Labour MPs queue up for cred at Brits

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STILL KEEN to demonstrate its hip credentials, New Labour will turn out in force to rub shoulders with the big players in the music industry at this week's Brit Awards.

The days of celebrity bashes at Number Ten may be over but New Labour is more than happy to court the stars and industry movers and shakers on their own ground.

Cherie Blair is believed to be on the guest list and is expected to take her 15-year-old son, Euan. In addition, around 30 MPs - 10 more than last year - have accepted invitations from the British Phonographic Industry, which organises the event. Others will be the guests of major record labels.

The BPI declined to name names for reasons of security, but the offices of the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, and Janet Anderson, the minister responsible for the music industry, confirmed that they intended to be there.

The BPI is delighted with the attention. "We want to be seen as a big money earner and a leading creative industry," said a spokeswoman. "It is important MPs know how valuable the music business is so that they can raise our profile."

The MPs will be among an audience of 5,000 gathered at London Arena to witness how many awards will be won by Robbie Williams, nominated a record six times.

But Dunstan Bruce, a member of the anarchist band Chumbawamba, is disparaging about the MPs' motives. "It's a PR exercise for politicians who are still trying to appear cool and trendy," he said.

"The Brits are supposed to be a celebration of British creativity but Labour is trying to make them into a celebration of British exports and everything that is safe."

Although Chumbawamba have not been invited this year, after throwing water over the Deputy Prime Minister at last year's bash, John Prescott has already declared that he has a prior engagement.