Category Archives: Play

Red Wedge – Questions to a former Young Socialist


Please explain your role in Red Wedge. I was chair of the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS) 1984-1986 and Editor of Socialist Youth (LP Monthly Youth Paper) The LPYS was led by the Militant and had over 600 branches and was an overwhelmingly working class organisation. During the Miner’s strike we were doing mass work in support of the strike. Young people brought their musical tastes into the LPYS and we promoted bands at locals and national level. For example we worked with Billy Bragg and Paul Weller. Both participated in and played at a lobby of Parliament we held against compulsory Youth Training Schemes (YTS) We were also involving a wider layer of artists and groups in our campaigns such as the Housemartins and the Communards. Neil Kinnock, the leader of the LP at the time was engaged in a political witch-hunt against the Militant who were leading mass struggles against Thatcher in Liverpool. Kinnock and the LP right wing wanted to move against the LPYS but it was difficult because of our support in the wider movement because of our campaigning work on behalf of young people.

In 1985 Peter Mandelson was appointed Director of Communications at the LP and with Labour Students, who supported Kinnock, started to work on strategies to undermine the LPYS. One of those strategies was Red Wedge. If Mandelson did not exactly come up with the idea of Red Wedge he certainly used it to attempt to sideline the LPYS. At the first Red Wedge meetings LP officials and Billy Bragg took the lead. As the official youth wing of the LP we attended meetings and argued we should be allowed to speak at meetings and have stalls where we could distribute political materials and recruit young people to the LPYS. In general the artists were genuinely sympathetic to us and Paul Weller supported our right to be involved as he knew us and what we stood for. At a particular meeting one of the LP officials said that there should not be ‘political’ speakers at the Red Wedge gigs as ‘young people were not party political.’ They were playing on the fact that traditional pro-capitalist and pro-system politicians would come across badly. This was also an attempt to stop the LPYS from having any influence and a platform to get across our socialist ideas to a wide mass audience. Craig Charles (Red Dwarf), the Liverpool poet, suggested that Derek Hatton, the Militant leader of Liverpool City Council should speak at the gigs as ‘he was dead popular’ in Liverpool.’ This was met by nervous shuffling of feet by the LP officials and staring at the floor! In the end, although the LPYS were officially excluded from speaking at the gigs, through our contacts and relationships with their artists we managed to distribute our materials at the gigs and we recruited many young people to the LPYS and the Militant.

YTS Lobby 1985

What were your personal reasons for involving yourself? It was part of my political work at the time.

Why do you think that Red Wedge emerged at the time that it did? It was a time of great movements. Thatcherism had declared war on the working class. I had been a Punk in the 1970s and had attended Rock Against Racism / ANL gigs. When I joined the Militant and LPYS in 1979 I naturally took my music into the movement as did my contemporaries. There was a red radical line from Punk to Red Wedge. Young people suffered greatly under Thatcher and became radical, even revolutionary in the case of the youth around the LPYS and Militant. The artists involved in Red Wedge were young people too and could not fail to be affected by the prevailing mood amongst their fans.
What do you feel the aims of Red Wedge were? For the LPYS, Red Wedge was a continuation of our solidarity work with the miners and our campaigns against compulsory YTS. In a way I saw it as our revolutionary soundtrack. The songs mostly coincided with the way young people were feeling. However, Mandelson and Kinnock and the LP bureaucracy had a much more limited view of Red Wedge. They saw it as an electoral tool to get Kinnock into Nº10. They limited the radical message of the youth and turned it into a bland electioneering exercise.

Many of those in the Labour party at the time feel that Red Wedge was a failure as they didn’t win the 1987 election. To what extent do you feel it had a wider impact on involving young people in politics and why? Nothing is wasted in nature. Red Wedge ‘failed’ in one way because it was expropriated by the bureaucratic LP machine which had limited electoral and ‘moderate’ aims. They blunted the radical feelings of young people and their aspirations. However, the ‘failure’ of Red Wedge was part of the wider political process. Kinnock had sold out the miner’s strike and the Liverpool Council battle and refused to back the LPYS School Student’s strikes in 1985/86 against compulsory YTS. Kinnock had alienated himself from the revolutionary youth and sections of the working class. He went on the expel many Militant activists and eventually closed down the LPYS. Red Wedge ‘failed’ because it was highjacked by the LP right wing.

The real failure, from the point of view of the Labour and trade union movement and the  youth, who desperately needed radical change was Kinnock. He used his quasi-left credentials to make the LP entirely safe for capitalism by expelling socialists, closing down the magnificent LPYS which was connecting with masses of young people. As a young man I considered Kinnock to be a vain clown who was too stupid to realise he was being played by the ruling class. He lost TWO general elections when the Tories were absolutely hated in working class communities. A complete failure for the movement but on a personal level he was rewarded by the ruling class with cushy well paid jobs in the EU and a seat in the House of Lords. I have not changed my opinion about Kinnock.


As the youth vote is incredibly low at the moment, do you feel something like Red Wedge could possibly enthral young people in this day and age and why? I am in favour of the youth today using their music and culture to further their political aims but THEY NEED TO BE IN CONTROL. The main lesson of the Red Wedge experience is for young people to hold onto their political and cultural independence. Young people are becoming radicalised again around the world and their music is playing a part. Look at Grime. We will have revolutionary music again which will inspire the movement and act as its soundtrack. My advice to the new generation is that the youth need to be autonomous and not allow ‘official’ political parties and careerist politicians and artists to expropriate their music and culture for reformist political aims.

Please feel free to share any other reflections you have on Red Wedge:
I consider Billy Bragg has the same relationship to genuine socialism as Bono and Geldof have to fighting world poverty. They have generated a lot of self publicity and promoted themselves and little else. The real fight to end poverty and in favour of socialism goes on…..

A couple of Facebook messages on Billy Bragg’s page:
“As I’ve mentioned previously Billy Bragg did the dirty on us over Red Wedge. The LPYS had promoted him during the miner’s strike and he did the YTURC lobby of parliament with Paul Weller.
Mandelson was appointed Director of Communications in 1985 and was a lot cleverer than Kinnock. They came up with the idea of RED WEDGE to sideline the LPYS but we fought it all the way.
I remember at a meeting with loads of celebs they pushed the idea that there should be no speeches at the gigs as young people ‘weren’t political.’ They also said the LPYS couldn’t be too prominent at the gigs.

Craig Charles (Red Dwarf) piped up: “Why don’t we get that Derek Hatton to speak? He’s dead popular in Liverpool.’ Shuffling of feet and looking at the floor…..
Paul Heaton of the Housemartins said he would participate in Red Wedge but only if they put ‘nationalisation of the music industry’ in the programme.
Bragg backed Kinnock on the issue and the rest was sell-out history……
Did you think at that time of youthful revolt you would soon be calling salt of the earth working class Socialists ‘extremists’ and suck up to Neil Kinnock and end up asking people to vote for the Lib Dems……? Asking for a friend Billy.”

Red Wedge: bringing Labour party politics to young music fans

Bragg: “Newcastle was heaven and hell. The best gig but the worst day. Right through the tour we had constant problems with the extremists, like our friends in the Young Socialists.”

General Election 2010: Billy Bragg pledges to support Liberal Democrats

Billy Bragg, the singer, has pledged to back the Liberal Democrats as they have the ”best manifesto”.


When Las Ramblas Spoke Geordie Scene 5

Scene 5
{ In bed in New Zealand. }

(Silence. Then radio static and heavy breathing and beep, beep, beep and BBC World service music.)

The Pie : Yes ! Yes ! Yes !
Sue : Are you finished under there ? Come out from under there.
The Pie : I’m speechless.
Sue : How was it then ?
The Pie : We beat Barcelona at home.
Sue : Is that good ?
The Pie : Fantastic. I’ll just tell the lad.
Sue : No you won’t. Wait till morning.
Lad : (shouting from his room) What was the score Dad?
The Pie : I’ll put him back to sleep. ( Sound of bed creaking, footsteps and opening of bedroom door.) We won son, three, two.
Lad : Who scored?
The Pie : (Sound of page turning.) The month of November. TINO! TINO!
Lad : Is Tino better then Supermac Dad?
The Pie : No son but he’s still a good player.

(Phone rings in bedroom.)

Sue : Yes ?
Trotsky : (in a Spanish accent) Hola, puedo hablar con Pedro, por favor ?
Sue : Pardon?
Trotsky : Ah, perdoname, you don’t speak Spanish. Can I speak to Peter please ? I am his, how you say, primo,? Ah cousin from Catalonia ?
Sue : It’s for you Pete, someone who says he’s your cousin from Catalonia.
The Pie : Yes?
Trotsky : Listen carefully Pie. It’s me Trotsky calling from Barcelona. Just say Si or No, okay?
The Pie : Yes, I mean si.
Trotsky : You know the result?
The Pie : Si.
Trotsky : You want to come to the return leg?
The Pie : Si.
Trotsky : Sue won’t let you come?
The Pie : No.
Trotsky : All the lads are coming, you’ve got to. We’ve arrived. Barcelona, the Nou Camp. Tell her that your Uncle who went to Spain for the civil war has died and that you have to go there to claim your inheritance.
The Pie : No!
Trotsky : Si! Si! Si!
The Pie : Okay, si.
Trotsky : Now repeat after me, hasta la vista en el Nou Camp.
The Pie : Hasta la vista en el Nou Camp.
Sue : I didn’t know you spoke Spanish.
The Pie : Just a bit telephone Spanish you know.
Sue : What was that all about then ?
The Pie : It was me cousin from Spain. Me Uncle has died.
Sue : You never told me you had family in Spain.
The Pie : Aye, he went to Spain to fight in the civil war and never came back. They want me to go there to claim me inheritance but its too far to go isn’t it?
Sue : An inheritance? Was he rich?
The Pie : Well offish.
Sue : I suppose you could visit your mother in Newcastle as well.
The Pie : Yeah, two birds with one stone.
Sue : What was he called?
The Pie : Who?
Sue : Your Uncle!
The Pie : erm Faustino. Uncle Faustino.
Sue : That’s not a very common name in Newcastle is it?
The Pie : It is now.


When Las Ramblas Spoke Geordie Scene 4

Scene 4
{ In the Strawberry pub after the match. }

( The bar is packed and everyone is singing. Sound of music and football commentary.)

Stevie : Brilliant wasn’t it? I wish I’d been inside though. What was the atmosphere like? It looked great on the box.
Stat : Excellent. We never stopped singing.
Stevie : What? In the platinum club ? I thought it was sound proofed so you didn’t have to hear the hooligans.
Stat : Give over will you. Look at the door, it‘s Iddy isn’t it? What’s he doing with that bonny lass?

(Iddy enters bar and puts a record on the Jukebox, “Wherever I lay my hat,” by Paul Young.Music plays over noise.)

Iddy : Look pet still no rings.
Girl : Should I know you?
Iddy : No, I just always wanted to do that.
Stevie : Christ look who it is. What you doing here Iddy ?
Iddy : TINO ! TINO ! I couldn’t miss this. Get them in Stat. I’m probably on the dole again and you’re always loaded.
Stevie : Probably ? I thought you were back on the railways?
Iddy : I was until twenty minutes ago.
Stevie : Jumped ship then ?
Iddy : Aye.
Stat : Get these down your necks.

( There is a lot of noise in the bar. Phone rings and barman answers.)

Barman : The Strawberry.
Trotsky : Can I speak to Stevie Walker please?
Barman : You’ll have to speak up mate its mayhem in here.
Trotsky : Can I speak to Stevie Walker? He’ll have a Newcastle top on. Probably the Nº9, Shearer.
Barman : You’ve got to be joking bonny lad. I’ve got ninety nine Nº9s in here the night.
Trotsky : Please man. I’m calling long distance. Give a shout for anyone who knows Trotsky from Barcelona. Okay?
Barman : Aye okay. (shouting) TELEPHONE FOR STEVIE. A MR. TROTSKY FROM BARCELONA. (to himself) Funny I thought he was Russian.
Stevie : Did he say Trotsky ? I’M STEVIE.
Barman : There’s a call for you from Barcelona. Reserve me a ticket for the match over there will you?
Stevie : Aye, okay. Trotsky? Is that you ?
Stevie : How are the Catalans taking defeat?
Trotsky : They literally can’t believe it. Crying into their Voll Damms. Look I’ll have to be quick cos I’m running out of dosh. You and the lads have got to come over here for the return leg. It’ll be the big one.
Stevie : You know I’d love to but I´m still on the rock and roll.
Trotsky : Howay man. We’ll work something out.
Stevie : Okay, I´ll have a word with Iddy and Stat. They’re here in the bar.
Trotsky : Say hello to Iddy and tell Stat he’s a Tory capitalist shitbag. I’ll phone the Pie in New Zealand and you get things sorted your end. Hasta la vista bonny lad !
Stevie : Aye, Adios mate.

Iddy : Who was that?
Stevie : Trotsky. He says hello to you and he told me to tell you you’re a Tory bastard Stat.
Stat : Charming talk from a so called English teacher. Well he’s behind the times as usual. I’m New Labour now. Tony is doing a fantastic job for the small businessman.
Stevie : He’s why I stopped voting Labour.
Iddy : I’m confused. What did he say anyway ?
Stevie : He wants us to go to Barcelona for the return leg. He’s going to phone the Pie in New Zealand.
Iddy : Great. Why not? It’ll just be like old times.
Stevie : That’s right we were always jetting off to Barcelona to see the Toon.
Iddy : We once went to Barnsley.
Stevie : Yeah, it was Trotsky’s birthday treat. They mentioned his name over the PA. Remember we were with some miners, his mates from the strike. And the Tykes tonked us three nil. Happy days.
Stat : Even though I’ll have to put up with Comrade Trotsky I think its a brilliant idea. Why don’t we go ? I tell you what we’ll go for lunch tomorrow and talk about it.
Iddy : Lunch? Why don´t we just go for a pint ?
Stat : Don’t you want to visit the Magpie Restaurant while you’re home ? I can sign guests in.
Stevie : You mean it’s like a working men’s club or what ?
Stat : Do you want to come or are you just gonna take the piss ?
Stevie : Okay, you’re on. Iddy ?
Iddy : I’m not wearing a suit or bowing to Sir John though.


When Las Ramblas Spoke Geordie Scene 3

Scene 3

{ London to Newcastle train. }

( Sound of moving train and coffee machine in buffet car. )

Announcer : The train is now leaving Darlington. Next stop Newcastle.
Cockney Steward :  Look Geordie you need a big squad to compete in Europe. Newcastle just aren’t in the same league as Man U. This is our year in Europe.
Iddy : What again? Haddon a minute. What part of Manchester are you from Cockney?
Cockney : I’m not. I’m from Hackney but that’s irrelevant. I’ve always supported Man U.
Iddy : Since when? Are you an 80s or a 90s fan? I remember  Man U when the team was shit and the fans were … okay. Now the team is…. okay and it’s the fans who are shit. Now piss off and leave me alone. I’m listening to the match.
Cockney : No need to be abusive and take that walkman off when a customer comes.
Iddy : WHAT ?
Iddy : No need to shout. I’ve got two ears.  Look I can take one earpiece out and still serve. And they’re not customers they’re passengers. ( to passenger ) What can I get you?
Passenger :  Three gin and tonics and a pork pie.
Alan Green : ( Radio commentary. ) … and Gillespie goes past the Barcelona defender as if he isn´t there. Crosses. Asprilla’s in the box. Hat – trick ! TINO ASPRILLA AND NEWCASTLE UNITED THREE BARCELONA FOOTBALL CLUB NIL. Magnificent.
Passenger : Can I get served please?
Iddy : Sorry pet what was it? Three Tino Asprillas and a pork Gillespie. Here they’re on the house.
Cockney : You’re mad Geordie. Make sure you pay for that.
Iddy : It’s not your fault Cockney. You lot don’t feel it like us. Look at those bridges, the river. I can just see the lights of St James. In a few minutes the lads’ll be heading for the Strawberry to sink a few pints in celebration. Aye. See you Cockney. It’s my stop.
Cockney : You what?

( Iddy makes an announcement over the PA. )

Iddy : I hope all passengers have a had a pleasant journey. We are now pulling into Central Station. The news from St James is, Tino Asprilla three. Football Club Barcelona nil. Finally there is an urgent message for any Manchester United and Sunderland fans on the train,  Bob Stokoe, Ian Porterfield, Peter Reid Monkey Heed, Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton, Captain bloody Marvel, Ooh aah Cantana – we really showed you lot tonight! Howay the lads !

( Sound of passengers cheering and train doors slamming and station noises .)

Announcer : Welcome to Newcastle Upon Tyne. Change here for Metro.


When Las Ramblas Spoke Geordie Scene 2

Scene 2
{ In the Strawberry pub before match. }

( Sound of very noisy bar. Football fans cheering and singing. )

Barman : ( Announcing over P.A.. ) Ladies and Gentlemen. Lads and Lasses. The management of the Strawberry public house would like to remind you lucky sods with season tickets that you have 15 minutes to get to your seats. The rest of you sad buggers are welcome to stay here and watch the match on our massive screen and drink us dry. Howay the lads!
Stat : Hi. How’s it going ?
Stevie : Hello Stat. I see you’ve dressed up for the occasion. You can borrow me top if you want so you don’t stick out.
Stat : Thanks but I don’t think I’ll bother. We don’t usually wear club colours in the Platinum club. A tie and badge suffices. It’s not good business to offend the people in the hospitality boxes.
Stevie : Yeah, they might be Man U fans.
Stat : You don’t want another do you ?
Stevie : ‘Course I do.
Stat : I just thought as you’ve got a quarter of a pint left and I’m not stopping long.
Stevie : Just get them in man.
Stat : Okay okay, two pints when you can, cheers. So you’re still selling that rag are you? (reading from fanzine) “Reclaim the game from the football fat cats.” I suppose you think I’m one of the fat cats ?
Stevie : Well you´re not exactly thin are you ?
Stat : What’s your problem ? Look we’ve never had so much success. Statistically NUFC Plc are second only to Man Utd as a sound investment. The ground’s always full and tonight we’re playing FC Barcelona one of the greatest clubs in the world. What have you got to whinge about ?
Stevie : I’m not whinging I’m reminiscing.
Stat : You what ?
Stevie : I was wondering where the lads are tonight. It’ll be early morning in Auckland. The Pie will be under the covers trying to tune in to the BBC. And of course Trotsky’s in Barcelona. Lucky sod. That’ll be handy for the return match. Where’s Iddy nowadays ?
Stat : Back on the railways. Probably abusing cockneys as always.
Stevie : It’s a pity we aren’t all together for this one. Remember when we used to go on the Leaze’s End together ? Remember the atmosphere, the singing and the crack?
Stat : Yeah and the piss on the back of your legs and the fights. The good old days. When we scored we’d throw our whippets in the air and when we lost we’d kick our flat caps. Or was it the other way round ?
Stevie : It wasn’t that bad.
Stat : It was. Soccer’s changed for the better. It’s all down to Sir John. We wouldn’t be where we are today without him.
Stevie : Christ you even sound like him. Since when has football been called soccer ?
Stat : We have to change with the times. Soccer’s big business and Sir John has shown the way.
Stevie : More like shown the door.
Stat : Who to?
Stevie : The unemployed, the pensioners, working class Geordie fans, me and King Kev.
Stat : Keegan resigned.
Stevie : No he was forced out by your mates in the city just like they’ve locked me out of tonight’s match.
Stat : Oh shite ! I’m sorry mate. I couldn’t get you a ticket. I’ve got some customers up from Essex to see the Metro Centre and they want to meet Sir John and Lady Hall, you know how it is.
Stevie : Aye okay. I understand. Don’t worry about me. Rupert hasn’t managed to buy this match so I can watch it here 200 yards away from the ground. At least I’ll hear the crowd live and direct.
Stat : Look I’ve got to go. If we win I’ll see you back here after the match, you can buy me back that pint you owe me.



When Las Ramblas Spoke Geordie Scene 1

Scene 1
{ An English class in Barcelona. }

(Sound of kids talking in Catalan and desks opening and shutting.)

Trotsky : Hi kids.
Kids : Hi.
Trotsky: If you’re good today and don’t make too much noise we can have a conversation class. I know today’s a special day for everyone. Now listen, you can see my football top. What team is it?
Kids : Juventus. Juventus.
Trotsky : No. No. Juve aren’t the only team to play in black and white. Anyone know?
Josep: Notts County.
Trotsky : Very clever Josep. We all know you’ve got satellite TV. Any others? Las Urracas? The Magpies?
Josep : Newcastle.
Trotsky : That’s correct Josep and that’s why we´re going to finish the class 15 minutes early so everyone can get home and see Newcastle shaft Barça.
Kids : ¿Qué es shaft?
Trotsky : It doesn’t matter. Now, we need to work on the pronunciation. Where are Barça tonight ?
Kids : N.E.W.C.A.S.T.L.E.
Trotsky : No! No! No! Let’s practice that again. It’s NY’CASSEL. Repeat after me, NY’CASSEL!
Trotsky : Mas rapido! NY’CASSEL!

Trotsky : Okay, quiet please. I’ll have to do some grammar with you. I think the Director is listening. Shh. Today we’re going to learn the present perfect. Josep, can you give
me an example?
Josep : Si, pues, Barça have gone to England and they are going to win to Newcastle..
Trotsky : Very good but the phrase is, Newcastle are going to beat Barça or Barça are going to lose against Newcastle.
Kids : Imposible.
Josep : English football is terrible. The ball is always in the sky and it’s very long.
Trotsky : You mean the long ball game… have gone is the present perfect. It links the past and the present. For example Josep I see you have a Ronaldo shirt on. Ronaldo is not in Newcastle tonight, where has he gone ?
Josep : Italia.
Trotsky : In English please and the full phrase.
Josep : Ronaldo has gone to Italy.
Trotsky : Okay I want everyone to think of a phrase or question in the present perfect. Susanna?
Susanna : Barça have won the European Cup. What have Newcastle won ?
Trotsky : Nowt recently.
Susanna : ¿ Qué es nowt ?
Trotsky : It doesn’t matter, Roger?
Roger : Shearer has broken his uncle and….
Trotsky : The word you want is ankle and I’ll break yours if I get one more smart comment.
Roger : ¿Qué ?
Trotsky : In English please. Alfonso ?
Alfonso : Manchester….
Trotsky : Manchester what ?
Alfonso : No entiendo
Trotsky : How many times have I got to tell you? There are two Manchesters. City or United ?
Alfonso : Ah si. Manchester United have won the league four….
Trotsky : Right that’s it. You! Stand in the corner and everyone else open your books and do exercise four on page 56.

( Bell rings.Sound of kids talking in Catalan and desks moving. )

( Sound of Catalan Rumba. Glasses tinkling and people cheering in Catalan.)

Trotsky : Una cerveza por favor.
Barman : Ah English! You are Newcastle no?
Trotsky : Yes, I am Newcastle.
Barman : I am sorry but Barça win. Spanish league is best in world.
Trotsky : All your players are foreign.
Barman : ¿Qué?
Trotsky : Nada, gracias.

( Barça fans cheer as players run onto pitch. )



When Las Ramblas Spoke Geordie


On 17/09/1997 Newcastle United Football Club played FC Barcelona at St James’ Park. The Barcelona team included present manager Luis Enrique and Luis Figo.

The experts predicted a victory for the Catalans but Tino Asprilla had other ideas…..

Newcastle United 3 – 2 Barcelona

The return leg at the Nou Camp turned into a pilgrimage for Toon fans.

“When Las Ramblas Spoke Geordie” is the story of a group of fans who travelled to Barcelona to celebrate their common love for the Toon and on the journey they discovered dark Makem and Blairite secrets which put their friendships at risk…..

The Play will be published scene by scene on this Blog over the next few weeks.