Billy Bragg would have had to work hard to succeed in any era, and especially in the 1980s, when his socialist politics and punk antecedents were deeply unfashionable.
Especially in the 1980s? No, no, no. For political music to succeed, it has to be part of the opposition, the resistance, the counterculture. I can’t think of a better decade for a socialist, working-class musician to have been working in than one in which a right-wing government was gutting industry and sending unemployment and poverty soaring.
Songs of protest can catch on. Songs of government support? No. I had my iPod on shuffle as I walked in to work this morning and Billy’s ‘There is Power in a Union’ popped up. Far from his best, and more than a tad dated, but still utterly electrifying.