By Chris Green
Did you see Squeeze’s appearance on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning?
There was PM David Cameron talking about council estates and welfare cuts when right next to him – armed with their own weapons of mass construction (guitars and microphones) – stood Squeeze, fronted by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, two of this country’s finest songwriters and south east Londoners who grew up on the sort of council estates it appears the PM would like to do away with.
Difford and Tilbrook also possess something many politicians lack – quick-wittedness.
The band rejigged the final verse of Cradle to the Grave, the theme tune of the recent BBC comedy series of the same name, based on broadcaster Danny Baker’s memoir of growing in Deptford – yup, you’ve guessed it… on a council estate.
“I grew up in council housing,” sang Tilbrook. “Part of what made Britain great, there are some here who are hell bent, on the destruction of the welfare state… from the cradle to the grave.”
Cameron clapped – how else could he react? And well done him for doing so. Sometimes you’re just kippered…
While doubtlessly, post production, spin doctors got their knickers in a proverbial twist, Danny Baker tweeted “bravo chaps” – Baker’s equally sharp observations shaped in the university of life rather than red brick institutions.
The day before, Baker had me howling with laughter at his Radio 5 Live Saturday morning show, with responses to whether or not you could still buy anvils (or were they just something heavy Daffy Duck et al would swallow in cartoons). Amazingly, there are customer reviews on Amazon – and I loved the moment when one reviewer noted his pleasure that postage and packaging had been included (“I bet he did,” quipped Baker.)
No-one is saying there aren’t serious conversations to be had about ‘sink’ estates but neither should we forget the squalor that went before.
While writing the autobiography of footballer Cyrille Regis, I was touched to hear how grateful the Regis family had been for council housing in north west London in the later 1960s. They’d arrived in England from the Caribbean, only to be ripped off by scumbag landlords who preyed on the poor.
At one point, the Regis family was torn apart. Cyrille and a brother lived in a convent with his mum and younger sister in a Salvation Army hostel and his dad and two siblings elsewhere. Cyrille’s dad ALWAYS worked – in fact, often had two jobs.
Council housing solved a problem and we shouldn’t forget that. Collectively the Regis family have made a fine contribution to British society – Cyrille most notably on the field of play and through his charity work. With Squeeze it has been in verse, often with tongue in cheek – as the PM found out.
Sometimes you have to make your point when the opportunity arises.
Chris Green is managing partner of Chris Green Media.