INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Guardian DECEMBER 19, 2007 - by Paul Owen & Simon Busch
THE BROKEN GUITAR STRING OF BRITISH POLITICS
The Lib Dems have struck a - ahem - chord with their recruitment of the ageing glam rocker Brian Eno as a youth adviser. How might Labour and the Tories respond?
Nick Clegg has marked his election as Lib Dem leader with a crucial first appointment: the musician and record producer Brian Eno, who will help the new leader reach out to young people
Eno, fifty-nine, who was born in 1948, does not seem an obvious conduit for the Lib Dems' message to the nation's youth, although he might have better luck with the forty-somethings who fondly remember his 1970s heyday with Roxy Music.
(He's currently producing the next Coldplay album, so he might have a way in with thirty-somethings, too.)
The Lib Dems have a bit of a problem with age. Chris Huhne, who narrowly lost to Clegg yesterday, is unfailingly referred to as a "young Turk". Huhne is fifty-three.
And, as my colleague Michael White pointed out today, they sacked their previous leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, because he "refused to wear Armani jeans, earrings and trainers".
Ever since Gordon Brown announced he would form a "government of all the talents", politicians have been scouring the globe for the most outlandish figures they can give a job to, from Kirstie Allsopp to Lord Stevens - not to mention Shaun Woodward.
But Eno seems a brazenly inappropriate choice. Great though Virginia Plain was, he must know less about contemporary pop, let alone contemporary youth, than actual tuneful young people such as the Sugababes, Patrick Wolf or Arctic Monkeys - if the Lib Dems have to draft in pop stars at all.
Perhaps the countless members of the Wu Tang Clan could advise Clegg on keeping his frontbench down to a manageable number, or the famously frugal and restrained Rufus Wainwright put his talents to good use balancing the party's budget. The Streets, Pete Doherty, Amy Winehouse and the Happy Mondays in charge of drugs reform? (Actually not a bad idea.) Morrissey on immigration?
An adviser is one thing. But Australia's new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, recently went the whole hog and made a former pop star - Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett - environment minister. It's the equivalent of the Irish taoiseach making Bono international development secretary.
Engelbert Humperdink, the septuagenarian crooner and source of dangerous late-night heart throbs to millions of equally seasoned female fans, would be an obvious hire for the Tories, who, despite the youths at the helm, still rely on elderly nostalgists for much of their support.
For Labour, winning round an intelligent, articulate dissident such as Thom Yorke - pop's George Monbiot - might win back some disillusioned leftwingers, although the party could stand a better chance with the less volatile Neil Tennant (who wrote the sympathetic I Get Along about Peter Mandelson) or the always eloquent Jarvis Cocker.
Or pop stars could go back to writing songs and politicians to running the country.