Monday, 29 January 2018


(Written for Evolve Politics, May 9th 2017, going viral to near half a million people: also referenced by Buzzfeed and The Independent as example of online/left-wing news outperforming mainstream news. Since removed from the former link.)

British rapper Akala is well known for his political activism, as much so as his music and his equally famous sister, Ms Dynamite. The man affectionately dubbed ‘the black Shakespeare’ has appeared on countless debate and news-related programmes over the years, including both BBC flagship political shows, Newsnight and Question Time. Many of those speeches and discussions have gone on to become viral hits, as well as his frank analysis of racism on Frankie Boyle’s Election Autopsy in 2015. Perhaps most memorable was his much publicised verbal annihilation of EDL leader Tommy Robinson – a rare occasion when the hateful and ill-mannered man was left momentarily stopped in his tracks.

Akala could quite feasibly be described as a modern philosopher. His intelligence, his factual knowledge, and obvious powers of persuasive rhetoric leave most opponents dwarfed. There is simply no substitute, or defence, against an individual whose arguments are based on true understanding and thorough research. Which is of course exactly the reason the far-right are so persecuting of the educated, and demonise supposed ‘liberal elites’. But Akala is living proof that born wealth and ‘liberal elitism’ are nothing to do with it. And as much as educational opportunities do play a vital role in producing informed/sentient members of society, to a certain degree, it’s also the choice of any individual as to whether they educate themselves. This man certainly has.

In a post today on his Facebook page, Akala explained why – for the first time in his life – he is actively going to defy his inherent beliefs and vote for an ‘establishment’ political party:

“I will be voting in a general election for the first time on June the 8th and I will – I am shocked to be typing this myself – be voting Labour. I am not a Labour supporter; I do not share the romanticism of many that the Labour Party was ever as radical an alternative as some would like to think. Labour – despite building the welfare state/NHS – has been an imperialist party from Attlee to Wilson to Blair, thus for a ‘third world’ internationalist such as myself I have never been able to cast a vote for them.

In truth my politics are closer at present to the Green Party, of the options available. Regardless, in the years since I have been an adult, neo-liberal New Labour has basically been a Tory Party anyway, so I, by virtue of my age, missed any point in history where Labour could have even been argued to have been any sort of real political alternative.

So why will I be voting now? The answer will surprise none of you, Jeremy Corbyn.”

What I, and hopefully others too should find fairly remarkable about Akala’s post, is that it dares to be nuanced; to read between the lines. He is not bound by tribal allegiances to one faction or another, he thinks for himself, and dares to acknowledge that Corbyn is not perfect – that he has short-comings too:

 “It’s not that I am naive enough to believe that one man (who is of course powerless without the people that support him) can fundamentally alter the nature of British politics, or that I think that if he/Labour win that the UK will suddenly reflect his personal political convictions, or even that I believe that the Prime Minister actually runs the country.

I also recognise that Mr. Corbyn is a human and as such is an imperfect ‘leader’. He was abysmal during the Brexit campaign for example and this whole sense that a left wing exit from the EU was possible via a campaign led by anti-immigrant fervour is to my mind ridiculous.

It seems around this issue Corbyn was more committed to an ideology than reality and how that reality would affect real people. He is a politician, he will make more mistakes, or at least what I deem to be mistakes."

In fact, in some ways Akala seems quite sceptical of Corbyn – describing him as not having an “electric personality”. And even more sceptical of the power he’d physically wield as Prime Minister, when so many members of his party (not to mention parliament) are opposed to the fundamental re-balancing of equality in Britain Corbyn seeks. However, the rapper goes on to succinctly explain why it doesn’t matter; how there is simply far more at stake here than ‘business as usual’ party politics:

In a sense, he smashes every single anti-Corbyn and Abbott-related arithmetical smear in a matter of seconds:

“We do not need perfect politicians, because we are not perfect people ourselves. However for the first time in my adult life and perhaps for the first time in British history someone I would consider to be a fundamentally decent human being – that is, someone who does not want to kill the poor and does not routinely make a habit of rationalising the bombing and invasion of other people’s countries under the rubric of humanitarianism – has a chance of being elected."

Akala goes on at length, and points out how Jeremy Corbyn has championed equality, social justice and peaceful resolution his entire career.  He was one of only thirteen MPs who voted against the disastrous military intervention in Libya in 2011, which undeniably initiated the humanitarian crisis of refugees crossing the Mediterranean, and unleashed the new emboldened ‘war against terror’. When it comes to issues of inherent freedom and moral decency, Corbyn has always been on the right side of history, and has warned countless times where all this aggression will lead.

Akala also goes on to communicate his deep concerns regarding the current Conservative government’s war-like stance and militaristic rhetoric. Controversially, he even suggests that denying the “Trump worshipping Tories” and Theresa May the keys to Number 10 should be an easier decision than US voters faced, deciding between Trump or Clinton:

“I simply think we cannot afford, in this very particular set of circumstances, to not vote. Our brothers and sisters in America were not given an alternative, their options were one war-mongering lunatic vs. another and many of them (almost half the US electorate did not vote at all), quite understandably could not bring themselves to vote for Hilary Clinton, despite the threat of Mr. Trump. Were I an American I must confess I would have done the same. We, however, do have a chance for the first time to vote for the lesser of two evils.”

He warns with specific examples of other countries such as Jamaica and India, and how if they came up against the mighty nationalist will of the US or UK respectively, public opinion could quickly be swung to make them the enemy. Just as the Murdoch/Rothermere/Desmond press now do with EU nations. It doesn’t make for comfortable reading – but that is the point. That’s the world into which Trump and May, and other right-wing politicians are dragging us.

On the NHS

The Kentish Town born rapper also speaks of what should be the key ingredient in this General Election (sadly too often saturated by bickering, nationalistic nonsense and talk of ‘saboteurs’ etc), eg: the NHS. His words are both powerful and poignant:
“There are a great many other progressive policies that make Corbyn a genuinely different candidate from what we have seen before but another very key area – of literally life and death – is the NHS. If you want to see what privatised healthcare looks like just ask any poor American. There are countless American families mired in a lifetime of debt for basic healthcare that citizens of every other industrial country (and Cuba) receive as standard from public money. When I was five I got the measles and nearly died, if I was an American child born into a similarly poor family I would either likely be dead now or my family still paying off the bill.

When I was 10 my mum got cancer, same story. The idea and reality of an NHS is one of the most democratic ideas ever invented, it must be protected at all costs, the Tories have made their intentions in this area quite plain – as has Corbyn. If you are so busy hating those pesky ‘immigrants’ (you know the same darkies and foreign nationals that overwhelmingly staff your NHS) that you can’t see that the Trump worshipping Tories are callous enough to condemn millions of ‘their own’ people to slow and early death because they are poor and because it’s profitable, (as the Republicans just have) then you are unlikely to be reading this anyway. But if you have such people in your family (as I do) please try and talk some sense into them, for their own good.”

Everyone should hear Akala’s thoughts and reasoning on this matter. He, like many, is simply incredulous that a Conservative party so demonstrably keen to deprive its citizens of fundamental human rights can be apparently ‘sweeping to victory’. Voters are not asking themselves the right questions – they’re too caught up in the polarised issue of EU membership to notice we’re actually on the brink of losing far far more, by virtue of this new ‘Anglo-American convergence’.

"The simple fact is, if enough people vote for Corbyn/Labour they will win. In fact there are enough people that did not vote at all in the last election to tip the scales decidedly. A Britain led by the SNP and Corbyn’s Labour would be drastically different – though still far from utopian, whatever that means – to what the Tories have in mind and have clearly told us they intend."

It really is that simple. ‘To be anti-Corbyn at this precise moment in time, is to effectively stand for something far worse’.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m beginning to think Akala should perhaps run for office himself. Few politicians communicate with his clarity. But in the mean time, this remarkably talented and eloquent activist makes it only too clear where he believes votes should go on June 8th. And that is to Jeremy Corbyn.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article - well worth a serious read. So nice to have an approach to politics that readily resonates with ordinary people and sees through the power structures that ultimately corrupt our country.