Tuesday, 6 January 2015
A great read but is this the same John Major?
I have been reading My Old Man, John Major's history of music hall. Of course Major was born to parents who had trod the boards as jobbing music hall artistes and political opponents later made the most of this, sneering in a way that implied that we should all have parents who were Marxist theoreticians or chairman of a knicker elastic company. Be that as it may, My Old Man is a wonderfully detailed history of the halls and the characters who worked them. Major writes movingly about performers who, no matter how rich and famous they became, never forgot where they came from and could reach out across the footlights to a working class audience and sing about a life that they had all experienced. Apart from his own parents, Major shows the most warmth toward the "Queen of the Halls", the wonderful Marie Lloyd. No respecter of authority and an outspoken champion of the underdog, Marie was an unofficial leader during the bitter 1907 music hall strike. Is this the same John Major who happily sat in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet during the miners strike and later as PM himself oversaw the final days of the national coal industry and the devastation of so many working class communities? Surely not.