In an interview with The Guardian published yesterday, My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields proselytized that Britpop was part of a government conspiracy. According to The Guardian, Shields ‘reacted angrily to a mention of the Cool Britannia phenomenon,’ the mid-1990s wave of cultural celebration that capitalized on the global successes of Britpop and groups like the Spice Girls. He suggests that high powers were involved in the cultural movement, which saw bands including Oasis, Blur, and Pulp rise to prominence around the same time Tony Blair’s Labour party was voted into government.
‘Britpop was massively pushed by the government,’ Shields said. His theory primarily stems from the fact that Britpop luminaries, namely the Gallagher brothers of Oasis and Blur’s Damon Albarn, were major Labour party supporters and often visited the government headquarters at 10 Downing Street. ‘Some day it would be interesting to read all the MI5 files on Britpop,’ he continued. ‘The wool was pulled right over everyone’s eyes.’
While the music itself might not have been government-funded propaganda, it is undeniable that Shields is right about one thing: the Labour party used the support of prominent celebrities to gain influence with the youth. New Labour and Britpop benefited from a symbiotic relationship for a while before both movements came crashing down as the decade came to a close. Indeed, many Britpop stars were smitten with Tony Blair and New Labour. No other group were more vocal about their political leanings than Oasis.
The Britpop documentary, Live Forever, addresses this unholy meeting of politics and music. This clip delves into the role that Labour’s famous supporters played in Tony Blair’s rising popularity.
In this second clip, Louise Wener of Sleeper explains that, in retrospect, she was always suspicious of Tony Blair’s intentions, and Damon Albarn reveals the moment that his brief flirtation with New Labour came to a grinding halt.
But, perhaps, there is no more scathing indictment of the New Labour con than Pulp’s ‘Cocaine Socialism.’ The song was written by Jarvis Cocker after the Labour party managed to track him down while on holiday in order to gain his support in their election campaign. Cocker told the party to ‘piss off,’ and followed up with this attack. In 1998, he discussed his decision to shun New Labour with the NME. ‘I’ve always voted Labour, but I wasn’t prepared to use my position in that way. It’s not appropriate, in the same way that it’s not appropriate for Tony Blair to give awards at the Brits and stuff like that. To me it just stinks of, ‘Come on kids, I’m hip’.’