Music

Paul Weller: 'Keir Starmer's just a slightly softer version of the Tory party, isn't he?'

The Modfather has given an exclusive interview to the Big Issue

Paul Weller and Johnny Harris

Paul Weller and Johnny Harris by Dean Chalkley

Music legend and ‘Modfather’ Paul Weller has said he “doesn’t see much difference” between Labour leader Keir Starmer and Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak.

Speaking exclusively to the Big Issue in the wake of the general election being called, Weller reflected on Starmer and the choice voters have when they go to the ballot box on 4 July: “He’s just a slightly softer version of the Tory party, isn’t he?”

Weller continued: “He’d be well served to remember who built the Labour party – trade unions and communists. So, I don’t see much difference between him and Sunak and all that mob. The fact that he’s a Sir puts me off a little bit in the first place.”

Paul Weller appears on the cover of the Big Issue following the release of 66, his 17th solo album, and the release of his new music video “I Woke Up”, which explores the issue of homelessness in London.

Shot in black and white, the video details a day in the life of a homeless man. It’s told simply and without hyperbole. Made by actor Johnny Harris, of This Is England fame, and shot on the site of the old ‘cardboard city’ near Waterloo, it’s a powerful statement about the rough sleeping crisis escalating on the streets of London.

Asked why he chose to highlight homelessness in the video, Weller told the Big Issue: “This country is run by idiots and fools. And it’s not like they even try to cover it up. It’s like all these grown up posh kids have all been let loose in this asylum.

“With the matter of homelessness, it’s how do you fix this? You can’t just keep moving people off and to another area. It’s sweeping it under the carpet. Why don’t we try and fix it? I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to fix.

“Some of the homeless people round my way, some I chat to, it’s a mixture of things – some people have definitely got mental problems and they should be helped and looked after, some people have drug problems and could go through a programme. But then you need a support system so that once they go through that programme they can’t go back on the streets.

“They need work to help stop that. But that’s in an ideal world. Because of all the cuts, that’s not going to happen. It’s fucked.”

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Johnny Harris also reflected on the decision to film the video for Paul Weller’s new single on the site of Waterloo’s infamous ‘cardboard city’, where hundreds of homeless people lived between the late ‘70s and ‘90s, saying: “The stairs that [the lead character in the music video] walked down to the place where he’s begging, that was the old cardboard city. There’s lots of that kind of stuff. I wanted to go around and kind of pay homage to that history.

“But there’s a sadness today, as you’re filming in those places, and you’re thinking it hasn’t really changed. They’ve moved the problem out and on but the statistics show a real spike recently. How is this happening, what is the root of this problem? I don’t really trust the politicians to have the answers. The answers lie within these places like St Mungo’s, like the Big Issue.”

To read the full interview with Paul Weller and Johnny Harris, buy this week’s Big Issue. You can find your local vendor to buy a copy, or subscribe online, at bigissue.com.

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