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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK
Labour's lost luvvies
Noel Gallagher says he regrets drinks with Blair
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By Brian Wheeler
BBC News Online political staff
line
Tony Blair this week welcomed a "donor from outer space" at a glitzy fundraising dinner at London's Hilton Hotel.

Patrick Stewart - Captain Jean Luc Picard from TV's Star Trek the Next Generation - was Labour's guest speaker at the 500-a-head event.

Such a scene would not have seemed unusual five years ago when Labour was the toast of the celebrity circuit.

In the run up to the 1997 election, A-list stars such as Peter Gabriel, Jeremy Irons, Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Creation Records boss Alan McGee queued up to pay homage - and cash - to New Labour.

After his landslide victory, Mr Blair hosted a series of glittering receptions at Number 10.

Pop stars Mick Hucknall and Noel Gallagher rubbed shoulders with a clearly star-struck PM, who - lest we forget - wanted to be a rock singer long before he wanted to be a politician.

But a glance down Wednesday night's guest list tells a different story.

Apart from Mr Stewart - it seems Labour's list of famous friends is a little depleted.

Opera singer Lesley Garrett was there, true, as was Petula Clark and actor Kevin Whately of Inspector Morse fame.

'Control freaks'

But, with all due respect to them, it is a far cry from the days of Mr Blair's honeymoon period.

Indeed, one by one, Labour's celebrity friends seem to have deserted them.

Patrick Stewart
Stewart was guest speaker at the Labour event
Mr McGee, the man credited with discovering Oasis, was the first to turn, accusing the party of being "control freaks" after it selected Frank Dobson to run for London mayor.

Noel Gallagher has also said he regretted attending the Downing Street bash.

"A lot of us got carried away with the New Labour thing, me included," he has said.

"But they gave money to the health service and then took it away from single parents.

"When Tony Blair was courting the music business idiots like me thought we could have a say, but it became a publicity stunt on his behalf."

'Private'

Similarly, while Labour was once only too keen to flaunt its celebrity credentials, its Millbank press office was decidedly reticent about Wednesday night's bash.

A spokeswoman told BBC News Online that Wednesday evening's dinner was a "private affair."

She refused to confirm details of the guest list other than to say Patrick Stewart had given an after dinner speech.

"We don't and we wouldn't comment on the guests," she said.

The cash-strapped Labour party may need celebrity backers to swell its coffers - Mr Stewart is reported to have handed over 20,000.

But it would seem the days when Mr Blair basked in the reflected glamour of his showbiz supporters are well and truly over.

See also:

21 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Labour pop guru turns on Blair
23 Apr 98 | Politics
The 500 dinner date
30 Aug 98 | UK Politics
'Luvvies' for Labour
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