Stand by Me

Thumbnail Don Urquhart Red Sky Lenin Cast of Play Red Dawn

24 March 2022

Diary of a Corbynista

Stand by Me

by Don Urquhart

Mug shot of Don Urquhart

The other day a BBC reporter asked Harlow MP Robert Halfon about the measures we might see in Sunak’s budget statement on Wednesday 23rd March.  Would he for example cancel the 2.1% National Insurance hike?  The MP considered this unlikely on the grounds that the British public was “umbilically connected to the NHS”.  I took this to mean that the government would then have to explain why they had made such a song and dance about the National Insurance hike being hypothecated against cutting waiting lists and in some vague way improving social care arrangements.

Halfon’s use of a medical metaphor had me thinking about our obsession with the use of physical activities to broadcast our convictions.

Footballers take the knee to demonstrate support for Black Lives Matter.  Now they are locked into it.  It is a brave club that says they are canning it.  And it is ironic that George Floyd was murdered by a policeman placing a knee on his windpipe.

Nowadays it takes ages to get a game started what with taking the knee and standing with Ukraine for a minute.

I wonder what the Ukrainians think of this.  They want weapons and a no fly zone and we give them as much standing around and clapping as they can handle.  They might well be put out that we are not also banging saucepans with our spoons.

Why can’t we sit with the Ukrainians?  Nicer for all concerned I would have thought.

One of the brighter side effects of racist policing and Russian imperialism is that they create endless marketing opportunities for crucial merchandise such as T Shirts and mugs emblazoned with statements of who you are standing with today.

This standing thing nearly had dire consequences for my wife and me.  We were sitting on the North Bank of Highbury Stadium among what was famously one of the most unforgiving groups of spectators in sport.

Stand up for the Arsenal! Stand up for the Arsenal!

Now I am not spending my hard-earned on a precious seat in my holy of holies only to be dictated to by a gang of Neanderthals, but I was in a minority and got some funny looks.

And when the chant moved on to:

Stand up if you hate Tottenham!

the peer pressure was hard to resist, but my wife wasn’t having it and stopped me from complying.

We had faces pushed up against ours.

Why ain’t you standing up?

I was ready with err, err, gibber, gibber but the Mrs. explained:

I don’t hate Tottenham, I pity them.

Which threw them briefly and time enough for Bergkamp to score a beauty and move the agenda on for the North Bank.

So in a sense Dennis Bergkamp saved us from serious injury.

That was standing up, and now there is lots of standing with as in Ukraine and Black Lives Matter.

Of course in this sense “standing with” means “doing nothing to help”.

And the phrase standing by can have a similar connotation but also has been used recently in a sinister manner by President Trump when he instructed the Proud Boys to stand by.  It could really only mean when I say the word you can do a job for me and the Capitol was stormed in January 2021.  Here’s how The Guardian reported it:

Stand back and stand by’: how Trumpism led to the Capitol siege

Today Chancellor Sunak will at some point tell the poor and vulnerable he is standing by them and in this case the words mean ignoring.

Politicians misuse and abuse our language.

Ben E. King with the help of Leiber and Stoller in 1961 showed how the language should be used:

When the night, has come
And the land is dark
And the moon, is the only, light we’ll see

No I won’t, be afraid
No I won’t, be afraid
Just as long, as you stand, stand by me

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