Morrissey: white working-class man

Despised by liberals, singer-songwriter Steven Patrick Morrissey is to many a working-class hero, writes Christopher Goff.

No matter what their political persuasion, any artist who is questioned by Special Branch gets my respect. And if you are not sure what Special Branch is, or indeed who they are, they are the Police Officers in the UK with the responsibility for protecting the state from perceived threats of subversion, including supposed threats originating from 'extremist' political activity. In my mind, Special Branch is the last line of defence for a totally discredited liberal-Establishment, and often their role boils down to nothing more than harassment.

According to author David Bret and his book Morrissey: Scandal and Passion (2004), Special Branch Officers questioned, and searched the Manchester home of Morrissey soon after the release in 1988 of his first solo album, Viva Hate. The last track on the album, called 'Margaret on the Guillotine', and in which Morrissey describes the death of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a "wonderful dream", is what caught the attention of Special Branch, presumably because the opinion was formed in a smoke-filled office somewhere that the song might possibly even inspire someone to go out and try and kill the then Prime Minister. Reports suggest that it was the Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens who in his 'wisdom' brought the song to the attention of the police.

While I didn't at the time think much of 'Margaret on the Guillotine', I was much more taken by the third track on Viva Hate, 'Everyday Is Like Sunday', and which probably remains one of Morrissey's best-known songs. It was said to have been inspired by writer Nevil Shute's post-apocalyptic novel On the Beach (1957), and which is a story about a group of people in Melbourne, Australia, awaiting the arrival of a cloud of deadly nuclear radiation spreading from the Northern Hemisphere. But strangely, at the time of the release of the single 'Everyday Is Like Sunday' I heard from someone that it was actually a reference to the sleepy seaside village of Borth, in Mid Wales, and where Morrissey supposedly used to go on holiday as a child. To me, this was more cool because as a child I also used to go to Borth on holiday … and nothing much ever did happen there. However, on later reflection the story of this particular song being about the Welsh seaside village of Borth sounds mighty circumspect, and I am inclined to think that it might have been one of John Peel's jokes, having all the hallmarks of his dry sense of humour and me at that time being an occasional listener to his radio show. But I digress.

Morrissey is undeniably very interesting, and you would be hard pressed to find a more revered figure in the post-punk period. But you can maybe guess at this point what I am going to say next – and yes, that's right, Morrissey has been, and still is to some extent, a controversial figure. While on the one hand his fans adore him, Morrissey has exquisitely managed to fall foul of the PC-brigade, in particular left-wing journalists, and especially for some unknown reason to me the female ones. Come to think of it, that would be a great question for someone to ask Morrissey in an interview: Why do female journos hate you more than male ones?

The latest female left-wing journo to launch an attack on Morrissey has been one who writes under the silly nom de plume 'Kitty Empire' for – you've guessed it – The Guardian. And when she's not writing for The Guardian – you've guessed it again – she writes for The Observer. It was Kitty Empire who wrote a review of Morrissey's recent performance at the Genting Arena in Birmingham, and which was published on The Guardian website (4 March 2018) under the almost-imaginative 'This Once Charming Man' title. Only it wasn't much of a review, more full-on personal attack.

But before we take a look at some of the things that Kitty Empire wrote in her review, let me tell you something about her. Born in Montreal, Quebec, she was brought up in Canada, Italy and Egypt, before settling in Britain to study at Oxford University – yep, Kitty Empire is 'Oxbridge'. Afterwards, she wrote for the NME, and then for The Observer and The Guardian.

Hers is an upbringing doubtless very far removed from the one of Steven Patrick Morrissey. Born in 1959 and raised in a council house in the tough working-class neighbourhoods of Hulme and Stretford, in Manchester, Morrissey failed his 11-plus exam and left school without any formal qualifications. He was later to say to Mark Simpson, author of the book Saint Morrissey (2004), of his time at school: "… the education I received was so basically evil and brutal. All I learnt was to have no self-esteem and to feel ashamed without knowing why". An experience which contrasts sharply with that of the seemingly very privileged upbringing of Kitty Empire and whose father, one muses, might have been something like a diplomat or big cheese for some or other multi-national and so in a position to buy his daughter a first-rate education.

Leftists liked Morrissey until 1992 and when he supported Madness at their Finsbury Park gig draped in a Union flag. And since then he has also said a number of things that leftists really haven't liked. In fact, Kitty Empire heard something she didn't like all of five-minutes into Morrissey's Birmingham gig, and when he was heard to say to the audience "Bring back free speech". She wrote of her objection to this comment of his in her review, saying "… the goalposts of political engagement have shifted drastically. Now the most ardent advocates of free speech tend to be figures who have something ugly to say". Spot-on there luv because the goalposts of political engagement have indeed been shifted that far to the left that things which could be said only a couple or so years ago can no longer be uttered such has been the determination of leftists to try and silence those with opinions they don't like. No platforming, safe spaces, social media purges, Stop Funding Hate boycotts and steps towards the outlawing of so-called 'hate speech' are all things that Guardianista's like Kitty Empire doubtless approve of ... when I thought free speech was supposed to be for everyone, no matter how 'ugly' the things that some people might want to say. Of course, free speech for some but not for others is a hollow concept, and the aim of Kitty Empire and her like-minded colleagues at The Guardian and The Observer not one of engaging in political debate with people who 'offend', but instead one of suppressing the freedom of people to say certain things. Were this not the case, well then liberals would quote things they disgree with and then provide counter-arguments, but that does not happen in the case of lots of issues.

Ms Empire continues her Morrissey hate-fest – people can seemingly hate middle-aged white men all they like, even that is the ones with homosexual tendencies – by bringing up comments the singer-songwriter made about the Chinese during a 2010 interview he gave to Simon Armitage. Can you think of any other public figure with the balls to call the Chinese a "sub-species" on account of their cruel treatment of animals? Seeking to try and dirty his name some more, Empire also reminds us of how in 2013 Morrissey said he liked Nigel Farage "a great deal". Shock-horror, the right-wing bastard Morrissey even admires Nigel Farage! Empire then goes on to tell us of how last year [2017] Morrissey criticised the UKIP leadership by speculating that the election to find a new leader of the party had been rigged in order to prevent the anti-Islamist candidate, Anne-Marie Waters, from winning. And not done yet, she also mentions how Morrissey had during an earlier gig of his in Glasgow said of Scotland's First Minister, the odious Nicola Sturgeon, "Those hands will be in anybody's pocket". Although I must confess to not really understanding this remark of his.

Kitty Empire's lambasting of Morrissey is something that can perhaps be best explained by saying that she just does not warm to either the man or his politics, including that is his apparent support for free speech, however it would only be correct for me to point out that she also says a number of positive things about him in her review. As a younger man, Morrissey was an outspoken critic of Mrs Thatcher's radical style of free market capitalism, this being something which garnered him some popularity amongst socialists at the time. But what none of the leftists who idolised Morrissey in the 1980s were clever enough to realize, is that it wasn't just socialists who despised Thatcher and her free market capitalism, but nationalists as well.

In 2006, Morrissey said he had been interviewed by both the FBI and British intelligence officers after speaking out against the American and British governments, saying of this to a news organization: "They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government". And during a November 2017 interview with Der Spiegel, Morrissey criticised Angela Merkel for her open borders immigration policy, saying"I like Germany to be German. I like France to be French. I think that when you try to introduce a multicultural aspect to everything, you end up with no culture. All European countries have fought for many, many years for their identity. And now it suddenly seems to be they are saying: 'Well, so what? Let's just throw it away. Anybody can do what they like to Germany. Anybody can do what they like to France'. I think that's quite sad".

Brave stuff, eh? The chattering classes can think what they like of Morrissey, for he is not one of them. Morrissey is working class, he's white, he's anti-liberal, he's interested in animal welfare issues and, we can assume, opposes ritual slaughter, he's a supporter of free speech, he ain't no fan of multiculturalism … and I just love it how he pisses off the likes of Kitty Empire. I might well be dead by the time that Steven Patrick Morrissey's MI5 file is declassified. I am quite certain there is one. And for an artist to get their name on an MI5 file, well that is an achievement he can rightly be proud of.

Special thanks go to a 'political colleague' of mine who alerted me to the existence of the Morrissey review and who at the same time provided a number of helpful pointers for the writing of this article.

Copyright © Christopher Goff
Tag: Music
Uploaded: 11 March, 2018.