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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Billy Bragg at the Tonder festival on the EDL's expat branch

It was the pithy banter, the total absence of mumbling and the way in which there were approximately no notes out of place that rooted me to the spot. I'd always thought of Billy Bragg as politically less subtle than Ben Elton during his standup days and yet - with the flawless stagecraft as a runway - the realisation unfolded last night that, like Peter Tatchell, he is a man with whom history has caught up. My plan to slope off for a dose of Lau evaporated.

Although he should always be thought of first and foremost as the milkman of human kindness (because it's a phrase of genius), he's recently morphed into something of a silver fox - lucky bloke - and in the context of the equal marriage laws, his song Sexuality has finally ceased to be a slightly boastful paean to shagging ("I've had relations, with girls from many nations") and now wears the glamour of a prescient civil rights song. That's the odd thing about progressive politics, I guess: if you hang around long enough there's a distinct possibility that you'll end up in the mainstream eventually.

Tonder flipping loved him anyway. More to the point, he mentioned during his set that he'd recently heard that the English Defence League - best known for its racially inspired violence - has, wait for it, set up an expat branch in Spain.

"This is a party that is fundamentally about hating immigrants," he explained to his Danish audience. "So this latest development was a bit of a surprise."

I caught him later and he explained that he'd heard about the irony-free expat branch on tour to Barcelona a month or so ago.

"It crossed my radar on Twitter, where I follow a few anti-EDL accounts. The thing is that you can tell this story in Barcelona and you can tell it in Sweden and everyone will think it's hilarious. And yet the EDL don't see the inherent lunacy of having an expat branch. It shows them up for the humourless idiots they are."

Still, it gives the rest of us a chuckle.

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