Friday, December 30, 2016

One of those years when the world changed

(First published in the Manawatu Standard and Nelson Mail, Dec 28.)

There have been a few momentous years in my lifetime. I don’t mean for me personally, although obviously there have been those too.

I’m referring to years when you got a sense that history had suddenly lurched in a different direction; that a new era was starting which would be significantly different from the previous one.

There was 1968. What a turbulent year that was.

America seemed a dangerously unstable place where anything could happen. All the post-war confidence of the Eisenhower and Kennedy presidencies seemed to have evaporated.

There were the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy. It was also the year when public discontent over the Vietnam War (dubbed the living room war because it was played out nightly on the television news) seemed to crystallise. Military setbacks – the Tet Offensive and the siege of Khe Sanh – were a profound shock to a country that was accustomed to winning.

In Chicago, the protest movement flexed its muscles at the infamous Democratic Party Convention in Chicago. To TV viewers watching the vicious police response, it must have seemed the American Dream was disintegrating before their eyes.

But the unrest wasn’t confined to America. Capitalism and authority was under attack throughout the Western world.

In France, student and trade union street protests brought the country to the brink of revolution. Neo-Marxist protest leaders – Daniel Cohn-Bendit (aka Danny the Red) in France and Rudi Dutschke in Germany – became household names worldwide.

The European unrest of 1968 gave birth to urban terrorist groups such as Germany’s Red Army Faction and Italy’s Red Brigades. America’s Symbionese Liberation Army – famous for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patti Hearst – would later emerge from that same ferment of protest and disorder.

The world had to come to grips with the new phenomenon of urban terrorism, fomented by alienated middle-class misfits striking out with extraordinary ferocity against the capitalist society that had nurtured them.

It was profoundly destabilising and continued to unsettle the world throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. In fact you could argue that it was instrumental in shaping the terrorism-attuned world we live in now.

Fast-forward now to 1989, an epochal year in a very different way. That was the year the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet empire began to unravel.

At the time – in fact even now – it scarcely seemed credible that the Soviet Union, which since World War Two had competed with the US for global domination, should collapse with barely a whimper, along with its repressive satellite states. But when challenged by people power, the Soviet bloc, economically exhausted after decades of trying to out-muscle its ideological enemy, had no fight left.

The American political scientist and economist Francis Fukuyama famously wrote that the defeat of Soviet communism represented “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution”. In future, he theorised, capitalism and liberal democracy would prevail unchallenged.

Already that bold prophecy seems to have been, er, a bit premature. America, so ideologically triumphant in 1989, is now weakened by self-doubt. The ascendant power is China – a capitalist country all right, but hardly a liberal democracy.

Russia, meanwhile, is again a force to be reckoned with – just not a communist one. Nonetheless, 1989 was unquestionably a watershed year.

So we come to 2016, and I’m wondering whether it too will turn out to be a year that changed the course of history.

In a June referendum, 52 per cent of Britons voted in favour of leaving the European Union. This was a stunning rejection of a long-established political consensus. Few people saw it coming.

Voting took place against a backdrop of unprecedented immigration levels as Europe absorbed millions of displaced people fleeing insecurity and instability in the Middle East and Africa.

Many commentators simplistically interpreted the referendum result as a racist backlash against immigration and free passage across borders, but the overriding factor was that British people had grown increasingly resentful of control by a remote and unaccountable elite in Brussels. They wanted their country back.

But Brexit was merely the appetiser before an even more cataclysmic political event: the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

This was such a momentous setback for the liberal agenda that the full consequences will take time to absorb. Some of those consequences will almost certainly be ugly, but many people will welcome what they regard as a long-overdue rebalancing in Western politics and culture.

The liberal Left, which has effectively controlled the political agenda in the West for decades, even when nominally conservative parties (such as National here, the Liberals in Australia and the Conservatives in Britain) were in power, is suddenly on the back foot. Political correctness is in retreat.

Some on the Left are hurt and demoralised. Others are buzzing like angry wasps. But they’d better get used to it. The balance of power in world politics has shifted profoundly and the dominant narrative has changed. We’re finishing 2016 a radically different world than when we started. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A good report spoiled

I wonder how much credibility can be attached to the 2016 News Media Ownership Report published by the Auckland University of Technology’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD). It contains a lot of useful information and generally gives the impression of being fair and non-partisan – that is, until you get to the section on blogs. Here it states:

“Some of the most well-known blogs in New Zealand include Martyn Bradbury’s The Daily Blog, Russell Brown’s Hard News, David Farrar’s Kiwiblog, The Standard and The Dim-Post. In 2016,, which is a community of New Zealand blogs including Brown’s Hard News, won the Canon Media best blog award. Other nominees for the award were Rosabel Tan’s The Pantograph Punch (culture and arts) and Lizzie Marvelly’s Villainesse which is aimed at young women.”

That’s it. Notice anything missing? Like, for example, Whale Oil?

Last time I checked, Cameron Slater’s right-wing blog was the most widely read in New Zealand. It's certainly the best-known, especially since Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics. But it seems the report’s author, Merja Myllylahti, was worried she might be contaminated by even mentioning it. 

To recycle an old metaphor, writing about New Zealand blogs without mentioning Slater is like driving up the Desert Road and pretending not to see Mt Ruapehu. It’s a shame that an otherwise worthwhile resource should be so ideologically compromised – but it’s consistent with JMAD’s (and AUT’s) pervasive left-wing world view.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

All this cultural appropriation must stop

(First published in The Dominion Post, December 23.)

A couple of weeks ago, I took part in a flagrant act of cultural appropriation. So did several thousand other people.

We watched a Christmas parade. Santa Claus was in it, complete with mock reindeer.
Most of the floats were decorated with Christmas symbols: fake snow, tinsel, stuff like that. A brass band played traditional English carols. 

How did we get away with it? It could only be because the simple provincial folk in the town where I live are ignorant of, or wilfully indifferent to, sensitivities surrounding cultural ownership.

Santa Claus is a figure derived from northern European folklore. What right do we in the remote Southwest Pacific have to place him at the centre of our Christmas celebrations?

Sleighs? Ditto. Christmas trees and holly too.

These are the cultural property of people from distant lands. Those ridiculous fake antlers that shop assistants are made to wear – did we spare a thought for the people of Lapland, for whom reindeer are a taonga? No, we didn’t.

And carols! How dare we sing about Good King Wenceslas or the Holly and the Ivy? What inflated sense of entitlement makes us think we can endlessly plagiarise Silent Night (Austrian) or O Holy Night (French)?

I shamefully admit that I experienced no pangs of conscience as I watched Masterton’s Christmas Parade. Neither, it seemed, did those around me. What a bunch of Philistines.

It was only a couple of days later, listening to an item on Morning Report, that I was forced to confront my cultural arrogance.

It seems someone with an  exquisitely honed sense of appropriateness took offence at the inclusion, in Christchurch’s Christmas Parade, of a float with a Native North American theme. According to Morning Report, the woman complainant thought it was culturally insensitive.

The parade organiser seemed puzzled but unrepentant. She said the float, or similar ones, had featured in the parade for 20 years without a complaint. No disrespect was meant to native Americans. Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?

She added that more than 100,000 people watched the parade and only one objected. Pffft! That just proves they’re all Philistines down Christchurch way too.

That Morning Report item was a wake-up moment for me. I suddenly realised how shamelessly we exploit other cultures.

Big business tries to get away with it all the time. Only three months ago the Disney organisation, stricken by a concerted attack on social media, withdrew a range of merchandise intended to promote its animated film Moana.

The movie, one of whose central characters is the Polynesian demi-god Maui, has been praised for celebrating Polynesian feats of navigation. The producers say they went to great lengths to ensure Pasifika people were happy with the film.

Again I say, pffft! Not far enough, obviously. People objected to the sale of kids’ costumes that reproduced Maui’s tattoos. “Cultural appropriation at its most offensive worst,” said one tweet.

A chastened Disney organisation quickly capitulated. Quite right, too.

But we mustn’t stop there. Cultural appropriation must be vigorously rooted out in all its forms.

All those New Zealand reggae bands, for a start. There’s cultural appropriation right there, big time. Maori object when the haka or the tiki is ripped off, but doesn’t the same principle apply when Maori bands appropriate the music of Jamaica?

And on that subject, who ever said it was culturally acceptable for white musicians to play the blues? Innumerable middle-class Brits (stand up, Eric Clapton) have grown filthy rich ripping off black men’s music. Jazz? The same.

Basketball singlets and baseball caps? Get 'em off. American.

St Patrick’s Day, which New Zealanders use as an excuse to get drunk and pretend to be Irish, is a cultural outrage. Guy Fawkes? English. Halloween? Celtic. They should be abandoned, all of them.

In fact Christmas itself, unless you’re a genuine Christian celebrating Christ’s birth, is a gigantic act of cultural, or at least religious, appropriation.

To those who feebly point out that virtually everything we do – the books we read, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the songs we sing, the language we use – is borrowed from somewhere else, I say: no excuse! It’s all cultural theft and it’s got to stop. The Christchurch complainant has bravely shown us the way forward.

I just hope she’s not planning to serve turkey on Christmas Day. As a North American bird, the turkey has no place on New Zealand dining tables.

Neither should she open a bottle of New Zealand bubbly, an idea stolen from the French. After all, if we’re going to avoid cultural appropriation, we must be consistent.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

A night of inspired weirdness at Ahiaruhe

Sometimes the most rewarding concerts are ones where you go along not quite knowing what to expect. I remember a fabulous night at the Wellington Bluegrass Society’s unprepossessing Petone venue back in the early 90s when we were entertained by a slick Seattle-based, female-dominated alt-country outfit called Ranch Romance. I hadn’t heard of them before and I haven’t heard of them since, but what a performance.

It happened again with Lil’ Band of Gold, a bunch of mellow New Orleans music veterans who played the San Francisco Bath House several years ago. And possibly the greatest concert I ever had the good fortune to attend: Brian Wilson and a cast of thousands (or so it seemed) performing Smile in Wellington. I fretted beforehand that Wilson – my musical hero since 1964, but notoriously erratic – would let me down. I needn’t have worried. When I came out of the theatre I thought seriously about booking a flight to Christchurch to hear it all again the next night.

Conversely, the shows you attend with high expectations sometimes turn out to be a disappointment. Example: Steely Dan at Church Road a few years ago. Nothing will change my view that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are two of the cleverest musicians of the rock era, but live in concert? It was just like hearing their records, but with actual people on stage (and Walter Becker saying “fuck” a lot, which became tedious). Even more of a letdown was Emmylou Harris, who so lacked any stage presence when I saw her in Wellington that the audience hardly noticed when she came on. Mind you, she’s still up there in the galaxy of great country singers.

But I digress. At the latest house concert hosted by Simon Burt and Pip Steel at their rural Wairarapa home last night, the entertainment was provided by the Bend. Never heard of them? Neither had I. But you might recognise some of the individual names. Fane Flaws (guitar), Peter Dasent (keyboards) and Tony Backhouse (bass) have a remarkable collective pedigree that stretches back to Blerta, Spats and the Crocodiles. They’ve been playing together off and on for nearly four decades. On this occasion they were joined by a young (well, younger) drummer named Andrew Gladstone.

Why “the Bend”? Well for a start, it’s an ironic play on the name of a slightly more famous outfit from Canada. The Bend do irony very well. But as Flaws explained, the name was also inspired by a young lady who sidled up to Dasent years ago after a performance somewhere down south and inquired, in classically pinched, nasal Kiwi vowels, “Aren’t you with the bend?”.   

This little anecdote set the tone for a wonderfully entertaining night that was rich in sly, subversive humour but impossible to categorise musically. Think Talking Heads mashed up with Lou Reed and Frank Zappa (or so I was assured by someone more familiar with Zappa than I am) and an occasional hint of the Beatles, and you’re somewhere in the ballpark. At least that was my take on the Bend’s songs, but I admit to not being familiar with the musical territory these guys range over.

The first half of the night was – well, not exactly conventional (the Bend don’t do conventional), but at least there was something recognisable in the repertoire. It was energetic, raw, punkish (but always disciplined) rock and roll. After the interval, however, they spiralled into a different realm altogether – slightly deranged, with elements of cabaret (think 1930s Berlin, but with Fender guitars and a type of humour that you wouldn't encounter anywhere but New Zealand) and a madcap quality that had me thinking Spike Jones.

But here’s the thing: it was astonishingly inventive and (like Spike Jones) musically literate. Dasent (who played on the recent Last Waltz 40th Anniversary Tour, in which New Zealand performers paid tribute to the Band) looks too much like a librarian or mathematician to be in a rock band, but he’s a musician of enormous virtuosity. He’s quietly witty, too, subtly sneaking snatches from the theme tunes for Dr Finlay’s Casebook and The Avengers into a song about watching TV. (At least I think that’s what it was about.)

Backhouse, besides being an impeccably fluent bass player, has one of New Zealand rock music’s most distinctive voices. It has an almost operatic quality. And then there’s the charismatic Flaws, the band’s front man, who played and sang with manic energy. In fact you had to admire the whole band’s energy levels, considering this was their ninth gig in 10 days.

Behind it all, Gladstone, whom I’d guess is a generation behind the rest of the band, fitted seamlessly into all the inspired weirdness – a tragedy in one so young.

A terrific night all round, and a hard act for Simon and Pip to follow.

Friday, December 16, 2016

John Key: the whatever man

(First published in the Nelson Mail and Manawatu Standard, December 14.)

I’m forced to admit that I don’t understand my fellow New Zealanders.

John Key was possibly our most popular prime minister in living memory, but even after his eight years in office I struggle to understand his appeal.

People call him charismatic. I must grudgingly accept that he is, although to me he's more enigmatic.

I used to think that a charismatic person was someone whose personality created a force field around them. David Lange in his glory days had that sort of charisma. So did Norman Kirk. Robert Muldoon, too, though in his case the force field was often malevolent.

Key’s appeal, on the other hand, seems to derive from his sheer ordinariness.  He comes across as bland, unexciting, even gauche.

He mangles the English language and has no oratorical skills. But if you accept that charisma means the ability to inspire followers with devotion and enthusiasm, which is the Oxford Dictionary’s definition, then Key certainly has it.

So what, if anything, can we conclude from this apparently unremarkable man’s remarkable popularity?

Perhaps we just have to accept that we’re rather dull people. We don’t like our politicians too mercurial. We prefer them to be one of us.

Perhaps, too, we like a politician who’s happy to make a fool of himself. Key’s participation in juvenile publicity stunts made me cringe, but many New Zealanders seemed to find it endearing. 

Maybe we like him for the same reason we like grey cars. New Zealand is the only country I know where grey is the most popular car colour. Even New Zealanders who buy fabulously expensive cars – Bentleys, Porsches and the like – opt for grey. We’re a grey country.

But of course Key’s fa├žade of ordinariness is misleading, because it’s only what you see that’s ordinary. He rose to the global pinnacle of currency trading, a notoriously unforgiving business where only the sharpest and coolest operators survive, and when his interest shifted to politics he appear to conquer that effortlessly too.

The scholarly Don Brash, whom he deposed as National leader, never stood a chance. Think of the grinning gunfighter (played by Jack Palance) against the hapless sodbuster in the classic Western Shane.

In one sense, Key is similar to Richie McCaw. Like Key, McCaw doesn’t seem over-endowed with personal magnetism. He seemed awkward, unpolished and inarticulate in the public eye, but he was a national hero nonetheless.

We judged McCaw by his results. And to be fair, Key’s performance too, judged on its economic results, was pretty good, even if Bill English was the man doing the hard graft behind the scenes while Key did the smiling and waving.

Not only did New Zealand come through the Global Financial Crisis relatively painlessly, but we performed exceptionally well in world tables measuring prosperity, human rights, health, education and social wellbeing – even the environment. Under Key, New Zealanders felt good about themselves.

Yet you can see why Brash gives him only five out of 10 for his performance. Key balked at the type of radical economic change that Brash thinks we need.  

In that respect too Key was in tune with the national psyche. One of the most perceptive of the post-mortems on his premiership came from the Right-leaning Manawatu Standard columnist Liam Hehir, who wrote that in a doggedly centrist country like ours, Key was about as good a prime minister as any conservative could reasonably hope for.

He may have disappointed conservative ideologues, but as Hehir wrote: “It’s not for politicians to try to sell policies for which there is no demand.” Our political history is strewn with the corpses of radical parties whose policies were rejected as too extreme.

Readers may deduce from the tone of this column that I was not an admirer of John Key as prime minister. I like politicians who stand for something, even if I don’t agree with them, and I never got the sense that Key stood for anything in particular.

At the end of his eight years in office I still couldn’t tell what his innermost values or ideals were, or even whether he had any. The most you could say was that he wanted New Zealand to succeed economically and to be respected – or at least noticed – on the world stage.

I got the sense that he would do whatever was expedient to achieve this. In fact I came to think of him as the “whatever” man, in the sense that he would generally do whatever was politically convenient. Often this meant taking the path of least resistance.

In this regard he was the consummate National Party politician. It has always been a party of pragmatists rather than one driven by ideology.

Now he’s handed the baton to another pragmatist, albeit one who gives the impression of having core conservative values. We don’t know what sort of prime minister English will be, but at least we can expect him to display a bit more gravitas than his predecessor. For that reason alone, I admit I’m relieved that Key is gone. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The road toll statistics they tried to bury

(First published in The Dominion Post, December 9.)

I checked the latest road toll statistics a few days ago. Interesting.

For the year from January 1, road deaths were up from 291 last year to 300. For the 12 months to Tuesday, they were up from 315 to 328.

For driver fatalities, the figures were up from 138 to 151 (for the calendar year to date) and from 146 to 170 (over 12 months)

These are not big increases, but they appear to be more than mere statistical blips.

Even more interesting are some of the figures from a Ministry of Transport booklet called Alcohol and Drugs 2016.

Most of the tables in the booklet pull together figures covering the years 2013-2015 without breaking them down year by year. They reveal that alcohol and/or drugs contributed to 12 per cent of fatal smashes.

This might come as a surprise. Given the official obsession with alcohol as a risk factor (all those checkpoints, all those TV ads, all those earnest lectures from senior police officers every holiday period), I imagine most people would have thought the ratio of deaths attributable to booze must be much higher.

But what especially interested me was whether road deaths involving alcohol had decreased since the legal blood-alcohol limit was lowered on December 1 2014.

This is information of some importance, since the objective of the law change was to reduce the road toll. But you have to turn to page 8 before you find any figures relating to the year after the new limits kicked in.

These reveal that the number of alcohol-affected drivers involved in fatal crashes actually increased from 70 to 90 in the 12 months after the new law came into effect.

This was not what we were led to expect. It is the opposite of what the new limit was intended to achieve, which was to deter people who had been drinking from getting behind the wheel.

Opponents of the law change argued that it would punish safe, law-abiding motorists while hard-core drink-drivers would continue to flout the law with impunity. That appears to be precisely what has happened.

Drink-drive fatalities last year were the highest since 2010. In the 20-24 age group, the number of alcohol-affected male drivers involved in fatal crashes increased from 12 to 22 – that’s nearly double. For men overall, the number was up from 56 to 82.

If the numbers had gone the other way, I’m sure the ministry would have been shouting from the rooftops. As it is, it’s hard to escape the impression the figures were buried. 

We shouldn’t be in the least bit surprised that the law change hasn’t delivered the promised improvement. Control-freak policy-makers and poll-driven politicians refuse to accept that human behaviour can’t conveniently be changed by legislative decree.

That’s also apparent from the anti-smacking law (on average, one child continues to be killed by domestic violence every five weeks while responsible parents risk prosecution for disciplining out-of-control kids with a harmless slap) and from laughably ineffective dog-control rules, which have entered a whole new realm of fantasy with the expectation that owners of dangerous dogs will obtain special high-risk dog owner licences, submit their dogs to good citizenship tests, have their properties inspected and demonstrate they understand their legal obligations.

Yeah, right. Can’t you just see gang members meekly queuing at council offices to fill in the forms and register their blood-flecked pitbulls for obedience training?

Now here’s the key point. Any benefits arising from lower blood-alcohol limits – and so far there don’t seem to be any – should be weighed against the social downsides. As we brace for the annual bout of Christmas finger-wagging, we should ask whether New Zealanders’ enjoyment of life has been unnecessarily diminished just to satisfy the bureaucratic urge to regulate and control.

There’s an economic cost too. Country pubs - the heart of some rural communities - are going out of business and wineries can expect fewer summer visitors because people fret that a harmless tasting will push them over the limit.

Any supposed benefit must also be weighed against the undoubted change in the public attitude toward the police, who are increasingly resented as bullies and harassers - unwilling or unable to attend burglaries, but never short of the numbers to run alcohol checkpoints at all hours of the day, or to hamper law-abiding bar owners in their attempts to run a business, or to make the staging of public events such as wine festivals so onerous that some participating companies decide that it's just not worth the effort any more.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Just shut up and sing, for God's sake

(First published in the Manawatu Standard and Nelson Mail, November 30.)

Back in the 1990s I attended a rock concert on the Wellington waterfront. The headline act was Carlos Santana, who had burst onto the scene in 1970 with a string of hits that included Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman and Oyo Como Va.

Those records still sound good today. Santana fused Latin and African rhythms with West Coast acid rock, a heady mix that made his early album Abraxas a best-seller. He was a guitar god too, producing arresting solos in a tone that was uniquely his.

Alas, Santana turned out to be a one-trick pony. His Wellington concert revealed a limited repertoire that ran the full gamut from A to B, to borrow a line from Dorothy Parker. The support act, George Thorogood and the Destroyers – exponents of honest, straight-ahead, no-nonsense boogie – were much more entertaining.

I could, at a stretch, have excused Santana for being predictable, but what was unforgiveable about that night’s performance was the frequent verbal interludes in which he insisted on sharing his philosophy, for want of a better word, with his audience. His droning, meandering homilies were even more monotonous than the music.

Santana gave the impression of suffering from some sort of Dalai Lama complex. Perhaps he thought we’d all paid good money to hear his half-baked, New Age theories on how to expand our cosmic consciousness.

Well I hadn’t, and I bet most of the other people there hadn’t either. But being polite New Zealanders, we suffered in silence.

Not for the first time, I wondered about the peculiar conceit that makes rock musicians – and some actors too – imagine that we look to them for inspiration on matters of politics, religion and philosophy.

They are probably encouraged in this delusion by adoring music critics who read profound meaning and insight into even the most banal song lyrics. Bob Dylan, who almost single-handedly intellectualised rock music, has a lot to answer for – although to give him his due, to my knowledge Dylan has generally avoided the trap of delivering sermons to his fans. On the one occasion that I saw him in concert he barely spoke at all.

Some other rock stars, regrettably, seem convinced that the world is vitally interested in their views on political issues; that we lack the gumption to think for ourselves and must wait for their guidance. Step right up, Bono – a man whose name has become synonymous with pompous sanctimony.

John Lennon was another who made the mistake of thinking that being a pop star conferred some sort of moral authority on him. Lennon became a bore from the moment he began using his music to deliver lectures about peace and love.

What made it worse was the sheer hypocrisy. Like many of his ilk, Lennon found it easier to sing about love – as in his puerile hit Imagine – than to demonstrate it in his personal life.

In her 2005 book John, Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, portrayed the former Beatle as cruel and indifferent to her and their son Julian.   She recalled Julian saying: “Dad’s always telling people to love each other, but how come he doesn’t love me?”

The truth, of course, is that most rock and pop musicians are not moral exemplars. Neither do they have any more political or spiritual insight than you or I. But their celebrity status deludes them – and many of their gullible, star-struck fans – into thinking they’re oracles. The media are complicit in this, reporting celebrities’ political views as if they carry special weight.

Politicians have become adept at turning this to their advantage. Just look at the way Hillary Clinton co-opted Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Madonna and others in her unsuccessful bid for the White House.

These stars exploit their appeal as singers and musicians in an attempt to exercise influence in a totally unrelated field. This is a misuse of their power, and I lose respect both for the stars and the politicians who indulge in it.

The absurdity becomes evident when you imagine the roles being reversed. Would Springsteen invite Clinton to sing with him? I doubt it. To put it another way, Springsteen has about as much credibility as a political commentator as Clinton would have as a vocalist.

We sometimes see the same thing happening here, albeit on a much more modest scale. The actor Sam Neill and the musicians Don McGlashan and Chris Knox have all thrown their weight behind the Labour Party in past election campaigns.

Usually it’s the left of the political spectrum that benefits (if that’s the right word) from such celebrity endorsements, but there are exceptions. The psychologically unstable rapper Kanye West recently announced during a concert that he would have voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election, had he bothered to vote at all.

For this he was booed, as he deserved to be – not because he supported Trump, but because he assumed his fans were interested in his politics.

In hindsight, we should have booed the tedious Carlos Santana too.