Last week, Bez added a new occupation to a list that includes former Happy Mondays member (he used to be their dancer; now he can’t because “my hip joints can’t take it”), occasional reality TV star (he won Celebrity Big Brother in 2005) and, latterly, beekeeper: standing for election to Parliament in the Salford and Eccles constituency.
There was a party with free beer, a poster campaign urging the locals to “join the revolution” and a stirring speech about how the current MP, Labour’s Hazel Blears – who won’t be standing at the next general election – had “let everybody down”.
Three days later, the Manchester Evening News broke the story that Bez had failed to properly register his Reality Party – launched in April last year – with the electoral commission, its name having been deemed too similar to the pre-existing Realists’ Party, and had missed the January 12 deadline to do anything about it. As a result, it will not be eligible for the election on May 6.
The irony did not escape the people of the internet, who gleefully noted that Bez had produced literature and banners for the Reality Party – slogan: “it’s real” – for a party that, to all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist.
Everything about the idea of Bez going into politics is, of course, preposterous. This is a man whose name became the byword for any superfluous band member; whose autobiography was named Freaky Dancing; and who did so many pills in the acid house days his eyes look they’re permanently staring at an atrocity occurring in a different dimension.
Bez was never going to be taken seriously, and his apparently falling before the first hurdle in his political career will be no surprise to most people. But it’s wrong to mock him outright. There’s a nasty culture in Britain right now, one mired in social immobility and class division, which aims to keep people in their place.
British politics is dogshit. In May, we’ll vote for MPs from two parties headed by two hapless career politicians with mildly differing policies. The election will be fought on the economy, Europe and immigration, as the hands of the mainstream parties are forced by Nigel Farage gooning around on the sidelines like a cartoon devil with a pint of Fursty Ferret in his hand.
Bez felt moved to speak out against this after going through some major changes in his life: declared bankrupt for the second time in a decade, he moved to a commune in Wales, learned about permaculture, heard about fracking, worried about it, thought about the problems in his old neighbourhood and set out to do something about it all. Then he got off his bony bum, set up a party, planned an election campaign and got as far as the launch. If it weren’t Bez – if it weren’t Britain – anyone reading this story might think of it as being an inspirational tale of personal triumph.
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He’s in a very similar position to Russell Brand, who has been widely pilloried for his own talk of revolution. No matter what you think about Bez or his policies, he largely stands accused of giving a shit and trying to motivate other people to feel as strongly.
He was never going to win the election, of course. And I wouldn’t want him representing me in parliament either, much as the idea of Bez twisting David Cameron’s melon at PMQs appeals. But it’s wrong to underestimate the power of someone who just gets up and does something. The measure of the man will be in the way he bounces back from this setback. His time in Happy Mondays proved he’s almost indestructible; don’t write him off just yet.