Sympathy for the Devil?

Peter Saunders

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards recently published his autobiography. It has topped best-seller lists across the world and has attracted acclaim from the most unlikely sources. Writing in Britain’s conservative Daily Telegraph, the Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was so impressed he called for Richards to be knighted!

Keef is an unlikely Tory hero. His book makes clear his disdain for authority and contempt for the governing classes, and it documents repeated clashes with the police, years of illegal hard drug use, and legendary promiscuity. But few of us nowadays are shocked by tales of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

But what about thieving? Before he became famous, Richards tells us he was ‘always nicking things from the other flats’ where he lived. Later, he knocked around with gangsters and drug dealers, on one occasion unwittingly driving the get-away car in a jewellery heist. He boasts that ‘all my close friends have been jailbirds.’ How does Boris square all this with conservative respect for law and order?

Richards is also a violent man. He boasts of booting one fan in the head and kicking a photographer for taking his photograph. He threatened a taxi driver with a knife, and attacked a man in a nightclub with a broken wineglass stem. A music journalist was told he’d have his hands smashed if he mentioned our hero’s acne, and Richards threw a knife at someone in a recording studio for suggesting changes to the arrangement he was playing. He brags that the chauffeur who informed on his drug-taking in 1967 ‘never walked the same again.’

Richards carries a knife and packed illegal guns and ammunition for many years. He was twice involved in shoot-outs at drugs deals and discharged guns at parties. He tells us the best strategy in a blade fight is to slash your opponent’s forehead so the blood gushes into his eyes. Is this really someone the Conservative Mayor of London should seek to honour?

In the 1970s, Richards took his seven year-old son on tour with him, charged with waking him from his drug stupors and helping him to stash his drugs at border crossings. His daughter was raised by his mother because neither he nor his increasingly violent and delusional junkie girlfriend could care properly for her. His second son died in infancy, but Richards didn’t even go home for the funeral. In the most chilling sentence in the book, he writes: ‘I don’t even know where the little bugger is buried, if he’s buried at all.’

Where do the Tories stand on family values nowadays, Boris?

Richards expresses contempt for the establishment, but he has made good use of it down the years, pulling strings and mobilising friends in high places to win favours and get him out of scrapes. Presidents, movie stars, aristocrats and tycoons have all prostrated themselves before our Keef, so the Mayor of London is in good company.

But why is a conservative like Johnson so desperate to condone such a gross and vile lifestyle? The answer is that Keef is cool, and Boris wants to distance himself from the stuffy old establishment values that conservatives used to uphold. Never mind the lawlessness, violence and destruction; better to appear cool than to be seen as dull and boring.

Of course, Richards would never accept a knighthood, and he is scathing about ‘Sir’ Mick Jagger for accepting his. He cherishes his image as a folk-rebel, so he’d never risk tarnishing his reputation by accepting a bauble from the Queen. But for leading conservatives to suggest he is worthy of honouring shows just how far Britain has slid into moral relativism and nihilism. Arise Sir Keef, so we may all pay obeisance to the base values that your life celebrates and which our leaders have lost the confidence to condemn.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated Jan. 21. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

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