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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Geldof's political power
Africa
When Geldof speaks on Africa, people listen

Bob Geldof has a reputation most politicians can only look on with green-eyed envy.

When he talks, people listen. They like his passion, they like his straight-talking and they like his refusal to toe a party line.


The clearest example of a modern day hero to our respondents was political and empathetic but not a politician

Report for BBC on current attitudes to politics
And his decision to come out against the UK joining the euro should come as a king-sized warning to those who back the single currency.

At a time when the stock of the politician is perhaps at an all-time low, Geldof is a political animal who is trusted and whose views are respected.

Crooks and liars

His appeal is in part because he is political rather than a politician, clearly identified with causes which are inevitably political but scorning the Westminster merry-go-round.

Bob Geldof
Geldof: Legacy of Live Aid resonates
According to recent research conducted for the BBC, nearly 40% of people believe politicians to be a mixture of crooks, liars and time wasters.

But asked about those people whose views they admired, many respondents mentioned the former Boomtown Rat.

"The clearest example of a modern day hero to our respondents was political and empathetic but not a politician," said the report carried out by agency TRBI as part of the BBC New Politics Initiative.

"Bob Geldof and the Live Aid legacy still resonate and strongly.

Ground-breaking

"He cared and made things happen, when those in power failed to connect with the mood of a nation."

It is certainly true that when Geldof speaks out on an issue, he makes headlines.

Of course he made most impact through Live Aid, the ground-breaking campaign with which he is still closely identified.

A G8 summit these days will not pass without comment from the man who appeared on television screens in 1985 to plead for more money for Africa.

His recent backing of Christian Aid's campaign over poverty in Africa helped the aid agency win extensive coverage.

'Powerless'

And when he does speak out, his words are regarded with the same weight - if not more - as big name politicians from Clare Short up to Tony Blair.


Where others might have crumbled in the presence of a prime minister, Geldof spoke as he saw

In the BBC survey, 37% of those asked said they felt "powerless", "unsupported" and "unrepresented".

They said they viewed politics as the preserve of the establishment, and politicians as careerists simply seeking a toe-hold on the ministerial ladder.

Geldof gives many of those people a voice. If he is not in a position to actually make decisions, he is certainly a man of influence.

For a start he is anything but an establishment figure.

Crumbled

The research for the BBC identified the need for a more informal and colloquial approach to politics.

And the former new wave rock star, haggard and scruffy, won friends through his blunt demands of Margaret Thatcher during the Live Aid campaign.

Live Aid
Millions tuned in to watch Live Aid
Where others might have crumbled in the presence of a prime minister, Geldof spoke as he saw.

Not only that, but as he appealed for more money, he used the f-word on television in the days when such a thing was rarer even than Australian soap operas.

But more importantly, his arguments made sense to millions of people.

Live Aid alone raised about 40m for famine relief.

He is also determined - many of the bands who took part in Live Aid said Geldof was impossible to refuse, travelling around the world to track them down and demanding they add their names to the bill.

And if the research for the BBC is to be believe, Geldof is the sort of political hero many people in the world beyond Westminster are seeking.

Passion

In their report, TRBI wrote: "A political hero will be driven by a sense of injustice in the world and have the strength of character to transcend the restrictive parameters of the party line.

"They will often feel passionately about a specific single issue rather than be opportunistic like the career politician."

In that respect, Bob Geldof fits the bill.

When he speaks about the problems of famine in Africa and the possible solutions, he is widely believed and almost universally respected.

And there is no reason to think the same will not be the case when it comes to the euro.


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See also:

02 Jul 02 | UK Politics
27 Jun 02 | Entertainment
17 May 02 | England
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