tagNon-Erotic PoetryThe Ballad of May 5th

The Ballad of May 5th


(aka – with apologies to Christie Moore – The Ballad of Ken Livingstone)

This is something of a period piece. Written at about 21:30 on the 4th of May 2000, the day before the election of Ken Livingstone as first Mayor of London, I may have slightly less confidence in the man now than appears from the slightly triumphalist text. There is a tune: “Tramps and Hawking Lads”; the same tune that I used for Broadside Girl (on this site). It was first performed the next day at the Court Sessions, a club above The Grove public house, Balham – Ben and Pete, accordions; Dave, concertina; me, whistle and vocals. Note: the word 'Tory' is not a spelling mistake.

As I arose one May morning, the fifth as I recall,
I overheard the radio proclaiming news to all.
So, munching on me breakfast toast and supping up me tea
I hung around with bated breath to learn what was to be.

The news announced in tones of woe, with warnings dire and grave,
That London’s hero, Livingstone, that rebel bold and brave
Had triumphed over Tory Blair, and poor old Dobbo too,
Plus Shagger Norris, What's-her-name and all that motley crew.

The story of their bitter fight should leave us in no doubt
That principles, or lack of them, is what it’s all about.
For, those that rose to pow’r upon the Labour Party’s might
Have done their best to fuck the rest and left us in a plight.


Our transport system chokes itself and suffocates us all.
The refugees and homeless have their backs against the wall.
The escalator’s broken down – and that’s a normal day –
And most of us cannot endure the fares we have to pay.

If you say you’ll get to work on time, I wouldn’t take the bet,
The bus routes are as crooked as our over-rated Met.
So if you’re white or if you’re black or neither one nor t’other,
Let’s hope that Ken will force the Bill to treat you like a ‘brother’.

So step forth wily Livingstone, you’ve called the bastards’ bluff;
By standing on your principles instead of acting tough;
Not jumping on the beggars or pand’ring to the Sun;
But taking on the vital task the GLC begun.

I’ve travelled East, I’ve travelled West, and South to Balham down.
I’ve even crossed the mighty Thames up North to Camden Town;
And the message oft repeated, in these and other parts
Is that after this pub closes up, the revolution starts.

So come all ye greater Londoners who surf the underground,
Raise up your cups with me my lads and quaff a final round;
Drink up your ale with gusto now and curse those right wing sods.
We now will get a transport system good enough –––– for Gods!

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