Category Archives: Election

Protest punk bridges the generation gap and highlights 2017 legacy challenge

Forty years after the release of God Save The Queen and seven days before a General Election, protest punk rock is alive and well in East Hull.

Or is it? I’ve still got that single. Asked my mum to pick it up while she was in town. Remember when Boots sold records? And I saw the Sex Pistols on the tour which followed.

Memories fade, but I’m sure I’d have remembered if Johnny Rotten had said: “Okay guys, let’s huddle round the microphone. I’ll croon. Sid ­– you do the ‘bom, bom’, Paul – you’re on the ‘oohs’ and Steve, can you manage the ‘ahs’? And we’ll all click our fingers!”

A capella? A ca-bleeding-pella? No, the punk of The King Blues is more polished, tuneful and melodic than the raw stuff that rocked the world in 1977. They bring out an electro acoustic guitar, a ukulele and even have a guy whistling at one point.

And that audience! There are teenagers, and couples nearly as old as me. They all know the words, and they don’t pull any punches. For some it would have been a tough choice between The King Blues, supported by Counting Coins, at the Freedom Centre or a not-quite-head-to-head debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn live on TV.

The abiding thought here was that if the Prime Minister really is too fragile to take on her main adversary face-to-face, these guys would chew her up and spit her out before the end of the sound check.

Some of the material was beautifully brutal – ferocious messages wrapped in a soft, snuggly blanket. A razor blade in the raspberry mousse. Trojan tunes, appropriately enough being played just down the road from Hull KR’s place on the eve of the appearances there by Paul Heaton and Billy Bragg, expert practitioners of this sort of thing from 30 years ago.

The King Blues combine punk played with power, tip-toeing and tub-thumping ska, spoken word with bark and bite, and a sense of humour to bring the house down. When the hair-trigger fire alarm forced the band to ditch the smoke machine, they pulled a young, volunteer vaper out of the crowd and gave him the job of sitting centre stage, exhaling at every chorus. Not an easy task when the human smoke machine was trying to sing along as well.

Counting Coins were Counting Coins. High energy from permanently pumped-up front man Harry, the tightest musicianship starring spectacular, soaring trumpet, and signs of greater accessibility in the band’s new material.

They’ll be back soon as the festival season gather pace, but what next for the Freedom Centre? It was a coup to get the Coins there, never mind a crew of the calibre of London-based King Blues, and it happened only because the Hull 2017 team pitched in with the Back To Ours programme.

Such initiatives are essential and, in the legacy sense, arguably worth more in the long term than a Radio One Big Weekend. One young fan said it was the first time he could remember being able to see established bands, with proper equipment and tech, playing within walking distance of his home just down the road. And all for a fiver.

The challenge is to do it again, but the couple of hundred people who formed this Freedom Centre audience would soon dwindle if the absence of subsidies pushed up the ticket price. There’s an opportunity here for Sesh or for Springboard to spread their wings. It all costs money, but the benefits of culture are innumerable and immense. Community groups and corporates can get together to make it happen.

Many thanks to @louiseaeardly for the pix.



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Filed under Beer, Business, By Phil Ascough, Celebs, Drama, Election, Hull, Literature, Media, Music, Uncategorized

Why England will win… or not

It was in another general election year, 1997,that Edward Heath travelled to Hull to lend his support to the young, fresh-faced Conservative candidates charged with ousting established MPs John Prescott and Kevin McNamara and blocking the path of rising star Alan Johnson.

As the former Prime Minister hogged the limelight during a campaign press conference I asked why he expected the trio to make any impact at all, given the local and national political landscapes at the time.

“Labour collapse!” he blurted.

So with a nod towards the late Parliamentarian, who admittedly had as much to do with football as John Terry has with sailing and playing the piano, here are five reasons why England will win the World Cup:

  1. Spanish collapse. And Brazilian, Argentine, Dutch, French, Portuguese, German and Italian. That should do it.
  2. Wayne Rooney. Capable of winning any game almost single-handedly.
  3. Faith in Fabio. England’s coach has only ever had his sights on victory in South Africa. That single-mindedness coupled with a no-nonsense approach to the players sets him apart from our previous coaches and could make all the difference.
  4. It’s winter down there. All those flash continental lightweights must be freezing but the conditions should be ideal for our boys.
  5. The last time the hosts were drawn in the same group as France, Mexico and Uruguay was… 1966.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, here are five reasons why they won’t:

  1. Dodgy defence. The facts are our keepers are not what they used to be, our full-backs are good going forward but prone to getting caught out defensively and our centre-backs are either inconsistent or untried at this level.
  2. Reffing hell. A common complaint, with some evidence to support it, is that the top players get off lightly with Premier League referees when it comes to pushing, pulling and pouting. Maybe the players can’t help it, but World Cup refs won’t stand for it.
  3. Fickle Fabio. From saying adamantly that players would only make the final 23 if fully fit suddenly the squad should be sponsored by St John Ambulance. Then there’s the return of Jamie Carragher and Capello’s bid to recall Paul Scholes, suggesting the coach has doubts about his squad and Carlton Palmer was unlucky to miss out.
  4. Altitude. Not quite as high as Maradona in 1994 but enough to make the already unpopular tournament ball do strange things. Yes, of course it’s the same for everyone but these disasters always happen to England.
  5. The last time the hosts were drawn in the same group as France, Mexico and Uruguay they won it. So that’s South Africa then.

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Filed under By Phil Ascough, Election, Football, Uncategorized, World Cup

World Cup kicks off summer of multicultural fun

Flying the flag for Angola.

Of greater personal concern than the outcome of the general election is the fact that where I live the BNP came fourth.

They finished behind, respectively, the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour and ahead of the English Democrats and the trailing Greens.

That means 1,583 voters were of the view that neither the English Democrats nor sitting MP David Davis were sufficiently right-wing. Which in turn makes you wonder whether such individuals should be entrusted with anything so sharp as a polling station pencil.

Thankfully relief and some joy came at the weekend with the arrival, just over the border, of the first Hull World Cup.

A community organisation called the Goodwin Development Trust came up with the idea. Their aim was to assemble 16 teams; they attracted 20. Local residents represented the home nations, eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.

As a mini-festival of international football, food and music it was a good start. To develop into a bigger event embracing the wider community Goodwin needs to expand the off-field activities beyond the handful of tents and food vans present on Saturday, but with a promise of 30 teams for next year the signs are encouraging. There is even talk of expanding nationally.

No one should really be surprised by the success. Hull has an image problem, but one created by a failure to balance the negative publicity with a few column inches about some of the good stuff. Many people think Hull is rough, or they don’t think about it at all.

And the city does have a decent heritage when it comes to tolerance, stretching back through its years as a major port to the beginnings of the 19th century when the locally-born William Wilberforce led the abolition of the slave trade.

There’s more to come with the Springboard music festival ( about to attract more than 170 performers on the weekend of 28 May to eight or nine stages in six pubs in the nearby village of Cottingham. And on 5 June back in Hull the Vista festival ( promises more multicultural fun with live bands and some workshops from the award-winning Hull Truck Theatre.

Meanwhile back at the football the standard was mixed, much like the real thing. England as hosts had the strongest support, DR Congo the coolest shirts with light-blue and red sleeves, Ghana the brightest hat and the most passion, singing their anthem before every game they played.

Stereotypes did kick-in to a degree. The African nations had individuals capable of brilliance but lacked depth, England had a man sent off early in their first game and Scotland caused more of a surprise when their result against Latvia was corrected to a win than when it was originally announced as a defeat. For the record the Kurdish team beat Iraq in the final.

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Filed under By Phil Ascough, Election, Football, Music, Uncategorized

Polling day? Let’s play politician, preacher, burglar, terrorist

In readiness for a stroll along the campaign trail, some Red Guitars.

One of the truly great indie bands and a favourite of the late John Peel. Check out the wonderful, updated site at and, while there, the typically topical lyrics to Steeltown:

“It doesn’t matter how I vote, the same confederacy of fools get in.”

Which puts me in the mood for a bit of electoral mischief as I wander into the centre of Cottingham, maybe the biggest population centre in Haltemprice and Howden, currently held by former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis.

It’s market day, the last one before the General Election, so the village should be buzzing with politicians and public, maybe even press and pollsters.

Having met Ricky Knight (Green, Bristol West) a couple of days earlier I’ve promised to pass on his best wishes to his colleague Shan Oakes. I’ll also thank her for the leaflet that came through my front door. Apart from Oakes, only the Tories have bothered to do that.

So I want to see the Lib Dem candidate to ask if a vote for him is really a vote for David Cameron, and the Labour candidate to ask whether it’s worth voting for him at all. Apparently we’ve also got the BNP and English Democrats, so I’ll ask them whether collectively they can compensate for the absence of a Monster Raving Loony.

Cottingham claims to be the biggest village in England. It’s got more than 17,000 people, three or four opticians, a few chemists and bakers, two butchers and too many charity shops. And nine pubs, most of which are not very good. The electoral profile is shaped more by the army of elderly from the various sheltered housing developments than the hordes of students from the University of Hull’s halls of residence.

The old dears shuffle with their bags on wheels between the Sense, Red Cross, Oxfam, Dove House Hospice and British Heart Foundation shops, all the time vulnerable to a smarmy, smiling candidate armed with a wet kiss. If the students have registered to vote it’s either not for this constituency or it’s from a long forgotten address that they haven’t occupied for months.

Early signs are promising. Remember the old adage: “Where there’s a TV camera there’s a politician.”

Walk past the fruit and veg stall, the place selling loads of stuff for old ladies’ cats, the lady with a table creaking under the weight of some rather substantial cakes and pies, the take-away food trailer and at last there’s the first sign of a candidate.

A Green Party placard is propped against a tree. And there, clutching a mug of tea and chatting to someone in the bus shelter, is Shan Oakes.

As I pass on the message from Ricky Knight, the only politician in the village is distracted. She’s spotted the TV crew and is off, only to return moments later: “It’s the weather girl from the local BBC. They’re asking people whether they’ll vote if it rains on election day.”

We discuss, briefly, the merits of engaging in debate with a TV weather girl. Where is Lembit Opik when you really need him?

Then I ask what’s happened to the other candidates. Not surprisingly Oakes doesn’t really care. It’s a nice day and she’s got the market crowd to herself.

David Davis though is known for avoiding the competition. Devious or just serial scaredy-cat? If you find him please ask him.

In 2008, when he prompted a by-election over not having a big enough milk monitor’s badge, Davis reportedly declined the challenge of addressing a youth assembly alongside the Greens, who were his closest rivals in a field of 26 shorn of Lib Dem and Labour but comprising everything else from racists to Elvis impersonators, Miss Great Britain and David Icke. Then he tiptoed off and organised his own event.

During this campaign he’s said to have ducked out of a hustings organised by two vicars, claimed he hadn’t been invited in the first place, and then prodded the preachers as if to emphasise that his boss is bigger than theirs. I’d wanted to ask David Davis about all this but he was nowhere to be found.

Maybe his former service with the Territorial Army SAS enables him to sneak into the constituency undercover, kiss a few pensioners and sneak out again. Or maybe SAS means he only works on Saturdays and Sundays.

A plummy adolescent with a blue rosette sought permission for Davis to visit one of the local pubs last week, though not of course before checking there was absolutely no danger of falling into a debate with another candidate.

The licensee declined, but later temporarily lifted the ban on political discussions to consider the trustworthiness of politicians against…

Vicars: “Well obviously a vicar is much more likely to tell the truth.”

Burglars: “They do say there’s honesty among thieves.”

Terrorists: “At least most of them have the courage of their convictions.”

It was the former Prime Minister John Major who told the House of Commons during the 1990s that he was “putting an end to the ‘something for nothing’ society.” In doing so he was supporting the expansion of the “what’s in it for me” society.

Now the Tories are pinning their hopes on people backing their “Big Society.” Round here it looks more like a “Big Secret Society.”

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Filed under By Phil Ascough, Election, Music, Red Guitars, Uncategorized