Amid UK Election, Paul Weller Says He’s Fed Up With Politics

Paul Weller once peddled passionate political pop, writing lyrics that captured working-class frustrations and urged the toppling of Margaret Thatcher’s government.

The former Jam frontman is singing a different tune now.

Photo: Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
Posing for photographs at Parlophone Records in central London.

“There seemed to be something very black-and-white about politics at that time, in the late 70s, early 80s,” Weller said. “It was very clear and very definite. Now it’s very marketed and PR-led and corporate and (politicians) are all just kind of nice, fluffy, well-scrubbed middle-class boys.”

Weller is not the only celebrity to offer cynicism rather than endorsement during Britain’s election campaign.

Comedian Russell Brand – a voluble anti-capitalist activist admired by hundreds of thousands of young people – told Labour Party leader Ed Miliband this week that he’d never voted. Miliband struggled in an interview to convince Brand that electoral politics could bring change.

Labour can claim some celebrity supporters, including actor Michael Sheen, comedian Eddie Izzard and “The Hobbit” star Martin Freeman. The Conservatives count composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and former soccer star Sol Campbell among their backers.

But Weller’s disillusionment may resonate with many Britons wary of all parties campaigning ahead of Thursday’s national vote.

As part of post-punk power trio The Jam and later the soul-influenced Style Council, Weller railed against then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies of privatization. In the 80s, he was part of Red Wedge, a group of musical stars who campaigned for the Labour Party.

That era’s right-left ideological divide now seems far off. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, a graduate of elite private school Eton College, has even named The Jam’s “The Eton Rifles” – a blast against upper-class entitlement – as one of his favorite songs.

Weller is unimpressed.

“It’s laughable,” the 56-year-old musician told the Associated Press. “It’s like, ‘What didn’t you understand about the lyrics?’ I find it a bit worrying if the leader of a country doesn’t really understand a very simple message in a three-and-a-half minute pop song.”

Weller, who releases his 12th solo album, Saturns Pattern, on May 18, says he no longer feels the urge to tackle politics in his songs.

“It’s really hard to get fired up about Ed Miliband or David Cameron, because they’re sort of extensions of (real) estate agents, really,” he said.

“They’re just the public face of a rotten system. So it doesn’t really matter what face you put in front of it, because the system is still there, and it’s still rotten.”