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Opinion: A bare-bones parliament, then and now

WE ARE  living through history and I am glad to be out there talking and singing about it. It helps me let off steam.

Last Friday week I enjoyed a storming night with my band and my best mate Steve Drewett’s band, radical punks Newtown Neurotics, at the Dublin Castle. Then, after a trip to Selhurst Park to see the Seagulls’ first double over our rivals Crystal Palace since 1984, it was up to Nottingham for a celebration of the history and music of Rock Against Racism (RAR), brilliantly organised by Sonia Long.

RAR needs to be relaunched as soon as possible: it breaks my heart to say this, but it is needed now as much as 40 years ago.

After a Sunday afternoon gig in Derby with fellow football poet in residence, Derby County’s Jamie Thrasivoulou, it was home to raise a wad of cash at a fundraiser for Eastbourne Labour Party and write more of my regular Facebook observations on these momentous times, visit if you care to take a look.  

I also wrote this new song which was debuted last Thursday at the Music and History event at Queen Mary College in London. It features a new addition to my early-music instrument collection, a Wurstfagott, or sausage bassoon, recently renovated by Barry at the Early Music Shop. Yes, for the first time I played my sausage bassoon on stage. No sniggers at the back, please.

If the human race survives – and I hope we do, most of us are quite nice really — this period will be studied for centuries, and our politicians and priorities will be scorned by historians aplenty. We have to go back a long way to find a parliamentary episode which was equally chaotic — not quite back to the bare bones of history but back to the Barebones Parliament of 1653 during the Commonwealth of England.  

It’s quite spooky that quite by coincidence I chose the last two years to fulfil my lifelong ambition to combine early music with punk and write and record my album Restoration Tragedy about this monarchless and radical period immediately following the civil war. There really are so many parallels.

If you think Mr Barebone had an odd name just wait until you see what his son was called …


   Praise-God Barebone was a leather man
   Fifth Monarchist and republican
   Preaching in the streets about Jesus’ plan
   Nominee to the Parliament of Saints

   Cavaliers mocked him for his surname
   His merchant background and his Christian name
   Barebones Parliament was the nickname
   Which they gave to the Parliament of Saints

   Christ would soon return and the rich would pay
   Praise-God and his cohorts would pave the way
   With Harrison their leader they would soon hold sway
   Over all men in the Parliament of Saints

   But the Parliament of Saints, each one a sacred nominee
   Let down the poor Son of God quite incompetently
   Like Parliament during Brexit though not so longwindedly
   Just from July to December of 1653
   They argued and they squabbled and debated endlessly
   The same recurring issue, because unsurprisingly
   Fifth Monarchists could not persuade the gentry to agree
   That they should do away with tithes and their own property
   To save themselves from Jesus’ wrath, returning in glory...
   The gentry voted to dissolve the Barebones suddenly
   Made Cromwell Lord Protector, dictator and grandee
   And Praise-God got very, very, very, very angry...

   Praise-God saw Oliver die and Richard abdicate
   The Grandees feared Fifth Monarchists would seal their fate
   So they brought the ghastly Charles Two back as head of state
   And forgot about the Parliament of Saints

   Praise-God and his wife had a dreadful son
   If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Had’st-Been-Damned Barebone –
   Yes that’s the one
   He invented house insurance after the Great Fire of London
   Economist and speculator, ripped off everyone
   It is even claimed that he invented capitalism by some —
   He would never have made the Parliament of Saints!


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