Band Aid 30: At least Bob Geldof believes in doing something rather than nothing

And isn’t that the point?

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The former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell must have known he was taking a calculated risk in asking Bob Geldof to stand as a character witness in his “Plebgate” libel trial against News Group. Geldof divides opinion like few other people in public life, but his contribution to the Mitchell case, saying that the former chief whip was not the “preposterous pantomime patrician” with a “Wodehousian superior manner” he had been made out to be, was both illuminating and entertaining. It has to be said that Mitchell and Geldof are unlikely friends, but, as the trial heard, they had a shared interest in swearing.

I have known Geldof for a number of years, and I’ve not always seen to eye to eye with him. I suspect I am not alone among his acquaintances in this respect, and he sometimes makes it quite difficult for others to like him. Nevertheless, one’s heart doesn’t lie, and when I now see him in a social context, or on television, my spirits rise. He sometimes plays it for laughs, he sometimes sets out to provoke, he occasionally disrespects his interlocutor with a casually dismissive “that’s b*****ks”. But when he sets out his case with calm, self-assurance and intelligence, there are few more convincing public figures.

Late one night recently, I was listening to him being interviewed on Radio 5 about the revival of the Boomtown Rats, but he went on to talk about the death of his daughter, Peaches. He talked with searing honesty, great articulacy, unusual (for a pop star) self-awareness, and humbling dignity.

I sat in my car listening to him talk about the girl who “understood what life was supposed to be, and was trying very hard to get there” and felt a sense of empathy for the man that was utterly heartbreaking.

Fast forward to last weekend, and there was Geldof exhorting what he called the “X-Factor Nation” to buy the latest Band Aid single to help the fight against Ebola.


Geldof’s appeal was redolent of the one he made some 30 years ago when Band Aid was conceived – “give us your  f***ing money – but, to an audience which would not be the most globally aware, he was direct and persuasive. Even if you don’t like the record, go out and buy it was the essence of what he said.

Since then, he’s had to withstand the carping and the cavilling. He’s had a public spat with the singer Adele, who said that she’d rather donate to the cause in private. And he’s heard Africa experts and interested parties from the region say that the whole Band Aid project is patronising, responsible for perpetuating myths about Africa, and has very little effect on the ground.

I’m willing to believe all these things, but in the end Geldof is an activist rather than a strategist. He believes in doing something rather than nothing. And isn’t that the point? What Geldof is promoting, through Band Aid and his various public pronouncements, is involvement, or activism.

People give more to causes they believe in, and are more aware, because they are shown a direct cause and effect. The rest, in language that both Andrew Mitchell and Bob Geldof would understand, is just b*****ks