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Maybe I Could Be Gordon's Cleaner? - New Statesman, 25th September 2006

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Title: Maybe I Could Be Gordon's Cleaner?
Publication: New Statesman
Date: Monday 25th September 2006
Writer: Nicky Wire
Photos: Daniel Pudles


I start dreaming of a cabinet to serve Gordon Brown: Diane Abbott, Martin Amis, Damon Albarn, Harold Pinter, Victoria Wood, Mark E Smith, Charles Kennedy, Dennis Skinner, myself and Michael Portillo...

I'm in Stockport. The seemingly endless train from Newport in South Wales has broken down an agonising 20 minutes from Manchester. Promotional duties await me. I Killed the Zeitgeist, my debut solo album of "romantic poetry and ragged art-punk" (John Harris, the Guardian) is set for "future cult status" (Garry Mulholland, Q) and obscurity (me).

My mind starts wandering, asking myself: "Why is Charles Clarke so utterly weird?" He calls Gordon Brown a control freak. Of course he is: more than any other politician, the Chancellor needs to make enemies and piss people off. If he listens too much, then he fails (remember when Nigel Lawson started listening to Margaret Thatcher?), yet, more bizarrely, the criticism comes from a man whose "control" seemed to disappear when pimps, murderers and rapists roamed Britain on his watch. In modern history, he was the most inept home secretary we have known, yet he is worried about a man who works 18 hours a day, whose didactic knowledge and dedication are unsurpassed.

We need a forensic, analytical, dour workaholic like Gordon to save us from this tyranny or, God help us, the king of smarm Alan Milburn will make another comeback. Gordon's a hyperrealist: he may seem prosaic, but his results are colossal. He separates his religion from his intellect. His economics are almost agnostic.

Bad food makes good music

But back to me: things are looking up. Reviews are surprisingly good. I'm extolling the virtues of R S Thomas and Lou Reed and looking at a diary that is getting more and more complicated. I realise my real job is a polite luxury at times. So I'm banging about on my old typewriter, the ribbon is running out (I have no computer), and Charles Clarke splits my head again. When the government wheels out another Jamie Oliver-inspired food witch-hunt (remember, Jamie: we won wars eating awful food, and bad food makes great music - John Lydon, Kurt Cobain, Pete Doherty; also remember you once said your favourite band was Toploader - I'd prefer obesity to them), I hope it doesn't put up Clarke as the role model. It would be like Ruth Kelly promoting a beauty contest, or Tony Blair acting as an ambassador for world peace. As The Clash once sang: "He who fucks nuns will later join the church."

I start to dream of a cabinet to serve Gordon Brown. Diane Abbott, Martin Amis, Will Self, Damon Albarn, myself, Harold Pinter, Victoria Wood, Mark E Smith, Shami Chakrabarti, Charles Kennedy, Dennis Skinner and Michael Portillo. We could privatise the royal family; abolish all subsidies to the Royal Opera; invent a supertax for Premiership footballers...Then my life slows down again. Someone is asking me about the next Manics album and about my love of domestic chores. Maybe I could just be Gordon Brown's cleaner - it's a position of influence and importance, after all. We need more control freaks. As Voltaire said: "The true character of liberty is independence - maintained by force."

The TUC was hilarious and awkward in equal measures...Can you believe I used to watch this stuff as a ten-year-old? Writing lyrics is easier, talking is, but this is killing my fingers.

Some more equal than others

The week has disappeared. At last it's raining. The comfort of bad weather shrouds me. I realise it will be a long, hard year of Blair. It could have been so different, but history will always have a witness. Clarke will fade even quicker than Geoffrey Howe's execution speech.

My dreams falter and hibernate - it's a long, hard evolution but I am patient. Twenty years in the music business have taught me that inertia and boredom are sometimes healthy. We're all searching for meaning, but as Kafka wrote: "The meaning of life is that it stops."

I have a panic attack - am I the Boris Johnson of pop, doomed forever to play with disaster, just when I thought I'd reclaimed a balance and a calmness? Musicians are lovers not fighters; maybe my brain feels overworked. I want to watch rugby and eat chips, shut down and sleep. Like Gandhi, I believe in equality for everyone...except reporters and photographers. So be pure, be vigilant and behave. Sehnsucht.