If it’s true that, as Plato believed, music is the moral law, then Ed has to be among the world’s most immoral men.
He also has to be successful, as an invitation to appear on Desert Island Discs testifies. When one goes there, one has arrived.
For the uninitiated, the guest on this programme is asked to pick eight pieces of music he’d take with him to a desert island. The length of the sojourn isn’t specified, so the respondents have to assume they’ll be listening to their choices till they die.
In the old days, politicians didn’t hesitate to expose themselves to ridicule by choosing classical music only or predominantly, thereby confessing to being hopelessly out of touch with the electorate.
The late Enoch Powell, for example, was the last cultured politician we had. Actually his culture got him in a spot of trouble when he quoted Virgil’s remark about ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’ in the context of unrestricted immigration of cultural aliens to Britain.
The less erudite but more garrulous press immediately accused the well-read Tory not only of racism but also of somehow being complicit in the conspiracy to shed said rivers of blood.
Enoch’s DID choices provided more ammunition for his detractors: four of the eight pieces he chose were by Wagner. Now it’s my personal conviction that inordinate affection for Wagner is a reliable clinical symptom of madness. And even if a man isn’t mad to begin with, spending his life listening to nothing but Wagner would surely push him over the edge.
But at least Powell was honest about his tastes, quaint as they may have been. As today’s lot have neither his erudition nor his honesty, they use the opportunity to score political points.
The game-changing point that must be scored by any aspiring politician is one awarded for being a Man of the People. This means that no more than one classical selection is acceptable, and ideally none.
A Tory can just about get away with one (a hummable Mendelssohn song in Dave’s case), provided it’s not too posh. A Labour man can’t afford such elitism if he’s to retain any hope of high office.
In neither case do such political limitations impose a hardship. For whatever social background today’s leaders come from, culturally they’re as savage as your average White Lightning drinker. (You probably don’t know what that is, which speaks highly of you.)
So for them choosing popular tunes isn’t only expedient but also natural. What matters isn’t that they choose such tunes, but what tunes they choose.
Ed’s first choice was the South African national anthem. He’s prepared to listen all his life to these rousing words: “Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo, Yizwa imithandazo yethu, Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.” Is he going to sing along? One wonders.
His multi-culti credentials secure, Ed had to reaffirm his commitment to his own country (and her established religion), which commitment on the part of Ed’s family has at times been questioned. Thus he chose Jerusalem, the Anglican hymn in which William Blake promises to build said Jerusalem “in England’s green and pleasant land”.
On general principle, one rather doubts that this air strikes a familiar chord in Ed’s soul because he spent his childhood singing it on Sundays. I’m guessing here, but it’s just possible that Ed was restating his belief in responsible environmentalism, specifically the part of it sustained by green and unpleasant taxes.
Ed’s sensitive side is manifested by his choice of Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. Obviously he went over the stock of British soupy songs and found them wanting. Good to see such discernment in our next prime minister. A note to Ed: make sure voters understand that the ‘hands reaching out and touching you’ aren’t your own.
Then there’s Je Ne Regrette Rien by Edith Piaf, which in this instance is designed to vent Ed’s innermost feelings to his Labour supporters. To wit: I don’t regret stabbing my own brother in the back and stealing the party leadership from him – and who are you calling Cain, you crypto-Tory you?
To communicate his populism or, what would be worse, his actual tastes, Ed also selected three pop pieces. Since I’ve heard of neither the songs nor their authors, I’ll refrain from comment – other than complimenting Ed on his political acumen and rebuking him for his underdeveloped musical sense.
But the last selection is perhaps the most telling: Ballad of Joe Hill sung by Paul Robeson. In case you’re unfamiliar with Paul Robeson, he was a black basso profundo.
The Times has also identified him as an American ‘civil rights activist’, which he was – in the same sense in which Pol Pot was a fighter for Khmer freedom.
Robeson was Stalin’s personal friend and a member of the American Communist Party, denied a US passport at a time Stalinism was frowned upon. In other words, he was an active supporter and promulgator of the regime that murdered millions of its own people and was trying to do the same to the rest of the world.
Does Ed think this is what being a ‘civil rights activist’ means? He may well do – they don’t call him Red Ed for nothing. In all likelihood, however, he was appealing to his core supporters, the unrepentant communists in the Labour ranks.
I for one would love to see Ed actually marooned on a desert island and doomed to listen to his selections. Alas, I fear he’ll be moving to Downing Street instead.