Mark Steel: What’s Going On?

Mark Steel is the Jeremy Clarkson of the left. Just cleverer. And funnier. And not so naff. And much better dressed.

Steel’s book, What’s Going On? is hilarious but as a humour book it’s strangely unsatisfactory. It’s about the degeneration of a relationship, the decline of the left as a force in British politics and a general ramble about all the things that are shit in modern Britain. His commentary on the dominance and horror of corporations isn’t that funny. But it is totally correct.

Despite obvious personal distress, Steel is more passionate (or maybe just expansive) about the death of the SWP than the end of his relationship. I just don’t really believe that sleeping on the sofa or having absurd arguments with the ‘Ex’ was as whimsical as he makes out.

I laughed a lot, but this book is best when it’s making a serious point. Stories of disenchantment and disappoinment with New Labour, general hatred of Conservative hypocrisy and anecdotes about the ‘far left’ are fascinating in themselves. But the critique and concern about progressive politics seeming to favour PR stunts over proper activism and building a movement is worthy of proper consideration. It’s when Mark Steel looks at the future, and how we might approach it, that he is most compelling, comrades.

I want the wise and evidently seasoned Mark Steel to write a manifesto we can all get behind. It would centre on puncturing pomposity, sweeping aside capitalism’s most absurd conceits and promote good old-fashioned socialist common sense. And that’s something Jeremy Clarkson could never do.

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