The Mob – Quintessentially English?

Photo: Min

I have been asked to write something about the Mob for a re-release of “Let the Tribe Increase”. I have written a couple of versions, but then got stuck. I was going to say that there is something ‘quintessentially English’ about the Mob, that they somehow managed to fuse their rural roots (Somerset/ Wiltshire) with an urban (London) edge.

I was thinking 17th century Diggers and Levellers,  19th  century Chartists, urban Luddites and rural  Captain Swing rioters, William Blake and the Sex Pistols, , E.P. Thompson’s ‘Making of the English Working Class’, a bit of George Orwell (1984, Road to Wigan Pier), mods, rockers, hippies, punks, travellers and ravers, road protestors and the Plane Stupid crew…The 1981 riots, the 1990 Poll Tax riots…

When I lived in England (1977- 1996) I could have said all that because when I did the complex reality of this mish-mash of radicalness was much stronger than any residual sense of Scottishness. And anyway the bit of Scotland I come from is semi-detached from the mainstream, similar to the way that Cornwall is to the mainstream of England.

It hasn’t helped that there has just been a minor/ major earthquake up here – when the Scottish National Party overturned a 16 000 Labour majority to win Glasgow East. The SNP game plan is to wait until 2010 to hold an independence referendum.  This would be after next UK general election which  is  predicted to be a Conservative win. The theory being that fears of a return to situation  which  followed 1979 Maggie Thatcher victory would lead to a big Scots ‘Yes’ to independence and the break up of the UK…

I have spent far too much time reading the runes (= comments sections of online newspaper reports plus political blog sites) and now I am confused. It seems there are quite a few ‘English nationalists’ about who are very keen to get rid of the whinging jocks. Some overlap with advocates of a separate English parliament. And it also looks like the Labour Party is in meltdown. Things fall apart, as Yeats said

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Is it possible to still speak of a future beyond ‘no future’, of that sense of possibility which the Mob evoked – as the illusion of the UK’s economic success built on ever rising house prices and cheap oil starts to fade ? Twenty five years on and what has really changed?

“ We are not afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth . There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie may blast and burn its own world before it finally leaves the stage of history.  We who ploughed the fields and built the cities can build again, only better next time. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.” —-Buenaventura Durruti (Spanish anarchist 1896- 1936)

  1. Who do you watch?
    Who do you watch?
    July 31, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    As someone who lives in the same relaxed part of Scotland as you Al, I know how you feel, at least in regard to home and being baffled. Part of me (the English part) doesn’t want the Nats to take Scotland though. I’m sore pissed off with Labour and what a cock up they have made of things. The thought of more slimy Tories though fills me with horror. The Greens were kicked out in a SNP LAB squeeze last time, so no hope there. This current Lab gov have passed more bloody laws than the Tories ever did and seem to be obsessed with gathering information on people and criminalising them.

    I’ve yet to work out what the SNP have to offer, perhaps you can enlighten me? It would just be the same Central belt centric shite though wouldn’t it? We have a trully appalling crap council who foist the maddest and most dangerous traffic schemes upon us. Our area is seen by most as a fleeting blur. A means to another end. But as to Scotland’s future, one Radio 4 commentator seemed to think that Scotland would be Independent in 10 years, certainly not two.

    When England votes Tory again, who will you vote for?

    Whoever you vote for Government gets in.

    I enjoy your Levellers articles.


  2. Stewart
    August 1, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    I don’t suppose that’s the Tintin who used to come round the Balls Pond Road squat is it? Joined me and Kristine on occasional forays down the ‘dilly for tuinol? Drank with us at the Hope and Anchor?
    (Sorry, I know this is nothing to do with Scotland or the Mob – though I am half-Scots, if that helps…?)

  3. Penguin
    August 2, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Although ‘Tribe’ will be re-released on Overground Records sometime soon and may be worth getting this version of the CD rather than the old copies on other labels which were not really authorised.

  4. Sound Hound
    Sound Hound
    August 6, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    My cd copy of “…Tribe…” was on Grand Theft Audio, completely unplayable, and the distro I bought it from wouldn’t replace it as they claimed no knowledge of selling it to me. Any idea when the Overground release is due?

  5. Penguin
    August 6, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Couple of months hopefully Sound Hound. They have artwork, essays and the music side all sorted now. It will be advertised on this site as soon as we get press release sheets from the label with further details and a release date. Never heard of Grand Theft Audio. Don’t think I really want to either.

  6. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    January 22, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Different Mob.

  7. Ian S
    Ian S
    January 28, 2009 at 11:26 am

    “The theory being that fears of a return to situation which followed 1979 Maggie Thatcher victory would lead to a big Scots ‘Yes’ to independence and the break up of the UK…”

    It always seemed surprising that the SNP didn’t get more support in the 1980s. The effects of deindustrialisation and mass unemployment were around for all to see, and they were emanating from a government elected mainly by voters in the south-east and midlands of England.

    The exception was Jim Sillars of the SNP beating Bob Gillespie at the Govan by-election in 1986 (iirc). Gillespie was a Labour party hack who couldn’t tip shit out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel. (Pop fact: He was also the father of Bob Gillespie Jnr of Primal Scream).

    English nationalism is a curious and mostly recent development with several different strands and motives. Most of its adherents seem to be conservatives who became disillusioned and disoriented under successive Labour governments since 1997.

  8. Jay Vee
    Jay Vee
    January 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    The power of love is a curious thing – makes Bob Gillespie Senior weak, makes Bob Gillespie Junior sing 🙂

  9. Ian S
    Ian S
    January 28, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    LOL it made Gillespie senior thick like cream too.

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