Trouble at the Brits: A Deputy Prime Minister should watch the company he keeps

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The Independent Online
"You should never put on your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth," said Ibsen. You should also take your raincoat with you, John Prescott could have added after attending the Brit Awards on Monday night.

The poor old Deputy Prime Minister fell victim at what is fast becoming an annual event at the Brit Awards - the Jarvis Cocker Moment. Named after the lead singer of Pulp, it is the moment when pop stars suddenly remember that their job isn't all about huge record contracts, PR opportunities and sensible lifestyles. For a brief second they remember that the whole point about rock'n'roll is to be mad, bad and dangerous to know.

It's a lesson politicians seem reluctant to take on board, however, as can be seen by Mr Prescott's surprise at his dousing by the alternative band Chumbawamba. They've somehow been seduced into thinking that pop stars are nothing more than cuddly photo opportunities vital to any political party. One Downing Street insider remarked acidly yesterday that there were more No 10 people at the Brit Awards than in Washington for Blair's love-in with Clinton. Well, I suppose the Spice Girls were being presented with a special prize for overseas success, which is more upbeat than the overseas failure to deal with Iraq.

But you can't rely on pop stars to behave themselves, particularly at the Brit Awards. Jarvis Cocker started it at the 1996 awards when Michael Jackson adopted a Messianic pose surrounded by adoring waifs in rags while he sang "Earth Song". Cocker, hero of the Common People objected to this yucky gushiness and bounded on stage.

Still he isn't the only one to behave badly. You can always rely on Oasis. At the same awards ceremony Liam Gallagher tried to push a statuette up his bottom and Noel Gallagher snarled at Michael Hutchence "Has-beens shouldn't be giving awards to gonnabes."

Last year it was somewhat quieter with only Irvine Welsh's salute to the Liverpool dockers and, most daringly, ITV's decision to broadcast the evening's best joke, which dealt with the prickly topic of pop stars and cocaine. "Charlie, wherever you are, can you make yourself known," requested the comedienne Mrs Merton. "They're all asking for you backstage ..."

Still, if you want to organise bad behaviour properly, you do need the fully paid up anarchist to do so. Danbert Nobacon, member of Chumbawamba (who had already taunted the Government about the Liverpool dockers), waited until Fleetwood Mac were playing, then crept up on John Prescott from behind, and emptied an ice bucket over him.

Nobacon's fellow band member "Boff" later said, tantalisingly, that Nobacon and Mr Prescott had a long running "thing" but declined to elaborate further - much to everyone's disappointment. Mr Prescott released a statement yesterday condemning Chumbawamba's act as "deplorable", "totally unacceptable public behaviour", and said he was considering making a complaint. "It now appears that it was a publicity stunt designed to draw attention to the group's act," added the official statement. "[Mr Prescott] thinks it is utterly contemptible that his wife and other women-folk should have been subjected to such terrifying behaviour simply because they were accompanying a public figure at an event designed to support the British music industry."

Oh for goodness' sake, John, take a chill pill. The whole point of being an anarchist band is nothing if not to indulge in deplorable and unacceptable behaviour. And you're not going to endear yourself any further to British youth by talking about "womenfolk" being terrified and then allowing yourself to be "comforted" by Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell. I'm sure any woman would be more terrified by Geri looming over her man than a solitary anarchist.

But the Blair government in its desire to be young, hip and everything that is Cool Britannia has somehow overlooked the fact that a big part of youth culture is being rebellious, creative and just plain awkward - rather like the adolescents it appeals to.

Politicians and pop stars schmoozing up to one another is nothing unusual. Harold Wilson awarded the Beatles MBEs in 1965. President Clinton asked Fleetwood Mac to play at his first inaugural celebrations. Over a succession of dinners in 1972, Tom Driberg tried to persuade Mick Jagger to stand as a Labour MP.

But all this cosying up to the pop industry is inevitably going to end up making everyone look stupid. Noel Gallagher was vaguely amusing when he was rebellious. But when Noel slurs the following: "There are seven people in here who are givin' hope to the young people of this country. Me, our kid, Guigsy, Bonehead, Alan White [Oasis], Alan McGee [the boss of Creation Records] ... and Tony Blair." you just want to vomit.

Last week Wayne Hemingway, chairman of Red or Dead, warned Blair that attempts to "rebrand" Britain as the epicentre of coolness were just "sad". "By simply inviting a few (mostly naff) pop stars and comedians to drinkies at Number Ten, the very people Blair is trying to impress will be turned off," he said.

Bill Drummond, part of the art pranksters the K Foundation, agrees. Last year he attacked Alan McGee, head of Oasis's record company, Creation, for joining the Government's task force on the arts. "I'm getting very frightened," he said at the time. "It is the job of the arts to stand outside the establishment. As soon as you start becoming part of the PR of a government you are getting into a dangerous area."

And what happens when the Government starts implementing things that aren't quite so popular? While, during the review of the year, the audience at the Brit Awards were cheering for Blair's election victory, they had forgotten the 200 demonstrators outside, protesting against low wages for CD packers. One of the demonstrators who vaulted over a barricade to get to Cherie Blair said she had promised to look into the case. Will she? No one will be cheering All Saints quite so loudly if they become associated with the party that cuts benefits.

No, the Government needed a blast of icy water to remind its members to stop behaving like starry-eyed teens when a pop star swings into view. Tony and Co now have to act out the roles of responsible parental figures of Her Majesty's Government. By trying too hard to be in touch with popular culture, they're not only making themselves look silly but destroying the street-cred of countless stars along the way.

When Virginia Bottomley invited Alan McGee to her office for tea, he politely but firmly refused. "With her record of closing hospitals down," said the man who discovered Oasis, "I am concerned that fraternising with her may result in the closure of my record company." Everyone cheered and thought Oasis were cool. A year later Alan McGee joins a government task force, everyone hates Oasis and even Noel himself admits the third album wasn't much good. I rest my case.

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