On Saturday (Oct 15) I was one of thousands of people packed into a tight knot outside St Paul’s Cathedral. The heavy-looking wall of policemen made it abundantly clear we’d get no closer to the London Stock Exchange, but that didn’t seem to matter all that much. We’d settle for occupying the home of the old God rather than the new. It was difficult to ignore the sense that anger shared across generations at how corrupt, how selfish and how venal the banks have been is now coming to a head in a long fine flash. A sense of relief, too, that there is international momentum. The occupation which has remained on the steps of the Cathedral since then is just one of hundreds which have sprung up across the world like franchises of the protest on Wall Street. And why not start franchises? After all we are all children raised by multinationals, and this is a protest for a globalised age.
Billy Bragg was there too, but as a supporter, not a leader. “That’s not my role,” he’d told me over coffee a few days earlier. “What I can’t do, despite having been asked by some people, is go down there with my guitar and become Che Guevara. My role is to try and reflect what’s going on. Write about it. Old geezers like me, with our perspective, hopefully we can help to inform. Connect it with what happened in the Thirties, with Woody Guthrie, stuff like that, but they don’t need me there. They’re doing fine. They need me to help spread the word, through the internet and through writing songs. That’s my role, and it’s important that songwriters remember that. Some of the young bands say to me, when I ask them why they don’t talk about this sort of thing in interviews: ‘Oh, I don’t know enough about politics.’ How the fucking hell do you think I learned about it? I left school when I was 16! I didn’t know shit about socialism until the miners’ strike, but you know enough to write the songs.”