But to see Johnson as a one-time radical turned national treasure is not quite accurate. Witness the Sun newspaper's distaste after his appearance on the Today programme last year, during which listeners were "subjected for nearly five minutes to the thoughts of the 'reggae poet', as his publishers call him, Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose most famous words are: 'England is a bitch.' Johnson came out with a rant about racism then proclaimed that, in his view, England was still 'a bitch'."
In any case, to focus on whether or not Johnson has earned the approval of either the political or cultural establishments is to miss the point. That they have taken note of him, he says, "is great. But they recognise me, not the other way round. Some black and Caribbean poets seek a kind of validation from these arbiters of British taste. But they really didn't exist for me. I was coming from a position of cultural autonomy. I did my own thing, built my own audience and established my own base. My audience was ordinary people."
- A life in writing - Linton Kwesi Johnson in today's Guardian Review.