There are two things that make me feel connected to Alexei Sayle. Firstly, Alexei Sayle was born and bred in Liverpool, as was I. He came from Anfeild. I spent my childhood in Kirkby and lived around the corner from Anfeild for about fifteen years after that. He lived near Liverpool’s Football Stadium and I lived near city rivals, Everton for a time, but they are both only a stone’s throw away from each other. Secondly, he was brought up in a communist household and regularly had to attend many sombre political meetings as he grew up. I also grew up in a hard left wing household and it influenced my outlook at the time.
While Alexei was from Jewish descent, I was the mad offspring of a Lapsed Catholic and a Don’t Care Protestant. I was only eleven when my community studies teacher affectionately called me ‘Trotsky.’ He explained to my witty school friend, Paula, that I impressed him. Quick as lightening, she asked ‘Where?’
Liverpool and its surrounding suburbs, where I grew up, were a bit of a labour area, both in terms of pregnancy and politics. Then again, everyone in Liverpool hated Thatcher in those days. The ones who can remember, probably still do, but while other girls were talking about clothes and make up, and could rattle off large numbers of boys they’d kissed, I was paraphrasing Norman Tebbitt and could reel off all the names of every man and that one woman in politics. It was my dad’s hobby and I wanted to impress him by being knowledgeable about it too, subconsciously of course, never consciously. I was so into politics at an insanely early age, that it was a bit like being made to smoke hundreds of cigarettes, and then being sick as a dog later on. Eventually, you can’t stand the pesky things. It wasn’t so much that politics was forced down my throat, it was more a passive thing. Passive politics. I couldn’t help but breathe in the fumes.
It never got quite so bad that I knew the ins and outs of each party’s manifesto, but these guys became my heroes and villains. Ken Livingstone was always getting into trouble and sounded like Henry’s Cat. Nothing’s changed there then. I remember Tony Benn being like an romantic 1940’s movie star. And who can resist the sweet, spicy aroma of pipe tobacco? Michael Foot was the genuine gentle geek hero with integrity, but looked like a scarecrow, according to every shallow soul in politics and the media , so, of course, he was dismissed out of hand. During the 1981 Remembrance Ceremony, ‘they’ took the perfect opportunity to character assassinate an elderly man who wore a donkey jacket because he was cold. We are told never to judge a book by its cover but Michael Foot was judged by his cover. People may not have actually used the phrase ‘Clothes Maketh Man’ against Michael Foot, but they rubbed his nose in it. After all, appearances are everything. They took their chance to attack a pensioner for his fashion faux pas and they ran with it.
In the opposition corner, there were characters like Michael Heseltine, who seemed wired up to a point of mania, but very passionate, and is still around, and, later on, Michael Howard, who had ‘something of the night about him’ according to Anne Widdecombe. Michael Howard was allegedly being followed by U.F.O’s at the time, so it was hardly his fault. Norman Tebbit, Enoch Powell and Michael Portillo were some of the ‘baddies’, who closely followed and aped Margaret Thatcher’s political style of Dickensian ruthlessness. Michael Portillo has since distanced himself from politics and decided that railways are much safer.
Nigel Lawson, Sir Geoffrey Howe and Douglas Hurd were also prominent members of the Conservative Cabinet. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think of them, without seeing them as Spitting Image puppets.
Labours dark night of the soul was at its darkest from about 1980 to 1990 and then Tony Blair was elected in 97 and broke the curse. Or did he? Now the gap doesn’t seem to be as wide between the parties. They started to blur after Blair.
Alexei Sayle calls himself a Marxist these days, perhaps he always did, but he’s probably as disillusioned as most of us about how idealism gets twisted, sometimes beyond all recognition for people’s own personal agendas. Politics and religion are like Chinese whispers. The purity of an idea goes through the mincer and it’s unrecognisable when it comes out the other end. It’s like when Jesus said ‘Love Thy Neighbour’. We have gotten so far away from that. As long as we remember the source. The truth can be forgotten and twisted but it can never be changed.
The young Alexei Sayle left Liverpool and became a student at Chelsea Art School. While he was living in London he became a stand up comedian, eventually working and writing with comedy heroes such as Rik Mayall, Peter Richardson, Dawn French, Ade Edmondson and Jennifer Saunders. He starred in and was part of alternative comedy classics such as The Young Ones and The Comic Strip Presents. He was the punk of stand up, shocking audiences with his own brand of leftist anarchist rantings. He was like a comedy Sex Pistol and likewise, the Sex Pistols were a musical version of him, Alexei Sayle with guitars.
Alexei had a mad foray into pop. His single ‘Ello John Got a New Motor.’ was a Top Twenty hit in 1984 and was nominated at ‘The British Music Industry Awards’, now called the Brit Awards. Sigh. Showing my age. Of course now it would be called ‘Ello John Got A New Low Emission Environmentally Friendly Affordable Family Car With Standard and Side Impact Air Bags.’ At this point, he might be thinking, if political correctness and car safety be the food of love, then pass the elasticated pants.
He’s still going strong. He has a blog and everything and is still with the girl he married before he become famous, which I always think is a lovely thing. I’ve read his memoirs and they are extremely funny and entertaining. I’m not a laugh out loud person but Stalin Ate My Homework and Thatcher Ate My Trousers will tickle even the most hard to please readers. His novels are a great read too. When I was sixteen I remember reading the first line of one of his novels, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was called. I do however, remember the first line, which was, ‘My penis nestled comfortably in my trousers.’ Yes, I do believe that was the first line, and to a sheltered sixteen year old girl, it was very shocking. As you can see, it scars me to this day.