Stormzy’s Glastonbury set was a masterpiece in throwing shade at politicians – and Boris deserved all he got

What’s worse: an artist calling out a politician at a music festival using robust Anglo-Saxon, or a man set to be the future prime minister indulging in crude racism? I know which side I’m on

James Moore
Saturday 29 June 2019 14:45 BST
Stormzy gets Glastonbury crowd to shout 'F**k Boris'

Glastonbury might be bathing in hot sunlight but there were snowflakes in the homes of right-wingers who chose to watch the BBC’s coverage of Stormzy’s set.

The grime superstar was Friday’s Pyramid Stage headliner, and treated viewers to a blistering and politically charged performance including, of course, “Vossi Bop”, his No 1 single which features the lyric “F*** the government and f*** Boris”.

The reaction to the festival’s first black British headliner was hugely positive, but that didn’t stop the right from starting its oh-so-predictable growling.

“Outrage after Stormzy turns Glastonbury crowd on Conservatives” was the response of the Daily Express. Talkradio host Julia Hartley-Brewer was also quickly in there with a snide tweet and her reactionary fans dived into the thread.

The BBC will surely get it next. It made clear it would broadcast the unexpurgated set, regardless of the number and type of expletives and the political charge Stormzy has created.

For once, it was as good as its word. A welcome change, that. The corporation too often runs scared when faced with the issue of controversial lyrics and statements made by artists.

A case in point was its refusal to play Captain Ska’s excellent “Liar Liar”, aimed at May during the last general election campaign, despite the fact that the song backed up the offending lyric’s assertion with her own speeches. It was a lot more accurate than some of the claims the outgoing PM and her colleagues were making at the time.

Let’s be honest, if you can’t shake your fist at the man at Glastonbury then we really have entered the world of Soviet-style censorship.

That sort of context didn’t mean much to the right’s coterie of sensitive wee flowers, mind. It never does. Remember what happened when Jo Brand made her joke about Nigel Farage, milkshakes and battery acid that had the Brexit Party frontman and his tough-guy friends, who like to portray themselves as doughty defenders of free speech, blubbing to the police.

Young female dancer wows crowd during Stormzy Glastonbury set

So these mutterings shouldn’t come as any great surprise. Stormzy, who wore a union jack stab vest on stage, will probably use their whingeing as fuel.

It is to be hoped that the corporation’s brass find themselves empowered by the performance and the fierce joy it provoked, and continue to defend the decision in the same way they defend the charges against the Today programme becoming a party political broadcast for the fruit loop wing of the Tory party, and their reserving of a Question Time seat for Farage whenever he can find a slot in his busy schedule – all the while ignoring the Greens.

Johnson richly deserves every bit of shade thrown at him through the course of the festival (and there has been a lot). At this point it might be a good time to (once again) remind ourselves of some of the words used by the former foreign secretary that have appeared uncensored in hard-right-wing Conservative publications.

I’m thinking here of his likening Muslim women who wear niqabs or burkhas to “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”. Then there were his complaints about cheering crowds of “flag-waving piccaninnies” and the “watermelon smiles” of “tribal warriors”.

And there’s plenty more like that courtesy of a divisive clown who laughably claims that he will “unite the country”.

Tell me, what’s worse: a rapper doing what rappers do and calling out politicians at a music festival in robust Anglo-Saxon, or the fact that the man we look set to be saddled with as prime minister has indulged in crude racism that the Conservative Party and its allies cheer on?

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