, punk only meant nothing to people who don’t matter and never cared in the first place.

  14. Great piece, John, as always. I never have and never will get the whole “turning middle-aged = turning Tory” thing. We’re 54 (how the hell did THAT happen?) you continue to pursue your abiding passion to each of its logical conclusions and beyond, I’ve got less than I’ve ever had and have never been happier. You were a quiet boy at school and I was a loud girl, but I don’t think either of us has actually changed much inside. My beliefs are identical to when I was at school, and they are, loosely, based on compassion. What I believe in is part of my DNA and I could no more “turn Tory” than I could change my eye colour. Hence I’m inclined to agree that Parsons was clearly always Tory, he just tried very very hard not to be ‘cos he wanted to hang around with the cool kids. What a ligger. And by the way, I would describe myself as a hippy punk. Just sayin’.

  15. Forget pop culture…. How old…? The reason most people post 25 turn against ‘socialism’ is because it just doesn’t work. Trabants and grey tower blocks… Most people who aren’t still posing at being a teen realise that the free market system is the worst system in the world…. apart from all the others! I went to East Germany, nice design etc…. but a f*ckin’ sh1thole….. you really should count your blessings.

  16. NO…its “John who?

  17. Nicely written. Made me quite sad; can’t believe Mr Parsons is a happy man….

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