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. !

SIMPLY RED?

1 Oasis

2 Blur

3 Mick Hucknall of Simply Red

4 Robson and Jerome

5 Sting

TRUE BLUE?

1 Gary Numan

2 Phil Collins

3 Gary Barlow

4 Tony Mortimer of E17

5 Stock and Aitken

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect