The wrong way to get these parties started

'Young people' are not stupid. Their attention will not be held by an earl saying he likes Meat Loaf

Share
Related Topics

The 17-year old great-niece of Milton Friedman took the Conservative Party conference by storm this week with a speech pointing out where they were all going wrong. Having read her great-uncle's panegyric to laissez-faire economics,
Capitalism and Freedom, when she was 14, she was in no doubt; politics was failing to connect with young people.

The 17-year old great-niece of Milton Friedman took the Conservative Party conference by storm this week with a speech pointing out where they were all going wrong. Having read her great-uncle's panegyric to laissez-faire economics, Capitalism and Freedom, when she was 14, she was in no doubt; politics was failing to connect with young people.

It wasn't, however, for the lack of trying. The party conferences seemed obsessed with seeming groovy in small, humiliating ways. Mindful of the point every student debater now makes, that more young people vote for Big Brother contestants than for parliamentary candidates - can this really be true? - both major parties seemed convinced that there was one way to attract the attention of the young. And it wasn't with books by Milton Friedman.

For years now, the Labour Party has been using some plausible rock anthem to embody their ambitions. At the 1997 election, it was D:Ream's "Things Can Only Get Better"; not necessarily a particularly ambitious programme for government, you might think, but it caught to an embarrassingly honest degree the anyone-but-this-lot feelings with which electorates tend to turf out governments.

Since then, it's been getting rather stranger. At this year's conference, one wonders whether anyone had really listened to the words of the Levellers' "Beautiful Day", which boomed out over the auditorium. Or, alternatively, the choice of music may have been in the hands of some Old Labour fifth columnist in the Blairite ranks: certainly this was the only occasion all week in which the sentiment "wealth re-distribution became the new solution" was at all likely to be voiced with official approval.

Whether or not the Levellers, or Pink, subsequently, and oddly, abjuring the Labour delegates to "get this party started" would approve of being used in this context, such uplifting anthems are regularly annexed by politicians these days. Poor old Fatboy Slim is a regular victim; "Praise You" was a favourite of the Al Gore presidential campaign, and "Right Here, Right Now" turned up at the Labour conference. What could either of them mean in a political context? Did anyone think whether it was a bright idea for modern moralising politicians to be associated with an amiable, fast-living party animal such as Mr Norman Cook?

Apparently not. At the Conservative conference, things took a weirder turn when senior members of the party were asked to take part in a video presentation and, among other things, confess what their last CD purchase had been. Clearly, they had all been told that they were not to say, for instance, "Glazunov's third symphony - frightfully underrated". Nicholas Soames, surely, put an end to a career - not his own - by saying that he was fond of Dido. Michael Ancram played safe with Meat Loaf - I don't know why, but I can definitely see a career as a tribute act here when he tires of being shadow foreign secretary. Tim Collins nervously said Will Young, then covered himself still further by saying that it was for his wife, actually. But Dr Liam Fox claimed to like the Scissor Sisters.

That last one is so bizarre that it has to be genuine. No spin doctor could possibly advise a politician to align himself with a band so totally unknown to the party faithful, and anyone who knows the band will be frankly incredulous at the idea of Dr Fox - no, dear, not that Dr Fox - listening to such tales of crystal amphetamine abuse, rent boys and general debauchery as "Filthy/Gorgeous" and "Tits on the Radio" ("There ain't no tits on the radio/Oh no," sing the Sisters, who perhaps are not often up in time for the Today programme.)

Does he join in with "When you're running from a trick/And you trip on a hit of acid/You gotta work for the man/But your biggest moneymaker's flaccid"? It is a nice thought, but the mind shrinks from the scene. Or was it a complicated joke about the Tory party and Theresa May's summary of their public image? "Cuz you're filthy/Ooh and I'm gorgeous/You're disgusting/Ooh and you're nasty?" Nothing seems impossible, once you've succeeded in accepting Liam Fox's singalongs.

The truth is that politicians are completely wasting their time trying to use rock music as evidence of their with-it, cool, down-and-dirty, off-their-faces, down-with-the-kids credibility. Let's face it: these are people who have been known to hang out with Ann Widdecombe. No one could possibly be influenced, at a general election, by the consideration that some politicians like pop music. If anything, it's more likely to make people stay away from the ballot box out of sheer embarrassment. "Young people" are no more stupid than anyone else; their attention is not going to be held by an elderly earl saying how much he likes Meat Loaf.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power