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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 February, 2004, 19:26 GMT
Debut gig for MPs' new boy band

By Ben Davies
BBC News Online politics staff

A band with a difference made its debut on Thursday night as four MPs put aside all political differences and played their first public gig.

The idea of being locked in a church with only politicians for entertainment might see a lot of people losing their religion.

But whatever happens when MP4, that's the name of the band by the way, takes it away, the audience know that it is in a good cause, Macmillan Cancer Relief.

Good chords?

Having heard them strum, it's fairly safe to say that they were something of a highlight in a night of recitations and sketches starring the likes of Michael Mates, Michael Ancram and Lord Falconer.
(l-r) Kevin Brennan, Ian Cawsey, Pete Wishart and Greg Knight
MP4 warming up for their debut gig in Westminster

They were due to be followed on to the stage by Nigel Evans, Lembit Opik and Stephen Pound.

They starred in a sketch called 'The Jerry Springer Show - I've got a secret'.

MP4 have a bit of a pedigree. Keyboard player and SNP member Pete Wishart is the only MP to have performed on Top of the Pops when he was in a band called Runrig.

Sixties legend?

"I've got a little bit of musical experience, shall we say," he remarked to BBC News Online.

And he is not the only one to have slid the boards.

Labour's Ian Cawsey - lead singer and bassist - used to be in a Sixties band called the Moggies and an Eighties band called Chinese Whispers.

And he still plays.

"Occasionally I get together with colleagues back home and just do the odd booking and it's kind of the thing you don't really miss when you're not doing it but when you get back on stage and do it again it's a really important thing in my life so we're really looking forward to tonight.

"We've been rehearsing in Kennington for about a month and we're helped ironically by the House sitting hours being different now because on a Tuesday business finishes at 7pm so that means that we can go for a couple of hours then.

"When the hours changed we all said that MPs would find something to get up to in their spare time and it was either sex, drugs or rock and roll. The whips thought rock and roll was the best option."

No premier performance

Another member, Labour MP Kevin Brennan joined the band when he heard they were looking for a guitarist.

"Tony Blair wasn't available so I agreed to do it," he joked.

Their drummer, meanwhile, is Conservative Greg Knight.

"Today St Johns, tomorrow Wembley stadium," said Greg Knight in a reference to the church they are playing in and a well known north London building site.

"I started playing drums at school but I haven't played for 12 and a half years," he continued.

"I'll be dusting off the drum kit tonight. Hopefully it won't be too painful - I think I've got the edge on the home secretary on the drums having heard him play recently."

Recording ambition

That was a reference to one of the more tooth-grinding moments of recent political history when the prime minister and David Blunkett delighted a group of teenagers by joining them in an entirely impromptu jamming session at their school.

MP4 in action
No divisions when it comes to music
But the question anyone who follows events in politics must want to ask is just how a bunch of people of widely different political perspectives can stand to spend time with each other voluntarily?

"The things that unite us are our love of music and our concern for the future of the British music industry which is facing a number of threats at the minute not least from pirated music," says Mr Knight.

"It's for the Macmillan charity so we've actually had no disagreements whatsoever on any aspect of this project."

But had there been no shouting, screaming or emotion? "No there's been none of that so far but it's early days," said Mr Wishart.

"Give us a chance. I'm sure the famous musical differences will emerge."

Two tune gig

As for their next step, the MPs are planning to record a CD with some financial sponsorship from the British Phonographic Industry.

They may even write some of their own songs.

But for their first gig they are confining themselves to just a couple of numbers.

"We're doing 'Can't buy me love' the old Beatles number and a Travis number 'Why does it always rain on me?' So old and new - a bit like the Labour Party," said Mr Cawsey.

MPs triumph at tug of war
17 Jun 03  |  Politics
Blair and Blunkett play the blues
13 Feb 03  |  Politics

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