Party conferences: why they'll never look good on the dancefloor

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The Independent Online

Yet again, the choice of music at annual party conferences has become a source of mirth, highlighting our elected representatives' inability to connect with popular culture. For the Conservatives, party apparatchiks flicked through an iPod and decided the most suitable outro for Theresa May was "Bohemian Like You" by The Dandy Warhols. Perhaps all that attention to her sartorial taste and those infamous leopard-print shoes brought to mind the lines "I really love your hairdo, yeah/I'm glad you like mine too".

Or maybe her advisers wished to distract us from the content of the Home Secretary's speech, and the allegation that a deportation order was squashed because the subject owned a pet cat. This came after Ed Miliband's effort the previous week, when he demonstrated his much-heralded waving technique to the strains of Florence and The Machine's once omnipresent cover "You've Got the Love".

Trust him to plump for an artist people are so tired of that news of her second album has been greeted with a universal shrug. The problem is that all MPs, bar the odd Tory backwoodsman, hate to appear fuddy-duddy – remember Gordon Brown awkwardly namechecking Arctic Monkeys to show he had his figure on the pulse of the indie scene, if not the economy. Moreover, career politicos are keen to reach out to the supposedly hard-to-engage youth vote.

Get 'em while they're young, runs the old adage, which apparently works for banks that each year hurl free travel insurance and rail cards at new students opening accounts to load up with debt. Political parties lack access to such freebies, so resort to an enticing soundtrack. David Cameron, then, bangs on about The Jam and The Smiths. Alongside them now is the New Radicals' "You Get What You Give", the tune to which he greeted Samantha at the end of his closing speech.

It is a title that alludes to the fair-deal content of Dave's oration, except the lyrics to this bland late Nineties anthem do not quite chime with his values: "The bad rich/God's flying in for your trial". On Twitter, fans complained about the short-lived group's legacy being tarnished while neutrals (the band don't really have haters) chortled at such an insipid choice. The problem for right-wingers is that most acts would rather not be associated with them and complain when their music is used in this way. In the US, this has been a perennial issue, from Tom Petty demanding George W Bush stop using "Won't Back Down" on the campaign trail to Bon Jovi complaining about Sarah Palin's use of "Who Says You Can't Go Home".

The Conservatives have dodged that outcome by using music from the States at this conference, from artists who would have no idea the UK was in its conference season and probably would not care. That strikes me as a rather cowardly cop-out. Surely the biggest party in the Commons should have enough conviction to pick music more positively. It would also be more patriotic to support a British artist – and where better to start than Bryan Ferry, the social climber who has adopted the style and mannerisms of our Establishment and whose son, Otis, is an outspoken hunting supporter. His version of "Let's Stick Together" should help unite Tory Little Englanders and Lib Dem Europhiles in the coalition.

Miliband has more choice, as there is less visceral hatred in the music world for Labour, though he needs to be more honest; stop playing the dad rock card and let his inner nerd shine. Last year at conference, he took the stage to geek-rockers Vampire Weekend's dancefloor filler "A-Punk". Right band, wrong tune. He should admit he was never happier than cramming politics and economics at Corpus Christi, so the literate "Oxford Comma" would be a better bet. A bit of humour never goes amiss, as shown when the Tories nodded to their feline moment by following the New Radicals with The Cure's "The Love Cats".