Eno vs. Blair; Art vs. politics

This month’s issue of Prospect Magazine has the story that Brian Eno is organising a campaign that targets Tony Blair personally. At the next election Eno plans to “run a ‘white suit’, you-lied-to-the-people, Martin Bell-style candidate against Blair in his own Sedgefield constituency”. Prospect suggests his chances of success are not completely negligible.
This would be a collision between a situationist prank and the performative function of everyday electoral politics. It’s one thing for Bill Drummond to distribute Tennants Extra to the homeless and burn a million quid, for Bob Geldof and Bono to talk about third world debt from the podium, or even for Bruce Springsteen and REM to seek to mobilise the anti-Bush vote by touring swing states. It’s a a qualitatively different act to train your cross-hairs so acutely on one tiny part of the democratic process that could have global ramifications. Celebrity is a currency that can be exchanged, albeit indirectly, for power, and Eno is known as a supreme networker with many influential friends. Possibly he is acting as a figurehead for a large body of public opinion, but, if he does not demonstrate this, his campaign raises thorny questions of legitimacy.
Meanwhile Eno has made clear why he thinks Blair’s statements on Iraq lack legitimacy.

Update, 29 March 02005: there have been several developments on this story. Reg Keys, father of a Royal Military Policeman killed in Iraq, has been confirmed as the ‘white suit’ candidate for Sedgefield. Eno has launched a campaign to persuade people to vote for the Liberal Democrat party, and is interviewed in today’s Evening Standard on the subject.
As Eno is now clearly taking a more broad-based approach — moving away from a one-on-one ‘sniper’ attack on Tony Blair, nailing his colours to the mast of a mainstream political party that has significant support and momentum of its own, and openly soliciting support of others (albeit starting with his old art teacher, Tom Phillips, and assorted other cerebral luvvies) — I think he has now demonstrated that he is “acting as a figurehead for a large body of public opinion”, as I originally put it.

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