Documenting The Election: Matt Johnson Talks


This Thursday will see the first UK election to be comprehensively covered in 140 character bursts on Twitter. Twitter is a format that works best in reaction – and it's interesting to realise that users may well not just be reacting to mainstream media coverage of the event. A host of new media has risen up to cover the election in real time – even us duffers at Ransom Note are planning to report as the night unfolds (follow us over here for more info on that). However, if you're looking for something a bit more nuanced than us making jokes about David Cameron's sweaty face, you'd do well to tune into the 12 hour broadcast being transmitted by Radio Cineola, the internet station run by The The frontman and latter day film soundtrack composer Matt Johnson. Intrigued by the prospect, we grabbed a quick chat with Johnson to find out just what inspired him to offer his take on the carnival of party politics, dodgy deals and dashed dreams; 

What's inspired you to take on this 12 hour marathon?

Generally, most of the issues I feel passionately about aren’t being covered by the media – there are black holes in corporate media coverage, so I thought instead of watching that nonsense, why not do my own broadcast? In fact, the broadcast isn’t going to be specifically about the election, but big issues I feel should be discussed, whether that’s the deficit, or the developers plan for London, or the fact that Britain has no independent foreign policy and is essentially a colony of America. The media is silent on how foreign policy is dictated by Washington. Endless war and endless profits – there are all these subjects that are all over the alternative media that don’t get covered.

What's the developers plan for London?

I haven’t heard the London plan discussed at all. It was introduced by Ken Livingstone in 2004, and it gave the GLA – specifically the mayors office – the power to over all local authorities when it comes to development, so London is facing absolute havoc when it comes to it’s skylines and historical neighbourhoods. You’ve probably heard that Soho is in the process of being dismantled – Denmark St is being knocked down, Earls Court is being knocked down. You’ve got 200 skyscrapers on the way to being built, all funded for speculative foreign investors – they don’t even sell them to Londoners.

Are you discussing any topics that relate to the wider country? It's been interesting that energy policy hasn't been mentioned at all in any of the big 3s campaigns.

I would like to see the utility companies re-nationalised, with all profits plowed back into the infrastructure instead of going to hedge funds and off shore accounts. That was a complete con trick, the privatisation campaign was about selling the public something that they already owned!

12 hours is quite a lot to fill – what have you got happening? 

Thanks for reminding me! I’ve interviewed quite a lot of people – William Engdahl who’s a geo-political strategist, David Edwards from a media watchdog organisation called Media Lens, Neil Clark from Russia Today. There’s going to be a lot of interviews, live guests and Skype guests, music, poetry. I’ve never done anything like this before so it’s exciting – you’re really thrown in at the deep end. The interviews themselves have been so interesting, so there may be a book of it as well as a CD.

Do you feel the need to interupt the election narratives formed by the right wing press? 

The right wing press aren’t about freedom of speech, freedom of expression; that only seems to apply when people express a view that they agree with – you could apply this to UKIP, that there’s a knee jerk reaction against it, and that if you really want to live in a democracy with freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of thought, then unfortunately you really have to accept these view points, you have to find an accommodation. Luckily over the past 10 years we’ve had the rise of the alternative media, so people can be better informed than just getting their news from the Daily Mail or the Guardian.

Are you going to make any predictions about where it's going to go?

It’s looking like a hung parliament isn’t it, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing – I’m all in favour of consensus politics. I don’t like landslides – when you get landslides you get Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and lots of foreign wars. Its healthy – you have a hung parliament you have a lot of debate, it engages more people in politics. Consensus politics and a lot of intense public debate – I think that’s good.

Listen to Radio Cineola's Midday to Midnight coverage over here