Stop moaning, Morrissey: of course the PM is a fan
Brendan O’Neill: Nostalgic for the past, disdainful of casual sex - The Smiths were classic conservatives
Twenty-three years after The Smiths split up – making the bequiffed inhabitants of Britain’s bedsits even more depressed than they already were – Morrissey and Johnny Marr have finally reunited.
Not musically, but politically. The former Smiths singer and guitarist
have elbowed aside post-Smiths acrimony to express a shared disdain for David Cameron. In short, they want him excommunicated from the Church of Smiths Fans.
It started with a tweet by Marr last week. “David Cameron, stop saying that you like The Smiths, no you don’t. I forbid you to like it”, he said.
Now Morrissey has followed his one-time tunesmith by writing a letter to the Smiths fansite True To You, saying: “I would like to, if I may, offer support to Johnny Marr who has spoken out… against David Cameron.” Moz, well-known hater of meat, says he dislikes Cameron because he “hunts and shoots and kills stags”.
Morrissey and Marr need to get over themselves, because actually it’s perfectly fitting that Cameron should be a Smiths fan.
The Smiths were fundamentally conservative, with a small c at least. Allergic to modernity, nostalgic for the past, disdainful of casual sex, and a little bit concerned about foreigners, especially black ones – The Smiths provide the perfect soundtrack to the awkward bopping of a political conservative like Cameron.
The Marr/Morrissey war against Cameron’s love of The Smiths caused great overexcitement amongst those greying hacks who come over all misty-eyed at any mention of the charming men of Eighties indie pop. Times columnist Caitlin Moran tweeted: “Now Johnny Marr has BANNED David Cameron from liking The Smiths, I wonder if we can get EVERY band he likes to do the same?”
Marr is a “sturdy signpost pointing left”, said a Guardian editorial
(an actual editorial!). “The Smiths were political and he is not about
to let us forget that.”
Yes, The Smiths were political: they were little Englanders, like Cameron.
Behind the young Morrissey’s well-known hatred of Thatcher (he once said he hoped someone would assassinate her), what both The Smiths and the Iron Lady shared in common in the Eighties was a feeling of discomfort with the present – with all that sex, drugs and reggae – and a desire to take refuge in some imaginary past.
Thatcher hated the way that the pressures of modernity – as she saw it – impacted on the institutions of the family and local community. Morrissey told Melody Maker in 1986: “I don’t like anything new. I’m really not modern to any degree at all.”
Thatcher wanted to resuscitate Victorian moral values. Morrissey spoke of his desire to live a kind of Victorian existence. “I like dark
houses, Victorian or Georgian. Very old”, he said.
The Smiths’ nostalgia for a lost England was written all over their
album and singles covers, which featured shots of handsome men and beehived women from black-and-white British movies of the 1950s and 60s. They were snapshots of a glorified past, a poptastic version of the Conservative Party’s waving about of black-and-white pics of the decent, struggling generations of the Second World War.
The Smiths were conservative in their public attitudes to sex and
immigration, too. Where Thatcher’s government propagandised against casual sex – warning that it could lead to unintended pregnancy or disease – Morrissey promoted the virtues of celibacy in his numerous interviews with the NME and Melody Maker.
“I am dramatically, supernaturally, non-sexual”, he said in 1986,
while simultaneously looking down his beak at those rock stars who
“take drugs and take part in activities such as group sex”. His
prudishness echoes Tory Central Office far more than it does Jagger or Rotten.
Where Thatcher played her part in demonising the black youth of
Britain, with their allegedly alien habits and culture, the youthful
Morrissey declared that “all reggae is vile” and complained that it
was virtually the law in the 1980s that you had to be black to get on Top of the Pops.
Both he and Thatcher, in their very different ways, fancied themselves as protectors of a pure Little England from the marauding masses and unpredictable outsiders.
Morrissey put it best himself. “I’m actually a reasonably
conservative, boring person”, he said in the 1980s. Like Cameron. Is it really so strange that a Conservative PM should be a fan of a