What's the story? Mourning Tories!

Forget Luvvies for Labour, now it's Britpoppers for Blair. Ten years after Red Wedge, Nicholas Barber analyses the latest obsession of pop's aristocracy Barber

19 FebruAry 1996. Liam Gallagher has just tried to push a statuette up his own bottom. Noel Gallagher has insulted Michael Hutchence, and almost everyone else in sight. The location is Earl's Court Exhibition Centre in London, the occasion is the Brit Awards, and Oasis's drunken acceptance "speeches" amount to their most riveting live performance ever. Oasis being Oasis, of course, it is not a terrific shock to see men behaving so badly. The surprise comes when Noel slurs the following: "There are seven people in here who are givin' hope to the young people of this country. Me, our kid, Guigsy, Bonehead, Alan White [Oasis], Alan McGee [the boss of Creation Records] ... and Tony Blair."

This was bad news for the Conservative Party. According to the script, the awards were a celebration of the most lucrative, encouraging year in British pop for decades. Here was a booming industry, teeming with confidence and ideas, and exporting product by the tankerload. How infuriating that the one time its prime exponents said anything coherent was when they handed all the credit to the Opposition.

The Tories hurried to turn the situation around. In July, Virginia Bottomley invited Alan McGee to her office for tea. He politely but firmly refused - except that he wasn't very polite. "With her record of closing hospitals down," said The Man Who Discovered Oasis, "I am concerned that fraternising with her may result in the closure of my record company." He hasn't been invited back.

In March, John Redwood's fumbled attempt to get his hands on pop's feelgood factor was even more excruciating. He wrote a gloriously inept article in the Guardian, a confused, confusing sermon proclaiming that he knew nothing about Britpop, that Pulp were up there with the Beatles, that the Barron Knights were better than both, that Handel was better yet, and that the lyrics of the Lightning Seeds ("open the window and jump into the blue") could well be cryptic Tory propaganda. "I remember reading it and thinking, `Bloody hell, he can't do that'," laughs Ian Broudie, leader of the Lightning Seeds. "But fortunately it was so preposterous that I didn't really mind. It was obvious that some advisor had given him the lyrics. I'm sure he'd never listened to us himself. He seems like a right pillock, anyway."

Ironically, the Lightning Seeds have not been safe from either party. At the Labour conference, Tony Blair purloined the refrain of "Three Lions" - "Football's coming home" - and cunningly substituted "Labour" for "football". In just three words he had appropriated not only the success story of Britpop but England's decent showing in Euro 96, too. "It was a bit cheap," says Broudie, "but I loved hearing Trevor McDonald reading our lyrics on the news." And who will get Broudie's vote? "I shudder when people in pop get involved in politics. I lean towards Labour, but I think politicians are a horrific bunch across the board, whether it be Clare Short, Tony Blair, John Major or John Redwood. I wouldn't want to be in a room with any of them."

Even without the Lightning Seeds' blessing, Labour are winning the battle for bands. Noel Gallagher is the cover star of the latest New Labour magazine, in which he is quoted as saying that Tony Blair's conference speech "brought tears to my eyes". Alan McGee has presented Tony Blair with one of Oasis's platinum discs. Blur have joined their arch-enemies to help the cause. Mick Hucknall of Simply Red and Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy have both offered to pen a party song. A crowd of rock musicians and comedians have put together an album and a series of concerts in aid of Rock the Vote, the campaign to persuade young people to put their cross in a box on election day. Rock the Vote is, its organisers stress, a non-partisan enterprise, but you'd be hard pushed to find a right-winger among the participants. Goodbye Luvvies for Labour. Hello, Britpop for Blair.

While the rock fraternity never fights shy of single issues - freeing Nelson Mandela, say - it hasn't fought so hard for an individual party since Billy Bragg, Paul Weller and their comrades formed Red Wedge a decade ago. There are any number of possible reasons why pop and politics are on speaking terms again. First, the bands concerned have risen with the aid of the indie music press, which dismisses any group that does not adhere to their proudly politically correct tenets. Second, the bands will stop at nothing in their admiration (and imitation) of the Beatles, the working-class heroes who had their photograph taken with Harold Wilson. Third, Tony Blair is a youthful leader with an interest in rock'n'roll that rings a lot more true than John Redwood's. At Oxford, the long-haired Blair sang in Ugly Rumours, a group which had Mark Ellen, founder of Q magazine, on bass. It was Ellen who first introduced Blair to Noel Gallagher, at the 1994 Q Awards in the Park Lane hotel. Blair's smile was customarily wide as the pair shook hands enthusiastically, but on this occasion Gallagher's was wider. One minute earlier (reports Ian Robertson in his recent book, Oasis: What's the Story?), he had helped himself to a generous serving of cocaine in the toilets.

Martin Rossiter, the lead singer of Gene, and a paid-up member of both Labour and Rock the Vote, suspects that his colleagues' support for Labour is down to their age-group. He is 26, so he was nine when the Tories came to power. Like every pop star of his gen-eration, he can't remember life pre-Thatcher, and is "a little fed up ... I've always hated the Francis Rossi school of thought that pop and politics shouldn't mix. Why on earth not? People have said, `You ought to watch what you're saying because it'll harm your career'. I have to say, `Bugger my career, this is my one chance not to be cynical, and I'm grabbing it with both hands'."

Rossiter is not sure whether a pop star's political alignment can sway that of his fans, but he believes that musicians have helped to make party politics "part of pub conversation again". Likewise, Victoria Moore, at Arts for Labour, plays down the notion that a Gallagher endorsement will swing the youth vote: "It's very nice for a party to be associated with talent and success, but we've never really taken the view that it would change people's vote."

Maybe not. But Oasis have turned the Marks & Spencer anorak into a fashion item, and persuaded 125,000 people to stand in the rain, singing: "I know a girl called Elsa / She's into Alka Seltzer." Their influence shouldn't be underestimated. !


1 Oasis

2 Blur

3 Mick Hucknall of Simply Red

4 Robson and Jerome

5 Sting


1 Gary Numan

2 Phil Collins

3 Gary Barlow

4 Tony Mortimer of E17

5 Stock and Aitken

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?