Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Celebrities join Trident battle

By John Hand
BBC News, in Westminster

Annie Lennox, Vivienne Westwood and Bianca Jagger
Lennox, Westwood and Jagger are leading anti-Trident support

Annie Lennox has always been one of pop music's most political animals - just as interested in Number 10 as the Top Ten.

So it was no surprise that the singer was among a sprinkling of celebrities at a Westminster reception held by MPs opposing government plans to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system.

What may have caused a raised eyebrow or two was the ripple of excitement her appearance caused among the gathered lawmakers and activists.

Lennox wasn't among those who addressed those present - Bianca Jagger was the most starry name among those at the microphone. But as soon as the speechmaking was concluded, a steady stream of MPs and political advisers clamoured for a quick picture with the seven-time Brit Award winner.

As one of the starstruck politicoes told another: "This isn't just a celebrity supporter - this is a star."

Pop and politics

In between the picture requests, the singer was keen to get her view across on the issue - which she sees as intrinsically tied in with the decision to go to war in Iraq.

"For the last four years, I have watched the debacle of Iraq. My belief in the moral sense of politicians has been really affected by what's happened over the last four years."

Bianca Jagger
It would be the end of life as we know it - the end of the world
Bianca Jagger

Asked what difference she felt she could make, she said: "I'm here as a concerned individual. I'm here so that other members of society will stop in the street and think about the issue."

Lennox, of course, emerged as a musical star at a time when pop and politics were regular bedfellows - an era of Red Wedge tours and politicised singer-songwriters doing their bit to rattle the cages of those in power.

So why, she was asked, was she not being joined now by a whole new generation of angry young men, women and boybands?

"I think that's a question you need to ask them. In fact I think that's a question you should ask them," she said.

And, for Lennox, this wasn't just a case of a quick soundbite and disappearing. After a reporter from a music radio station teased from her some information about her forthcoming album - "Thanks for the interest but that's not why I'm here," she said to further queries - she revealed she was planning to stay to watch the Commons debate.

"Yes, I'm here for the day. The MP Ian Gibson has arranged a ticket for me in the gallery. I've often cared about issues in the past but not had the time or opportunity to see how the political process deals with it but today I will."

'Branded'

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was another famous name whose commitment to the cause was clear. Before the reception, she had spent two hours leafleting MPs and passers-by in Westminster.

She said: "If I've got any street cred with young people, then I was going to do something to see if I could make a difference."

Vivienne Westwood
Westwood topped off a brown corduroy suit with a campaign T-shirt

Westwood was wearing a headband with the word "Branded", which she explained was to highlight how many people are being so distracted by the effects of consumerism that they are not focusing on what politicians are doing.

She said: "My generation was inspired by the hippie movement and the underground magazines. But sadly, nowadays, magazines are catering for the illiterate and the visually illiterate."

Bianca Jagger, now possibly more associated with her anti-war protests than for being the beauty who married a Rolling Stone, said of the Trident plans: "It would be the end of life as we know it - the end of the world."

Big Brother

Among the MPs in attendance was one with his own links to the showbusiness world, the Liberal Democrat Lembit Opik.

He said that celebrity support is often helpful in spotlighting a political issue but not in every case: "It works when the celebrity has a real interest in the cause. Listening to the interviews that Annie and Vivienne have been doing this morning, there is no doubt that they provide a massive boost."

But would Lennox herself consider another platform to put her political views across? If an enterprising TV producer was to call and invite her on Celebrity Big Brother, would she respond?

"Not a chance. I think it's demeaning and puerile. You have to choose very carefully how you want to get your message across," she said.



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Annie Lennox and Anita Roddick comment on Trident



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