The singer Billy Bragg, a high-profile campaigner against the British National Party, will today argue for electoral reform as a crucial step to marginalising extremist politicians.
Though keen to work my way through all 424 pages of Kay "Hurly" Burley's debut novel First Ladies, I must confess to having been waylaid by its acknowledgements section: a revealing roll call of the company Ms Burley keeps when she's not on Sky News encouraging celebrity divorcees to blub. The erstwhile ice dancer's first two thank-yous go to fellow chick-lit authors Tasmina Perry and Kathy Lette, who obligingly provided First Ladies with pre-publication puff quotes. Lord Mandelson, too, merits Ms Burley's gratitude, and claims on the cover that she "uses her unrivalled knowledge of the worlds of politics, media and celebrity to racy effect". (Yes, Peter, but is it any good?) Also thanked profusely are former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who left office under a cloud of (alleged) dubious financial dealings; Damian McBride, who left Gordon Brown's employ when he was caught discussing whether to spread scandalous tales about the private lives of Tories; and Lord Archer, who was jailed for perjury. If you need help creating a work of fiction, I suppose there are worse people to ask.
While Blair was long convinced that Brown would be a poor prime minister, he seems to have no such compunction about recommending Bono for a similar role. The U2 frontman, Blair writes (on page 555), "could have been a president or prime minister standing on his head. He had an absolutely natural gift for politicking, was great with people, very smart and an inspirational speaker... motivated by an abundant desire to keep on improving, never really content or relaxed. I knew he would work with George [W Bush] well, and with none of the prissy disdain of most of his ilk". Bono's nationality (not to say his tax arrangements) would preclude him from leading a British political party. One assumes he would also have to revert to his real name, Paul Hewson, to be taken seriously in high office. But familiarity with the world of finance would surely qualify him for leadership in Ireland: his investment fund, Elevation Partners, has been described as "arguably the worst run institutional fund of any size in the United States".
The first record I bought was...
Dangerous by Michael Jackson, on cassette
More great dancing around the kitchen music from DJ Bob Dylan's radio show, cannily compiled into a second double CD with scholarly annotations by a mystic-sounding Billy Bragg.
Russ Feingold, a Democratic US senator for Wisconsin who's been turning his attention to the more relaxed matters of pop music, posted a video on his website (www.russfeingold.org) last month entitled "Fein Tunes", where he discussed music that interested him, offering a shout-out to fellow Wisconsinite, Bon Iver. A later instalment discussed his fondness for Wilco, in particular for 'Mermaid Avenue' (1998), the album of Woody Guthrie songs they recorded with Billy Bragg. Feingold's timing is good as Wilco's new album is released in June, and already available to stream at their website, tinyurl.com/ppx8nn.
This week’s dramatisation of the fall of Margaret Thatcher shows her as a more human figure than often supposed. As the Iron Lady is re-evaluated on TV, we asked some of those who were prominent in the 1980s how they regard her now
He believes democracy is overrated and doesn't think much of Barack Obama. On the eve of his new album, Julian Cope preaches insurrection to Eddi Fiegel