Me and my vote: Anthony H Wilson
'No one was ever going to elect Michael Foot or Neil fucking hunchback Kinnock or the awful John Smith. But Blair is electable - so let's get back into power.'
‘New Labour? Absolutely great. I’ve been New Labour since the 1980s, long before Blair and the rest of them. The one great thing about New Labour is that they finally made the Labour Party fucking electable.’
Guess who Anthony H Wilson will be voting for on 7 June? The founder of Factory Records, the man behind the legendary Hacienda nightclub, and now an ‘investor in Manchester’, Wilson is ‘all for Tony Blair, all for getting elected, all for getting into power’. ‘After 20 years of Labour leaders who only a lunatic would consider electing’, says Wilson, ‘at least we now have one that people will vote for in their droves, and keep those fucking Tories out of power’.
According to Wilson, the big problem for the Labour Party in the 1980s and early 1990s was that it had ‘fuckwits for leaders and tossers for MPs’, who ‘the nation mocked’ and were just unelectable. ‘Left-wing Labour MPs, some of whom were friends of mine, they were fucking tossers all of them. They kept Thatcher in power. She did a great job of staying in power by herself, but she was assisted by left-wing Labour MPs all the way, who were so into their own fucking inner-party politics that they didn’t know how to relate to potential voters.’
And as for Labour leaders…’No one was ever going to elect Michael Foot or Neil fucking hunchback Kinnock, or – though no one admits it now because he’s dead and has become a “great politician” as they all do when they die – the awful John Smith.’
Wilson had a narrow escape when it came to John Smith. He wrote an article for the Manchester Evening News in 1994, which, he says, ‘was basically a plea for somebody to kill that dick John Smith’ – then jetted off to America for a conference, switched on CNN and heard that Smith had died of a heart attack. ‘I nearly had one myself, there on the spot’, says Wilson, ‘but luckily the Evening News managed to pull the article in time. The last thing I needed was to be blamed for the death of John Smith’.
‘But suddenly Smith dies and we’ve got Blair’, says Wilson, ‘who is electable. So I say, let’s get elected, let’s get into fucking power’.
But isn’t there more to supporting and voting for a party than just ‘getting it into power’? Surely the point is to get it into power so that it will do certain things that you think are important? Wilson agrees. And although he’s ‘all for Tony Blair’ and says ‘we mustn’t forget how important it is to trounce the Tories’, there are some things New Labour does that Wilson ‘can’t fucking stomach’.
‘Drugs’, says Wilson. ‘Tony Blair and Jack Straw do not understand what the word “drug” means in British culture. They just want to clamp down on drugs constantly. They’re on a collision course with the youth of this country, and on that issue I think they’re both fucking insane.’
Wilson has had run-ins with governments on the issue of drugs before. As a leading figure behind ‘Madchester’ and the acid house scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Wilson and co were the scourge of previous Tory administrations that ended up legislating against raves and loud ‘repetitive beats’ in the Criminal Justice Act of 1994. And in 1989, Wilson’s Manchester nightclub the Hacienda entered the halls of infamy when 16-year-old Claire Leighton collapsed and died – the first death in the UK to be attributed to the drug ecstasy. Now, although they are extremely rare and often the result of heatstroke or over-consumption of water, ‘deaths by ecstasy’ have been used by New Labour in its anti-drug campaigns.
‘It’s disgraceful’, says Wilson. ‘I’ve never been one to go on about how wonderful drugs are, but I know what kind of role they play in British culture, and that lots of kids take them for pleasure and nothing bad happens to them. I’ve managed world-conquering bands who’ve made great records while being totally smashed. One big downside to New Labour as far as I’m concerned is their ridiculous, blinkered approach to drugs.’
Another downside, according to Wilson, is New Labour’s ‘naff embracing of youth culture’. ‘I mean, I’m all for it in a sense’, says Wilson, ‘you know, recognising that youth culture is important. But I think New Labour has done it in a way that sometimes makes them look like dickheads. If I hear Tony Blair talking about his student rock band again, I’ll fucking punch him. Then there’s the pop stars around for tea at Downing Street – it makes the politicians look trendy, but I bet they wouldn’t ever have someone like Shaun Ryder around. No real rock stars allowed, thank you very much.’
But the thing about New Labour that most winds Wilson up is how ‘they got into bed with the great and the good’. ‘That was the big error they made: keeping that old British tradition of having a great and the good who wield too much power.’ And according to Wilson, the result of ‘sleeping with the great and the good’ – those ‘faceless, nameless, dinner-party types who are given positions of responsibility’ – were most disastrous in the building of the Millennium Dome.
‘I was really pleased when the Dome fucked Mandelson’, says Wilson. ‘Because here was an opportunity to do something amazing and creative to celebrate the millennium, and what do they do? They organise committees filled with the fucking great and the good, who set up more committees for their other mates in the great and the good, and then they blow a billion quid of our money. They built the Millennium Dome, those tossers. They might be nice people who have achieved wonderful things in their lives, but put them on a committee for something like the Millennium Dome and they are the dead hand, the ones who will stifle any creativity or daring – and that’s why the Dome was such a fuck-up.’
According to Wilson, this is one tradition that New Labour should have left in the Old Britain that it is so fond of criticising. ‘When New Labour came to power they had the choice of moving on from the old ways and becoming a proper meritocracy or to cuddle up to the great and the good – and not only did they cuddle up, they got right up the cracks of their fucking arses. That was their one big mistake and the fucked-up Millennium Dome that everyone hated was their comeuppance.’
So apart from the dodgy drugs policy, the naffness of hanging out with pop stars, and the friends in high places, Wilson is ‘all for New Labour’?
‘Yep. Now let’s get re-elected.’
Brendan O’Neill is coordinating the spiked-conference Panic attack: Interrogating our obsession with risk, on Friday 9 May 2003, at the Royal Institution in London.
Factory or fiction?, by Brendan O’Neill
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