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“Starmer’s just a slightly softer version of the Tory party, isn’t he?” Paul Weller on politics in Big Issue exclusive

Paul Weller and Johnny Harris appeared in a recent Big Issue. Image: Dean Chalkley

Exclusive to this week’s Big Issue, out today (Monday 3 June), Paul Weller has sat down with actor and long-time collaborator Johnny Harris to talk about his new album, 66, and the music video they’ve worked on together, which shows the stark reality of London’s mass homelessness.

Harris – well-known for This Is England and a long-time collaborator of Weller – has directed the powerful video for forthcoming single ‘I Woke Up’. Asked why he chose to highlight the rough sleeping crisis on Britain’s streets, Weller says: “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 f**ked.”

With an election coming, does he have more hope if Keir Starmer becomes PM and changes things?

“He’s just a slightly softer version of the Tory party, isn’t he?” says Weller. “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.”

Shot in black and white, Weller’s new music video details a day in the life of a homeless man in London, told simply and without hyperbole. It ends with a call to help St Mungo’s, a charity primarily focused on getting rough sleepers into a bed. It was partly filmed where the old ‘cardboard city’ stood near Waterloo for 20 years between the late 70s and 90s.

Harris tells the Big Issue: “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, 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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