New Labour loses Billy Bragg's voice

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The Independent Online
Billy Bragg, the socialist singer who once championed Labour's cause in the pop charts, has turned his back on the party, writes Cole Moreton.

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday Review published today, he tells of his disenchantment with Tony Blair's New Labour, suggesting its vision of Britain's future "looks like part of the Eighties". He has left the party, and would see "very good reasons" to vote for Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party if proportional representation were introduced.

While recognising that Labour offers the best chance of ending Tory rule, he is scathing about members of Mr Blair's team. "I certainly wouldn't vote for Harriet Harman. If we're going to commit ourselves to a society that has equality in it, the leaders of the party that bases its ideology on equality have to experience it."

Mr Bragg was the darling of the left through its darkest days. Encouraged by former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, he formed Red Wedge, a package tour in which he and fellow performers like Paul Weller shared the stage with MPs and shadow ministers. The idea was to encourage young people to talk to Labour in the run-up to the 1987 election.

But the loss of such celebrity endorsement does not seem to bother Labour. A spokeswoman said Mr Bragg's decision was "obviously a matter for himself". "More than 100,000 members have joined since Tony Blair became leader and there has been a big increase in the number of young members, so he is obviously not reflecting any trends."

Full interview, Sunday Review