Jarvis Cocker's mum is a Tory - and he will be one, too

Reverting to type
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I AM so glad that Jarvis Cocker's mum is a Tory. Not just for poor old William Hague's sake, but because it confirms something that I've always suspected about pop stars. The ones from working-class Labour backgrounds will go all materialistic and practical, leaving the vicars' sons and managing directors' daughters to proclaim their disgust with society, and their solidarity with anything remotely struggly.

Jarvis, it transpires, was also a Cub Scout, who passed some of his tenderest years in saluting the flag, singing hymns and collecting badges for various arcane skills involving string. Mum, a pillar of society clearly, is not only a Tory but will - next week - contest the parish elections in the small Nottinghamshire village of Carlton-in-Lindrick on behalf of the party of Thatcher, Major, Churchill and Widdecombe. She recalls how sweet the young Cocker was in his, er, woggles. Or were they toggles?

Whatever they were, it set me to wondering what other embarrassing secrets might be out there. I have no evidence for this, but I like to think that the mother of Chumbawumba's fearsome anarchist, Danbert Nobacon, is actually a fluffy-haired, cologne sprayed old lady with pearls, inhabiting a cottage in Surrey, whose views are very far to the right of the man over whom this dutiful son tipped that barrel of ice water a month or so ago.

Ten to one, groups with names like The Putrescent Matriarchs or Stab The Bitch all trip home at weekends to have their laundry done by doting mumsies, and to catch up with the Gymkhana news. By Sunday they are back in Willeseden, snorting lines and entertaining NME journalists with their radical rejection of smoothy T Blair and rotten ol' Cool Britannia.

And then what happens, eh? I'll tell you what happens - they revert. If you were once at college with Trotskyists, do you ever wonder what became of them? All those magnificent phrases and that adamantine certainty; surely they are - even now - laying up underground caches of weapons, or abroad, fighting in a steamy jungle somewhere for peasant freedom?

Of course not. They are now, most of them, middle managers at Tescos, tax consultants or astrologers. You will come across them in the business section of Waterstones, where they will admit that they voted Conservative at the last election, but mostly as a protest at the synthetic nature of New Labour.

So what am I saying here? Merely that (yawn) we all become more right- wing as we get older? That rebellion loses its attraction when there's a mortgage to pay, or that burglars seem less like the armed wing of the dispossessed when they break into your house, and steal your collection of Santana CDs?

No. That is not my argument. When, earlier, I used the word "revert", that was exactly what I meant. Those who were born into suburban semis, went to church and were taught that manners makyth man, will - despite the violence of their adolescent rejection of this world - be tugged back to that world. The values - no, even the words - of their parents will be born again in them. And the same will happen for left-wingers too.

Apparently one of the best guides to adult voting behaviour is still to examine the political allegiance of the parents. The rationale for the decision may be entirely different, but the outcome will tend to be the same. Examine too the phrases that pass down the generations inside families. Does your five year old say things that your great granny told her daughter? Are some of you most private moments coloured by the words of long dead generations? Or is it just me?

If you think that this view is over-determinist, then consider the experience of Radio 4. Some years ago the strategists at the former Home Service decided to take a look at the demographics of their channel. What they discovered alarmed them. Very few of the listeners, it transpired, were under 40.

The strategists took out their pocket calculators and did their sums. They worked out that aging and natural attrition would mean that within twenty years or so they would have no audience left. One day a skeletal Humphreys and a senile Naughtie would find themselves cackling dementedly from a cobwebbed studio to a tiny audience entirely composed of centenerians. An entirely new plan had to be devised to attract "younger listeners".

And then, as the redundancy notices for Melvyn Bragg and all the actors from The Archers were being composed, the youngest strategist (who had been quietly chewing her pencil at the back of the room for six months) suddenly shouted "stop!" Had anyone considered, she asked, the possibility that maybe the reason that the Radio 4 attracted so many over 40s, was because the over 40's liked it. In other words, that when people got to 40, along with golf, aromatherapy and discussing car routes, they just sort of slipped into Radio 4?

They went back and checked the research and saw that she was right. Listeners whose parents had themselves listened to Radio 4 - whose 4ness was established in childhood - would (after intervening periods of Radio 1 and various commercial stations) revert. Like Mum they too would listen to The Archers. Oh Jarvis, what a wonderful past stretches before you!

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