If any one doubted that the days of Tony Blair's Cool Britannia were over, the Radiohead lead singer, Thom Yorke, yesterday scratched deep into the Prime Minister's celebrity-friendly veneer.
The musician, an ambassador for the green charity Friends of the Earth, was asked to meet the Prime Minister to discuss climate change. He considered going to Downing Street, but snubbed Blair when he decided it would be a pro-Labour publicity stunt rather than a genuine debate.
Yorke dismissed Blair as a man with "no environmental credentials" and said dealing with Labour "spin doctors" had made him feel physically ill.
"Luckily, in the end the decision was kind of made for me," he told the music magazine NME. "This all started kicking off about two or three weeks before I was supposed to meet with Blair, which I was not happy about anyway for obvious reasons, i.e. Iraq.
"It was: 'If we could just have a meeting beforehand where we could go through how it would proceed ...' It was like talking to Blair's spin doctors. It was all getting weird. It was just obvious there was no point in meeting him anyway, and I didn't want to."
Yorke said he had had initially tried to think pragmatically about the meeting, "but Blair has no environmental credentials as far as I'm concerned. I came out of that whole period just thinking, I don't want to get involved directly, it's poison. I'll just shout my mouth off from the sidelines. It's a nasty business."
Yorke, 37, is backing Friends of the Earth's Big Ask Campaign, which is calling for a cut in greenhouse gas emissions. Radiohead will play a benefit gig at London's Koko Club on 1 May. The charity says that green taxes have fallen since Labour came to power, despite promises to increase them, and that carbon emissions are rising. Director Tony Juniper called for a new law to legally oblige the government of the day to cut carbon emissions by three per annually, to give the UK some chance of reducing carbon emissions on 1990 levels by 20 per cent by 2010. The Department for Trade and Industry last month predicted it would cut the figure by just 10.6 per cent. "The Government must stop dithering and take urgent action now," he said. "Thom is right to highlight [Labour's] shortcomings on climate change."
Greenpeace spokesman Ben Stewart said: "Yorke's judgement is as good as his music. Emissions have gone up under Blair, who has even sued Brussels to allow British industry to emit more CO2. He talks a good talk but his performance is worse than woeful. We're bracing ourselves for a poor budget."
Stewart said that green campaigners had "completely lost faith" with Blair. Cautious optimism when Labour were voted into office in 1997 had turned to "real cold frustration".
It is not only environmentalists who feel the Prime Minister now carries toxic kudos. The crowd of new celebrity friends wooed by New Labour in their first months in office has dwindled considerably.
There are no more summer champagne receptions graced by Vivienne Westwood and Mick Hucknall. Dinner invites to Chequers, which once drew the likes of Sir Elton John, Sting, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Richard Branson, are no longer the draw they were.
It is also highly unlikely that the Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher will be seen at No. 10 in the near future. Noel now regrets his visit: "When Tony Blair said he was courting the music business, idiots like me thought we could have a say, he said. "But it became a publicity stunt on his behalf."
One of the bitterest attacks came from Alan McGee, the founder of Creation Records and once a valuable donor to the Labour Party, to whom he gave £50,000 before that election. His verdict on Blair: a "control freak".
'Cool Britannia' no more
* Alan McGee, founder of Creation Records who donated £100,000 to New Labour. A Labour press officer said he was "ill" after attacking the party in 2000: "He [Tony Blair] is a control freak. If Labour are going to play that [game] with somebody like me, who has written a lot of cheques for them and introduced them to a lot of people ... how are they are going to treat the voters?"
* Ben Elton, comedian: "I don't mind Radio 1 trying to be trendy, but I can do without Labour trying to strut its funky stuff. I did not vote Labour because they've heard of Oasis."
* Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who withdrew his support over the party's arts policy: "They haven't had enough experience of the reality of how the arts work to reorganise it."
* Ken Follett, author and party donor who launched a broadside in 2000: "People expect a Prime Minister to give a moral lead ... Tony's sure touch deserts him when he faces a decision that cannot be based on expediency."Reuse content