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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 11:05 GMT
Trying to be 'down with the kids'
Tony Blair at the MTV forum
Why did UK Prime Minister Tony Blair choose to face tough questions from a panel of young people on MTV? And are policians' attempts to hang with the youth ever successful?


The Prime Minister once had no difficulty wooing bright young things.

After the keen amateur guitarist admitted to Noel Gallagher that he had a copy of Oasis's first album in his car, the singer helpfully returned the compliment by telling journalists that: "Tony Blair's [1997 Blackpool Conference] speech brought tears to my eyes."

Oasis manager Alan McGee was even more obliging, giving the Labour Party 50,000 and throwing Oasis behind Mr Blair's election campaign.

"If I can get a million kids to vote Labour because Noel and Liam have endorsed them then I've done my bit," he said.

Blair with Oasis
Once in 10 Downing Street, Mr Blair invited Messers Gallagher and McGee around for a drinks. However, the party was soon over. Gallagher's comment that taking illicit substances was "like having a cup of tea in the morning", saw the PM accused of hypocrisy in his government's drugs policy.

McGee was no more helpful. He said he was disappointed by New Labour. "If things don't improve they won't be getting my money next time."

The fatal blow to Blair's so-called "Cool Britannia" was delivered by fashion designer Wayne Hemmingway. "There is a very grave danger that by simply inviting a few (mostly naff) pop stars and comedians to drinkies at No 10, the very people Blair is trying to impress will be turned off."


Though a less obvious pop fan than Tony Blair, fellow Labour PM Harold Wilson cultivated a relationship in the 1960s with Oasis's spiritual forerunners, the Beatles.

Wilson with the Fab Four
An MP for the Beatles' native Liverpool, Wilson even received a telegram from the band's manager, Brian Epstein, on the eve of the 1964 election: "Hope your group is as much a success."

Wilson continued to court the Beatles, with several band members convinced that he was instrumental in winning them MBE awards from the Queen in 1965.

"At the time, I was very proud," said Ringo Starr later. "It meant a lot to me - not that it gave me anything, but it gave Harold Wilson the election."

Wilson's second term saw relations with the Fab Four deteriorate. John Lennon sent back his MBE in protest at British support for the war in Vietnam.

And when George Harrison wrote a song attacking heavy taxation for Britain's rich, who did he chose to name check in the lyrics? "Aahh Mr Wilson."


Margaret Thatcher appeared on several children's programmes when prime minister in the 1980s, such as BBC One's Saturday Superstore - but as she found out later when questioned on live TV about the fate of the General Belgrano, there were risks involved.

Thatcher on Saturday Superstore
Caller Alison Standfirst asked her, in a innocent child's voice: "In the event of a nuclear war, where will you be?"

"Well," Thatcher hesitantly ventured, as the studio audience of children nervously laughed as if someone had called the headmistress names, "I shall be in London."

The girl, not put off in the least, asked: "Will you have your own bunker or something?" The PM started to answer before thinking better of going down that particular line, and instead steered conversation back to safer ground.


When William Hague took over the reins of the Conservative Party, both he and the Tories needed a make-over.

The party - unceremoniously ejected from power after 18 years - was seen as being both fusty and sleazy. And Mr Hague was largely remembered as a 16-year-old in a tweed jacket haranguing aged Tories at the 1977 party conference.

Hague in a baseball cap
As reinvented leader of a reinvented party, balding Mr Hague donned a baseball cap [emblazoned "HAGUE"], attended the Notting Hill Carnival, and rode a log flume at a theme park - just the kind of fun and youthful photo opportunity Diana, Princess of Wales, had used so successfully.

"At that stage we just needed to be visible. In retrospect, it might have been better not to do those things," said Hague, following intense ridicule about his headgear.

Only his 60-plus confidante Doreen Whitehead - owner of a B&B in the Yorkshire Dales - defended his not-so-trendy cap. "He always wore it, walking here - it's sensible if you haven't much hair and it's sunny."


US presidential candidates now see joking their way through the TV chat shows as a natural part of their campaign, but it was Bill Clinton who breached the wall between politics and pop culture.

Clinton plays the sax
The Arkansas governor blew the sax on the Arsenio Hall show in 1992 while running for office, when Arsenio was championing such cool talent as gangsta rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Clinton's sax repertoire reflects his 1960s vintage - mostly rock 'n' roll standards - but he still sailed close to the wind playing such songs as Louie Louie, a hit once investigated by the FBI as possibly being obscene.

Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison even wrote that Clinton was perhaps had enough "soul" to qualify as the "first black president", his "white skin notwithstanding".

Of course, the former president's many personal problems show that it's never a good ideal to show too close an interest in young people.


Of any modern politician, Deputy PM John Prescott has the rockiest relationship with "the youth".

While Tony Blair's pop star acquaintances may have metaphorically poured cold water over his plans to pally up to the kids, Mr Prescott was the one to get drenched at the 1998 Brit Awards.

Prescott 'punched' by a baby
Danbert Nobacon, of anarchist pop act Chumbawamba, dumped a champagne bucket of ice water over Mr Blair's No 2 in a protest against government policies.

Mr Prescott had already alienated young people by dancing very badly indeed to D:Ream's Things Can Only Get Better (Labour's election anthem) at a post-victory bash. "I'm bloody fed up with that song," he admitted.

However, it was agricultural differences which saw Prezza pelted with eggs by young farmer Craig Evans, which sparked a punch-up right next to the TV cameras.

Just hours after Mr Prescott lashed out, a photo opportunity was arranged to show the cuddly side of the Deputy PM.

Unfortunately, seven-month-old Coll MacAskill landed what looked like a left hook on Mr Prescott's chin. A gift for the next day's newspaper headline writers.


Blair seeks to win MTV crowd
06 Mar 03 |  Politics


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