The Guardian DECEMBER 20, 2007 - by Ian Cleverly


Nick Clegg should have known that mixing pop and politics is dodgy. But it doesn't help if your 'yoof' adviser is nearly ready to collect his bus pass.

Nick Clegg's leadership of the Liberal Democrats got off to a shaky start this week with some ropey answers to the kind of standard questions posed to politicians to trip them up; and the press made a meal of it.

Confessing to not knowing The Fairy Tale Of New York is not a hanging offence, even though it has been splashed all over the news this week. Getting the name of your favourite album wrong is no big deal. Not believing in God is in line with most people's thinking nowadays - although being a non-believer and raising your children in the Christian faith is something I thought was only done by parents desperate to get their offspring into the local Catholic school. Side-stepping the issue of whether he had taken drugs is the standard politician's ploy - even if it is a question that seems to hold endless fascination for the media while the public couldn't give two hoots. "Yes, but I didn't inhale" is no longer considered a viable alternative: who is going to believe that?

Appointing Brian Eno as adviser on how to appeal to the country's youth, however, looks like an almighty howler. Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno - to give him his full name - is the fifty-nine-year-old musician and producer whose career spans from keyboard player with '70s band Roxy Music, to art installations, via work with David Bowie, U2, Talking Heads and Coldplay.

Don't get me wrong; Eno is a musical genius in my eyes. Another Green World, his 1975 solo album, still hits the spot every time you play it. The Apollo soundtrack is aural perfection - eyes shut and float away into space. His production work and collaborations are invariably fabulous or, at the very least, interesting.

But advising the Lib Dems on how to appeal to young voters, when you are about to collect your bus pass and your fanbase will soon be queuing for theirs, is not going to help anybody's credibility. Politician's desperate attempts to "be down with the kids" usually backfire, and employing a man so highbrow that his brow has slipped off the back of his head is hardly going to get first-time voting "yoof" battering down polling station doors to place their cross next to Clegg's name.

The concept of politicians courting rock stars is hardly new, of course. Tony Blair inviting Noel Gallagher round for a few drinks (and a quick guitar lesson, presumably) is one of the cheesier images of his administration. Paul Weller and Billy Bragg toured as Red Wedge in the '80s, backing Neil Kinnock's Labour party and posing for numerous photo opportunities en route, but Red Wedge imploded and Kinnock resigned soon after. There has been the odd notable exception to the rule of pop'n'politics not mixing; Harold Wilson snuggled up with The Beatles to great effect in the '60s, and being matey with the Moptops certainly did him no harm.

There has to be someone more suited to the post than Eno. Musicians more in tune with young voters, whose work reflects everything the Lib Dems stand for. I propose Take That. What could be better than these wholesome, clean-cut boys, who have cast aside their differences to serve the public and make the world a better place? Even the title of their latest single fits the bill: Rule The World.

Um. This may require a rethink...