As Britain heads to the polls, Shaun Ponsonby takes a look at the campaigning rock stars and celeb-u-tards in the public eye during the 2015 election.
Originally published on Getintothis
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a general election today. I know it hasn’t been in the news much or anything, but I assure you it is taking place.
It looks set to be a humdinger too. It appears that the polls show that nobody has enough support to gain a majority, even in a two-pronged coalition. If people seemed fed up with politicians five years ago, now they’ve got no hope left whatsoever.
So, it only makes sense that the public would find others to be their political leaders. Sometimes famous people put themselves forward, and it leaves the masses a little bit puzzled.
Russell Brand got the ball rolling, by releasing a book about how awful capitalism is in time for the ludicrous and highly profitable Christmas market (ahem!). Lots of people who didn’t think this was a bit of a conceptual oxymoron lapped it up and claimed the guy who starred in Get Him To The Greek as a political heavyweight, despite the fact that the book was criticised from the entire spectrum of the political landscape of writers for being about as coherent as the backwards talking dwarf from Twin Peaks without the subtitles.
But my head was left scarred from all the scratching. As much as I might agree with some of his views, it’s not like he was well known for politics beforehand. It’s not like he was Bill Hicks. In fact, he was best known for leaving obscene messages on a pensioner’s answering machine. There seemed to be no precedent for it. Not that this means his opinion is worthless, it just makes the transition from celebrity to campaigner somewhat jarring.
Which is part of the problem for any “celebrity” who wants to do politics. Especially musicians.
Brian May has got in on the act recently. The man who wrote Fat Bottomed Girls has got a campaign called Common Decency, which campaigns for common decency (surprisingly enough). Obviously, that’s a vague definition, but they’re essentially calling for reform of the parliamentary system. A change to a corrupt system. Admirable all the way.
However, why does it take the guy from Queen to start something like this? Queen were so apolitical that they broke the cultural boycott of South Africa during the apartheid regime and played Sun City, much to the (frankly justified) outrage of their peers. Even within Queen, drummer Roger Taylor has always been the most outspoken politically. Can you blame people for being a bit bemused when Brian May walks in, playing the guitar solo from the end of We Will Rock You and big, crazy greyed hair talking about the ownership of banks and proportional representation?
Furthermore, his first real dabble into politics was to oppose the badger cull. This is fine in itself, but he announced a new single he was releasing to raise awareness of the issue.
Yes, clearly a worthy addition into his recorded canon, there. To be fair, lyrically it’s still better than the Queen + Paul Rodgers album.
None of this even begins to cover the recent developments in the world of Bez.
Whereas May and Brand are merely taking on the role of activist, Happy Mondays resident maraca shaker Bez has decided to literally run for office in what I can only assume is a Joaquin Phoenix-esque piece of reality filmmaking satire.
Things got off to a rocky start for his Reality Party when he forgot to register with the Electoral Commission. The problem was the name sounded too similar to the Realist Party, and he was asked to re-register by 12th January. He didn’t. They did re-register a month later, though.
There’s a bit of a gulf between the name of the Party and what they’re pledging. He seems to be promising free beer which, though something I fully support on a personal level, doesn’t actually fit with the concept of something called the Reality Party.
His campaigning methods leave a lot to be desired too. Back in January he appeared on Sky News during an anti-fracking demonstration and forgot what question he was being asked. He also made an appearance on the BBC’s Daily Politics a few weeks ago. Rambling incoherently, looking dishevelled and making the viewers wince every time he opened his mouth, host Andrew Neil sat in the studio as Bez spoke via satellite link with no front teeth, little in the way of equilibrium and really straining to speak with basic diction.
But does that mean he shouldn’t be allowed to make a stand if he feels he has to? He may constantly come across like an 18 year old who thinks he sounds profound on his hungover trip back from Magaluf, but he makes the occasional decent point as well, and he has a right to speak out on the issues he believes in. Do we not take him seriously because he’s Bez? He definitely seems passionate about this, so why the hell not?
I wonder if our issue with celebrities becoming politicised fundamentally mirrors the same issues that we have with the politicians themselves. Namely that they often live in a bubble, a world that is a far cry from the world we live in throughout our everyday lives.
We also have a predetermined idea of who these people are, encouraged by their own self-imposed image promotion. This means they have to walk a delicate line so as not to bring their career into jeopardy. As much as you might respect an artist or enjoy their work, finding their political views repugnant is as contentious an issue as religion.
Thinking about James Brown campaigning for Nixon always makes me shudder, and his African-American audience seemed to agree judging by how his sales tailed off around this time, despite some wonderful records. I can never envision a time where I would want to go see Ted Nugent play, only for him to interrupt the show to go on a right wing rant. And I have never looked at Eric Clapton the same way since I learned of his mid-70s pro-Enoch Powell speech (direct quote: “We should send them all back. Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!”, and then I’m assuming he played I Shot The Sheriff and a Robert Johnson tune. Hypocritical weapon of mass dumbfuckery.)
Extremism aside, we’re living in a time unlike any other, perhaps it takes people in the public eye to articulate that for us on a grander scale. But, if you take anything from all this shenanigans, take this; if Bez can make a stand, we all can.
The Who were announced as the final Glastonbury headliner. I’d just like to throw out a semi-“I told you so“.
Lauryn Hill has cancelled a show in Israel as she was unable to book a show in Palestine around the same time. Of course, this could all just be one big advanced form of tardiness that she so often displays. She is a master of it, after all.
Morrissey has persuaded Madison Square Garden to go vegan for a gig he’s playing there and wrote to Al Gore asking him to do the same for Live Earth, thus displaying the kind of despotism that puts people off listening to any rational argument for what he wants to achieve.