Josie Long is rather enjoying politics for a change. British comedy’s most affable Tory-takedown merchant has seen a socialist Labour leader pull off an incredible General Election surge, and now delights in the fact that “46% of people think socialism would be best for the country”. After years on the distinctly losing side, she’s finally brimming with optimism for the future.
But the Lefty Scum tour, which will see Long hit the road with anthemic satire duo Jonny and the Baptists and long-time touring buddy (and GC favourite) Grace Petire, was not always expected to be so celebratory in tone. “When we booked it”, Long reminisces, “Labour were polling at 25%, the election hadn’t been called, and we thought these gigs might cheer a few people up and remind them they weren’t alone”.
“Anyway, Jeremy Corbyn is now the Prime Minister.”
J&tB frontman Jonny Donahoe concurs. “May was anticipating a landslide. Unlike a lot of my friends, I didn’t think Corbyn was going to be annihilated, but we weren’t expecting such a good result.”
So with their impetus turned on its head, what has the mixed-bill tour promising “comedy, music and revolutionary socialism” become? “What unites us in the room is ideas”, says J&tB guitarist Paddy Gervers, who sees the shows as a unifying force for those of a left-wing persuasion. “I’m confident that’s more important than whether you prefer folk or stand-up. People who are unified by a common cause still require a mix of approaches, attitudes and values from within that. It keeps you thinking and on your toes. By having a real smorgasbord of a show – a platter, if you will – you’re bound to agree and disagree with different parts of it. This is definitely a good thing. We might all learn something!”
Gervers’ culinary theme sustains his thoughts on the entertainment factor of the tour, too.
“Think of it like this: if you really like cheese and pickle sandwiches, you can in good conscience order one and definitely enjoy it. However, wouldn’t it be better if, for the same price, this hypothetical sandwich parlour offered two additional sandwiches that both complimented the cheese and pickle, yet were their own entity and flavour? Yes. That would be better.”
Of course, the show’s partisan nature is unlikely to find favourable coverage in the mainstream press, but the group have pre-empted that skilfully, both in the name and a selection of negative reviews plastered on the poster. “We have the most right-wing press in Europe according to YouGov”, Donahoe explains, “so we thought it’d be funnier to just list our quotes from the Telegraph. It’s weird that the they’re all negative, isn’t it? Almost like they have an agenda!”
So with the Tories imploding over Brexit and solidarity found across the land, what message for the future does this united front of artists envision for Lefty Scum? “Seeing so many young people galvanised by the hope of a better future and fairer government inspired us to keep going,” Donahoe explains. “The only way is to keep campaigning all the time, not just during elections, so hopefully this show fits into that mold.”
Long is similarly keen to follow Corbyn’s “permanent campaign” ethic. “It’s kind of a thrill to know that for once, the message of the tour isn’t just “keep the faith, keep going”. It’s about celebrating, feeling energised and planning what we’re going to do next.”
What comes next, of course, depends on what happens in the present – so who does the Lefty Scum gang think will actually be Prime Minister by the time they hit Leicester? “I’m going to go out on a limb and say Theresa May,” Donahoe ventures. “I know that sounds ridiculous, but I think it just might happen.”