Bob Geldof: Saint or sinner?

From saving the starving in Africa to reforming the UK family court system, Bob Geldof has an opinion about most things. But have we had enough of his moralising? Julia Stuart and Tim Walker report

Fisseha Adugna, Ethiopian ambassador



Fisseha Adugna, Ethiopian ambassador

Bob Geldof is a great friend of the peoples of Ethiopia and Africa. I applaud his efforts in fighting poverty on the continent. He is a principled and uncompromising speaker who passionately believes in making a difference to the lives of so many and has devoted much of the past 20 years to campaigning for that cause. His work is exemplary and his dedication inspiring. We salute him for that.

Ann Widdecombe, Conservative MP

He's pointing out what a lot of us have been pointing out for years, which is that modern customs aren't always favourable to stable marriages and happy homes. He has made a major contribution, both in terms of what he has done for the underprivileged, but especially in drawing attention to one of the biggest injustices in our social system: the quite deliberate marginalisation of fathers in family break-up.

Daleep Mukarji, Director, Christian Aid

Bob Geldof has an unusual way of getting the attention of both politicians and the public because of his background. We have been working with him since 2002 when we came out with the report "Listen to Africa" and we wanted to take it to the Prime Minister. Bob Geldof offered to come with us. With his language, his knowledge and his passion he was able to get the attention of not just the Prime Minister but also the media. Since then it's been wonderful to see him take so much interest not just in Africa but the wider issues of increased aid, debt cancellation and trade justice for the people of Africa and elsewhere. I'm very proud of what he has done.

The question is: is he being used, or is he really going to make a difference? He's certainly got Africa on the agenda of the international community. It's great for us to have someone like him to make the issues popular and acceptable. He's well informed, he's well read and he's well prepared so when he speaks he shows consistency. His commitment to the issues of Africa is at least 20 years old. It's important for us to have people of the calibre and the commitment of Bob Geldof to contribute to the debate. Not just their name, but their knowledge of the facts.

Maureen Freely, Writer

He's a hero with a few flaws. He doesn't always get his facts right, but then again almost nobody does. I'm particularly pleased about what he says about family courts. He's in over his head when it comes to the marriage debate - he doesn't understand where he's getting his facts from and how he is being manipulated. But as far as family courts are concerned, he does know what he is talking about. I don't agree with all of his recommendations, but he's absolutely right: it's a total mess and I would go as far as saying a total mess for mothers and children, as well as fathers. I think he's quite heroic to be bringing it to our attention.

Jim Parton, Families Need Fathers

He's a hero. I'm not so bothered about his views on marriage, what they miss is that 50 per cent of people don't bother to get married anyway. But on fathers he's dead right. He describes things exactly as they are in rather a shocking way. He's the only person with any kind of reputation to lose who has stepped out and said this. He's a fashionable man championing an unfashionable issue and that takes bravery. No other celebrity has put themselves forward. No politician has put their head on the block to say that, actually, there is something quite bad going on which affects us all, not just fathers and children, but society as a whole because a lot of the nation's children are out of control. Why should we listen to him? Apart from the fact that he is intelligent, the fact is we live in a celebrity-obsessed culture and people take guidance from people like him.

Deirdre Forbes, Editor-in-chief, 'The Voice'

He's a hero. I have admired him from Band Aid times. Since then I have always thought of him as a humanitarian. He cares about the world and he hasn't stopped caring. I think that people listen when he speaks and if you have that power then use it for good causes, which is what he does. He believes in the family and I don't think that's a bad thing. It's all good traditional values. What he says makes sense to me.

Valerie Riches, President, Family and Youth Concern

It's probably taken a lot of courage to say the things that he's said. You are standing out against a society which still believes that everybody can do exactly what they want and get away with it. He's obviously seen that it doesn't work. He's a man saying these things born out of experience and he seems to have taken a very intelligent approach. He's pretty well clued up on his facts. He's saying the sort of things we've been saying for the past 30 years. I would say he's become a man of vision now and he's presenting society with a better way. He's a man to be listened to.

Bonnie Greer, Playwright and critic

He's a very interesting man and he's not a phoney. That's what makes him a hero for me because there are so many phonies out there. He says what he feels and in this day and age that's an heroic stance. People consider Geldof to be a controversial figure and that makes me wonder whether what he says carries any sort of weight. But I think he creates talking points and that's very valuable. What Geldof has done is put forward something that a lot of people are feeling. I don't agree with it, but I think that a lot of people feel that way because we are at a crossroads with relationships. He is the guy in the pub who opens his mouth and everyone turns around and says: 'Oh my God I can't believe he said that.'

Bea Campbell, Author

On the issue of divorce and mothers he is outrageous, arrogant, stupid, unhelpful and furious. What his own fury blinds him to is that women are impoverished by their mothering. The conditions in which women do the work of care are a national disgrace. So the question is, what is his problem? Why doesn't he direct his anger at the institutions which have done virtually nothing to address the things that really assail children and domestic life - the poverty and disrespect that mothers have to put up with; a culture of employment that demands of men that they become providers rather than parents; the fact that thousands of children have to witness their father being violent to their mother? These are the real issues that children face. Bob Geldof has been given a platform because we have a very misogynist government which is not interested in empowering women. Here you have a bloke who has been paid to say whatever he likes. It's bilge and yet it's given a massive airtime. Why? Because it's in the service of something that has great currency at the moment which is rage against women and rage against things that women have exposed and illuminated and tried to sort out. Nobody with any sense takes this stuff seriously.

Rod Liddle, Political commentator

It's hard to criticise a man for trying to help, but I think Bob Geldof is wrong about what to do with Africa. He knows a lot about Africa and overseas development, and he's very intelligent, very astute. His "give us the fucking money" attitude towards politicians seems to work too, but I just think he's wrong. I don't think the problems that Africa currently faces are necessarily a failure of the US, the UK and the rest of the world to subsidise Africa even further. Postcolonial guilt makes us look at Africa in a different way, but most African countries - all but four or five - are run by despotic regimes, who rule with a mixture of incompetence and wickedness. Much of what needs to be done is down to the African governments themselves. We've been too indulgent in the past. Obviously he's a decent man, and very likeable, and I'd agree with him about fathers' rights - it's one of the few bits of sexism left in our judiciary. His music's shite, though.

Midge Ure, Pop star and, Live Aid founder

I learned that when standing next to Bob it's best to try to block out whatever he is singing. Bob's not the best guitar player in the world because he's got no timing at all. You could see that if you watched the Boomtown Rats. When he jumped up in the air he was supposed to hit the floor just as the song finished, but generally he landed five seconds before it ended, or three seconds after the band finished.

In the weeks leading up to Live Aid I felt increasingly sidelined. For the six months since Band Aid it had been the two of us - Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. All of a sudden it was Bob everywhere while I had been relegated to the same stature as every other artist. I wasn't doing Live Aid to get patted on the back but I did feel increasingly edged out; the ranks had closed and I was nowhere to be seen. The machine that had built up around Bob had decided that my job was done, which pissed me off. Bob became the face of Live Aid while I was just another guy at the Trust meetings.

Joan Smith, Columnist

He's obviously very good at energising other people and dynamic in the field of raising money and getting people to move. But he seems to me to have the intellectual capacity of some bloke in a pub and we wouldn't expect an intelligent documentary on a complicated subject from some bloke in a pub. But because he is famous, and a pop star, he is given that platform. If he was just happy to be a former pop star who went off to Africa and got people taking the problem seriously, then that side of him is very good. But he's been given a platform for views which are kind of Neanderthal. If somebody won the Nobel Prize for physics you wouldn't necessarily say they had intelligent views on relations between men and women or what shape the family should take. There is no reason why we should take him seriously on it. Relations between men and women are very disturbed at the moment and what he's saying is just a classic backlash.

Jack O'Sullivan, Co-founder, Fathers Direct

I recognise the Celtic roots of his melancholia; his self-pity as well as his deep kindness. As for his anger towards women, I can only imagine what it was like to lose his mother so young and his wife so tragically. This great-great- grand-child of the Irish famine serves starving peoples nobly. Geldof's pasts also provide him with an insight into the incompetence of the family courts and the grief of fathers who have lost their children. But they leave him ill-equipped to sympathise with mothers' emotions in this debate. The world of post-separation families is unfair, in different ways, to children, women and men. Sadly, Bob Geldof can see only part of the picture.

James Page, Friend and co-founder of Deckchair.com

I think Bob is a very creative and intelligent person. He's a good friend, but I'm sick of Irish people - Bob and Bono - speaking on behalf of Africans. It is like a parent needing to speak on behalf of the child. Why not let the child speak? I would much prefer an African to be accompanying Blair to Africa and speaking at the Labour conference. But is that the media's fault or Bob's? He's a great talker, a great musician and a good man.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Columnist

I think on Africa he's a hero, no question. But on family policy he's gravely mistaken and quite a worrying influence because of his heroic status. I think people should be very careful to take Geldof's views on family life at all seriously because I think like many of us he's so conditioned by his own life. Those of us who have been damaged within our marriages are not reliable when it comes to family policy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor