News Feed

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It is interesting that, as the US’s grass roots Tea Party movement begins to exert real influence over the Republican Party and its choice of candidates for November’s Senate elections, so the mainstream right wing media is turning on them, both in the US and in the UK. The reason? The Tea Party and similar fringe or unofficial right wing movements often espouse ideas and thoughts that go against the grain and the soft media-friendly right doesn’t like it. Hence a succession of doom and gloom articles in everything from the Telegraph to the cover of the Economist all attacking the Tea Party, its supporters and its ideologies.

According to the Economist Leader's column, the American right should emulate David Cameron’s ghastly, touchy-feely, hug-a-hoodie, love your enemy approach if they want to reconnect with mainstream America and help the Republicans win the 2012 election, conveniently ignoring the fact that ‘Dave’ lost the UK’s election and was forced to cosy up to the Liberal Democrats in order to form a government. The Economist thinks that the Tea Party is too angry and too white, a terrible crime in the eyes of the multiculturally obsessed, and too far away from the centrist mainstream right ideology so favoured by the Economist. Good.

Good because the radical right is now hamstrung and gagged at every opportunity by a mainstream obsessed with keeping politics in the middle ground and if it’s beginning to get to the point where it can begin to ruffle a few harmonious middle ground feathers then so much to the good. Politics needs extremes and it needs anger otherwise it vegetates and eventually produces inertia in the electorate and leaders like Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Extremes get watered down, they get changed and altered but politics needs new ideas and they need anger to drive them and the people have every right to be angry.

Our leaders and governments have created and encouraged a spend now, pay later environment for years both at national levels and personal levels. They did this for a mixture of reasons, some altruistic, some nationalistic and some egotistic but the net result is the same, the West is in debt and struggling with welfare systems it cannot afford and populations, swollen by unchecked immigration, that it cannot support. Yet few political parties will give vent to the anger and the fear that people so clearly feel.

This is rage with a small ‘r’, the reasonable revolution. So far we have had a soft recession with a soft landing and mild discomfort. For most people it's business as usual, we might be told its tough ‘out there’ but in here the birds are still singing (unless an Eastern European migrant has eaten them) and the sun is still shining and those clouds on the horizon are still a long way away. But others are hurting and for them the Tea Party is giving them a voice but still the government and the media won’t listen because what people are saying goes against current norms.

It was interesting that, aside from attacking the Tea Party and its followers, The Economist's other key target was the “hysterical blogosphere”,  whose writers ravings are apparently threatening the mainstream moderate Republican party and damaging its chances of winning the 2012 elections. Of course, what the Economist was really saying was 'stop the Tea Party movement now or we risk seeing a Sarah Palin / Mike Huckabee double act running for the White House', something that is an anathema to many.

Now every thing is pastel grey, a big bland in the centre with the right pushed to the loony sidelines, its followers dismissed as extremists who, according to the Economist are intolerant, gun-toting, immigrant-bashing and worse according to the Telegraph they harbour members who have “aligned themselves with an array of wild positions”. These “wild” positions often cover tax, immigration, crime and punishment and abortion, the great totems of the left and soft right and our new multicultural diverse society and as such are not only untouchable but now unmentionable.

Our Western multicultural democracies have contracted and reduced the political spectrum to a mid range of political ideas that drift slightly to the right and slightly to the left but effectively encourage Big government, maintain the key socialist totems of welfare and the multicultural society. That dissent will not be tolerated has become more and more evident as the new establishment, that unholy kabal between the mainstream political classes, the media and many in the public sector, exerts pressure to crush or rubbish any dissenters that dares to threaten the current status quo.

Regardless of what one thinks of the Tea Party, its agenda or those politicians like Sarah Palin or Sharron Angle, who are so aligned and associated with it, the Tea Party is a grass roots movement that has risen quickly to encompass hundreds of thousands of followers in less than two years. This movement, like other right wing dissent in Europe and the online blogosphere, is constantly dismissed as irrelevant and as the wailings of lunatics, yet it is growing in strength and anger and cannot be ignored any longer. The fact that British publications feel the need to weigh in and dangle the spectacle of David Cameron in front of Americans as something to aspire to only shows just how out of touch the mainstream right has become.

By the way, mine's white with no sugar.

Thank you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Paying homage to the ‘Twat-in-a-hat’

The death of the artist, writer and self-styled ‘dandy’, Sebastian Horsley, from a heroin overdose on the 17th June upset me much more than I would have expected it to have, had I ever considered it, which I hadn’t. Sebastian was a likeable, frail, witty, beautiful and tragic-comic figure who had started life as an artist and ended it as writer and self-styled Dandy. A kind of modern Beau Brummell, veiled in a veneer of Bryronic excess, fueled as much by his love of publicity as it was by debauchery.

I met Sebastian, not in Soho, with which he will be forever associated, but in Mayfair, in the late 1990s where he lived next door to a brothel in Shepherds Market and only yards away from Brummell’s former home in Chesterfield Street. I also lived in Mayfair then and had a house around the corner in Hays Mews where, as it happened, I was having an afternoon drinks party. A mutual friend brought Sebastian along because she thought that we’d like each other and we also both had a human skull collection which she reckoned made some sort of friendship a given. 

Back then, Sebastian was still the Dandy he would become, but less so, as the artist and crack addict vied for his attention, only morphing into the fully formed Dandy a few years later. Sometimes he’d disappear for weeks, locked away in his flat while his dealers would deliver his longed-for poison by pushing envelopes of it through his letter box. At other times he’s emerge, clean, bright-eyed, witty and rearing to get on with his work. He’d even, on occasions, appear covered in paint, though with a dapper edge of course.

Some time in 2002/3 he came around to Redemption Films' Soho offices with a copy of a film by the artist Sarah Lucas, that had been made of his crucifixion in the Philippines, which he wanted me to watch with a view to releasing it. I remember sitting down in the Groucho Club watching the process of Sebastian being prepared and finally nailed and crucified and feeling incredibly disturbed by it. I can’t say why, perhaps it was my own track record with religion and blasphemy, or the fact that I was in therapy and feeling pretty emotional, but whatever the reason I found it very difficult to watch and very unsettling. In the end Sebastian decided to have a more art gallery-friendly style release rather than the more unrestrained 'shock’ release that Redemption would have brought to it.

By 2003, I had moved out of Mayfair and back to Soho and Sebastian, in turn, had also left Mayfair and bought a small flat in Meard Street (a paved street that runs between Wardour Street and Dean Street and which used to be home to Gossips Club, the Bat Cave and a brothel, but which now has the Soho House Hotel and a theme pub). He was still pursuing his art and came to see me about working in porn as a performer, with a view to theming his next collection on pornography. “I am very well endowed” he smirked. I linked him up with Jane Hamilton (the ex-pornstar Veronica Hart with a new name) and then producer of Michael Ninn’s award-winning films Latex and Shock, who seemed highly amused and interested in this english artist who wanted to fuck for his art.

Sadly though, it never happened, or maybe gladly it didn’t, for around this time Sebastian started to write for the Erotic Review and the middle class creatures that liked to peep through their net curtains at all the naughty goings-on but never did anything themselves. He used to moan about it, but obviously enjoyed his new found infamy that the PR savvy Rowan Pelling, the Erotic Reviews breathy editor, brought to his work. A column in the Observer followed though Sebastian’s graphic sexual anecdotes and non-politically correct views ruffled too many liberal feathers and his column was soon cancelled. But all the while the writer and the Dandy’s star was rising, yet, there was another darker star lurking, always threatening to eclipse the others.

Living, again literally around the corner from Sebastian, I would often see him from my window wrapped in a long black coat, pale and haggard, hurrying to the street crack dealers that hang around lower Berwick Street and Brewer Street night after night. These are the pits of the drug world, vicious and amoral and selling butchered crack and smack to desperate street life. Yet, day after day, I’d see Sebastian going to these creatures. Sometimes I’d bump into him, and he’d be nervous, anxious, his eyes on storks looking startled and frightened, keen to get home. This was the flipside of Sebastian, the sad, bad side, the Mr Hyde to his Dandy Jekyll.

Other times he’d be clean, off drugs, off drink and working, working for months on end. We would meet for occasional drinks and he’d be enthusing and/ or derogatory about his book at the same time and, yet, he was changing. The artist and painter was fading and a new creature, a living creation was emerging, one that was the same, only louder and with bigger hats. When Sebastian’s book was published there was a massive opening launch party and I was surprised at how his fame had spread, and the hordes of glitterati in attendance. Sebastian and Rachel No 3 (all his core girlfriends were bizarrely called Rachel and numbered accordingly) arrived in matching red outfits. They were adored and adorable. Stardom, it seemed, beckoned.

And stardom for Sebastian did seem imminent and justifiably so. His book Dandy in the Underworld had been made into a play and Stephen Fry had bought the film rights. I think, in fact, up until the 17th June, Sebastian had the world at his slippered feet. He could have been another Evelyn Waugh or whatever he wanted to be, instead he’s dead. Killed by a stupid drug and soon people will transform and mellow the real you into their you, a witty Soho bon-viveur of course, but a starry, larger-than-life character and that frightened figure in black will be forgotten as they pay homage to the ‘twat-in-the-hat-who-lived-in-a-flat’. The trouble was, like Jekyll and Hyde, one couldn’t exist without the other.

One day we’ll get around to having that drink.

Rest in Peace.