The martyrdom of St Bono

A new biography denounces the U2 singer's anti-poverty campaigning, and his personal tax arrangements. But his starry chums – such as Bill Clinton – are fighting back

To some, Bono is the ultimate celebrity philanthropist, the leather-clad rocker who cajoles presidents into committing billions to help the world's poorest. But, according to a scathing new biography, the U2 singer is an "ambassador for imperial exploitation" and a hypocrite who has failed to come clean over his own "murky" tax affairs.

Written by Harry Browne, a Dublin-based writer, The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power) is a brutal dissection of the Irish rocker and the motivation behind his anti-poverty campaigning.

The book argues that Bono, 53, has become an "unwitting symbol of the complacent wealthy Western elite". It criticises the star's "paternalistic and often bullying advocacy of neo-liberal solutions in Africa; his multinational business interests; and his hobnobbing with Paul Wolfowitz [former World Bank president]".

Rather than sue, Bono has authorised his closest associates to challenge the accusations levelled in the book. And one of the liberal rocker's most famous admirers yesterday leapt to his defence. Ex-president Bill Clinton said: "Few people have done more to mobilise a global response to the fight against poverty and disease than Bono. He is one of the most effective, committed advocates I have ever met for debt relief and aid for the poorest nations, and for increased funding to fight Aids and other diseases whose victims are overwhelmingly young and poor. We are all in his debt."

This is a long way from the thesis of the book, in which Browne takes Bono to task over U2's tax arrangements. The band moved their business affairs from Ireland to the Netherlands in 2006 after tax breaks for artists were capped. "Bono lags behind many of his peers when it comes to parting with his own money," claims Browne, a former Irish Times columnist.

The book, published to coincide with the 2013 G8 summit in Northern Ireland next month, concludes that Bono "whitewashed the complexities of African development policies" at the 2005 Gleneagles summit and argues that the $1bn in debt cancellation agreed at the event failed to effect any real change in the continent.

Jamie Drummond, who in 2004 co-founded with Bono the advocacy organisation One to deliver debt cancellation and Aids medicines for Africa, said: "Bono's activism gets results. The G8 summit made huge progress on debt cancellation. There are 20 million more children going to school in sub-Saharan Africa. To say Bono doesn't challenge power and elites is wrong. He is helping us battle the American Petroleum Institute which is running a powerful lobbying campaign to avoid transparency over the revenues they pay African governments for oil, gas and mining rights."

On the tax controversy, Mr Drummond says Bono is actively campaigning for taxation transparency. "Bono pays all taxes that he is due all over the world, including those in Ireland. He is campaigning for transparency in offshore financial centres. Bono is spearheading an anti-corruption campaign."

Mr Drummond believes that the hostility the star's activism provokes is down to the decision the singer made to work with George W Bush. Mr Drummond said: "If you really want to effect change … you have to deal with power."

Browne maintains that "more than even his music, Bono's international work may be his most heinous crime". He goes on: "Celebrity philanthropy comes in many guises, but no single figure better encapsulates its delusions, pretensions and wrong-headedness than Bono – a fact neither sunglasses nor leather pants can hide."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links