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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Tony Blair: Punk icon
By Brian Wheeler
BBC News politics reporter, in Brighton


Tony Blair: Prime minister, Labour leader, punk icon.

It sounds unlikely but how else could you explain Mr Blair's choice of walk-on music for his big party conference speech on Tuesday?

Not the vaguely uplifting soft rock anthem normally chosen for these occasions, something by The Lighthouse Family, perhaps, or U2, but the sound of angry young London circa 1978: Sham 69.

And the song - If The Kids Are United ("they will never be divided!") - well, if that wasn't an ironic dig at his frontbench colleague Gordon Brown, what was?

SONGS LABOUR'S USED
If The Kids Are United: Sham 69
Things Can Only Get Better: D:Ream
Beautiful Day: U2
The Lighthouse Family: Lifted
Are You Gonna Be My Girl?: Jet
Right Here, Right Now: Fatboy Slim
Call On Me: Eric Prydz
Get The Party Started: Pink
Jerusalem: The Corus Steelworkers choir
The Red Flag - Every Labour leader

Certainly no one was more surprised by Labour's choice of music than the song's composer Jimmy Pursey, now aged 50, who must contemplate membership of a very exclusive club.

"Usually you see him with Geldof and Bono, the jet-set political messiahs. I see my band as more of an SAS unit. We're outlaws," the veteran punk told The Times.

"I hope he's not using that song as a sort of backing innuendo to say Gordon and Tony are united. That song was written as a spiritual thing, as an anthem for the people of this country.

"I hope Tony Blair wants to adopt those lyrics and live up to them."

Guttural roar

Labour has made a speciality of setting the mood Mr Blair's big entrance. The build up begins at least half an hour before his entrance with expensively-produced videos and whizzy graphics scrolling across the big conference hall screens.

Jimmy Pursey
Sham 69 singer Jimmy Pursey pictured on Top of the Pops in 1978

Last year the musical accompaniment was Fatboy Slim's dance anthem Right Here, Right Now.

Perhaps we should have realised they were going for a more earthy feel this year when speakers burst into life with Jet's Are You Gonna be My Girl? (Although given Mr Blair's penchant for describing the Labour Party as his lover or his wife, perhaps not).

But nothing prepared us for Mr Pursey's guttural roar: "For once in my life I've got something to say/I wanna say it now for now is today!"

Red Flag

The name of his band - Sham 69 - inspired a few quips from the non-Blairite element in the hall.

"More like sham 24/7," commented one senior figure on the left of the party.

And who were these "kids"? Surely not Labour's decidedly middle-aged frontbench?

It was all a far cry from The Red Flag, the traditional anthem of Labour conferences, which Mr Blair was forced to stumble his way through at last year's gathering.

Or U2's Beautiful Day - Labour's general election theme tune (despite misgivings from the band).

Either way, the Labour faithful appeared much more at ease on Tuesday night at a reception for northern MPs, where the music was provided by sixties band The Animals.

Although Mr Blair apparently left before the band took the stage. The thought of him pogoing along to House of the Rising Sun might have been too much to bear...




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Sham 69 rework Mr Blair's choice of walk-on music




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