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SAVE THE BONO!


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Why do politicians - including sadly, the Tories this week - fawn over Bono, a smug hypocritical, whining, tax dodging Irish mountebank?

By Quentin Letts

Last updated at 10:17 AM on 10th October 2009

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Mysterious ways: U2 frontman Bono's shock appearance at the Conservative Party conference on Thursday is just one of a string of occasions he has tried to cosy up political leaders

To encounter Bono at one party conference might be construed a misfortune.

 

To be subjected to a Save The Third World sermon by this runty rock squillionaire at both Labour and Conservative party conferences was enough to make a reasonable man come over all Pete Townsendish and want to snap Bono's guitar in two.

What is it about this whiny little Dubliner that makes one's gorge rise?

 

What is it that makes him feel he can lecture the rest of us about how to spend our tax money, while he himself leads a life of near-unimaginable wealth?

Has he ever been elected? No. Is he particularly eloquent? Nope.  He just happens to be exceedingly rich. And famous.

 

And convinced that he is a figure who can transcend politics and somehow shame us into accepting higher taxes. Because pop singer Bono said so.

Surely one of the greatest of life's impenetrable mysteries is just why politicians of all hues and on both sides of the globe bow to this little Irishman.

From George W. Bush and Obama to Nelson Mandela and the UN's chief Ban Kimoon, they all swoon at St Bono.

Last week he spoke to the Labour party conference, appearing in a film clip to say what a great bloke Gordon Brown was.

 

Only a few weeks ago he awarded our bungling PM the 'World Statesman of the Year' prize, God help us.

Then, this Thursday, to the Conservatives' eternal discredit, the same trendy-haired, wheedly-voiced Bono popped up on two vast plasma screens at the Tory conference, shortly before David Cameron's speech.

Who was this scruffy little man? What was his name again? Mr Bonio? Some of the more ancient ones plainly hadn't a clue as to who he was. And they wondered why he was not wearing a tie

When he did his turn for the Labour conference, there were whoops of joy.

 

When this ageing hipster droned on in mind-numbing platitudes about how we should all donate our hard-earned cash to distant dictatorships, there were two slightly differing reactions.

From the professional sceptics of the media there was a near-universal groan. Hands slapped against despairing foreheads.

From the seats of Tory activists, meanwhile, there wafted an air of widespread indifference, if not bafflement.

 

Who was this scruffy little man? What was his name again? Mr Bonio?

Some of the more ancient ones plainly hadn't a clue as to who he was. And they wondered why he was not wearing a tie.

 

Ah, the good old Tory faithful. Maybe there is hope yet for

Bono is a prime example of baby-boomer good vibes - of feel-good politics tarted up with celebrity endorsement.

 

Born in 1960, he is a pin-up for late fortysomething, early fiftysomething urbanites of a vaguely Left-wing bent.

 

That is, they feel they should be Left-wing, though they may not live out their principles in their spending habits. It is a very Islington state of mind.

 

Bono, for instance, is fantastically extravagant. He is an enthusiastic buyer of stocks and shares - he owns a hefty chunk of the New York money magazine, Forbes.

 

 

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Message: Bono addresses the Tory party conference shortly before David Cameron takes to the stage

He travels the world in a bubble of executive-jet comfort, spending a fortune on his little treats and fancies and racking up tens of thousands of air miles.

 

Here is a man worth hundreds of millions who has a villa in the South of France, an Italian palazzo looking over the briny near Dublin and a multi-million-pound penthouse in Manhattan.

And yet Bono's message to the Tory conference, as ever, was a homily about the poor and neglected of Africa.

 

   

More from Quentin Letts...

 

If he feels that strongly, why doesn't he cough up some more of his own fortune?

In itself, his message should have been worth heeding. Many good British people devote their lives to improving the lot of oppressed Africans.

The problems of disease and famine south of the Sahara are something no good Christian can honestly ignore.

 

British charities are a credit to our generosity. And that is before you even start counting British government aid - something the Tories have promised to leave uncut, should they win the next General Election.

So the issue itself was not the problem. It was the fact that it was being raised, yet again, by this scruffy, plutocratic, hypocritical mountebank.

That was what made it hard to take. Bono the pious! Bwana Bono the aid grandee! Bono the tax avoider.

As has been frequently reported, this same Bono who talks of the importance of Western aid for the world's most hungry and diseased wretches is himself no saint when it comes to volunteering tax payments.

Far from it. He seems to be so keen on money that he devotes almost as much time these days to his business dealings as he does to his music making.

 

The company which handles U2's fees was accused by tax campaigners this year of moving to an overseas tax haven rather than stay in Ireland.

Tax haven, eh? Where does he think government aid comes from if it does not come from taxes?

 

If he places such a high value on this aid, how can he decently go to such lengths (legal though they may be) to avoid paying tax in his home country?

 

Is this not, well, a little whiffy? Does it not smack of double standards?

Bono may think that he sets an example to his fellow Westerners by prowling around the political forums of Europe and America, beating the drum for state handouts for Africa.

 

But would he not set a better example if he dismissed his accountants and his canny financial advisers and declared instead that he was rich enough to pay his taxes wherever they would be highest?

The millions of people who buy U2 records, by and large, have no choice but to pay their taxes at home.

 

Not for them the opulent international homes - Bono has countless fancy pads - and the limousines and the hot and cold running personal assistants.

Many of his music fans struggle to pay their taxes. What are they to make of a 'be happy to pay more tax' lecture by a tax avoider?

Many of his music fans struggle to pay their taxes. What are they to make of a 'be happy to pay more tax' lecture by a tax avoider?

The problem is that today's political hero worship is a symbiotic affair. The likes of Bono are useful to the politicians not just for their political analysis (such as it is).

 

They are valuable for their attendant glamour. The main reason Labour and the Conservatives asked Bono to appear at their conferences was a suspicion that he is somehow a 'cool guy', an artist who encapsulates their parties' values and ideals.

 

That the Tories fell for such shallow pretension is, well, just sad.

In some ways all this is a hangover of Tony Blair's Cool Britannia project, when pop stars and fashion designers were asked to 10 Downing Street to bestow glitter to the newly- elected Labour government.

Mr Blair was not the first to indulge in this sort of thing. Harold Wilson greased up to The Beatles in the hope of making himself look groovy. Ted Heath posed alongside opera singer Dame Janet Baker. Poor Ted. He never was wildly 'with it', was he?

 

If today's politicians use rock stars, the same is true vice-versa. People such as Bono use their political access not only to recommend-policy change but also to improve their own images.

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Sometimes you: Anti-poverty campaigner Bono shakes hands with Tony Blair (left) as the former British Prime Minister leaves a G-8 economic session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2005

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Pride: Gordon Brown meets Bono last month at an event in New York held by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation who presented the Prime Minister with their World Statesman of the Year Award

Had Bono not taken up his famine and African poverty agenda, would he have sold so many records and remained such a big name for so long? Quite possibly not. He might well have disappeared into non-entitydom.

But Bono is nothing if not calculating. There is something contrived about his stage persona, from the silly mononym (his real name is Paul Hewson) to the twirly glasses and his apparent inability to wash his hair, shave his chin and speak clearly while looking his audience square in the eye.

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Agenda: Bono with wife Ali Hewson

Such vanity about being untidy! When he appeared in the video at the Labour conference, he looked like something out of Steptoe And Son.

 

At the Tory conference, his spectacles had such ornate hinges that they could have been part of the Queen Mother's gates near London's Hyde Park Corner.

But how much longer will these celebrity endorsements work?

Two years ago, there was a big charity push by rock stars, backed by some of the biggest and most fashionable brands in the world.

 

It was called the RED campaign. Despite a £52 million marketing drive, the charity raised just £9million for use against tuberculosis and malaria.

The disparity in those figures perhaps tells us that the public's appetite for celebrity charity campaigns is on the wane. 

In part this may be down to over-exposure. In part it may reflect mounting suspicion that celebrity campaigners sometimes latch on to causes as much for their own publicity benefit as out of a genuine belief in the arguments.

Although it was depressing that David Cameron's Tories followed the received wisdom of recent years and felt that Bono might add something to their conference, the indifference of the reception he received will surely make a return performance unlikely.

The celebrity-awed vacuity of the Blair years is yielding to a different generation.

With any luck, our new masters will take their cue from the old Tories in that Manchester conference hall and reflect that a lecture about foreign aid from a small, strange-looking Irishman accounts to little more than a row of autumn beans.

If we are to continue to send millions of pounds of British tax money abroad, let us at least do so without being lectured by such an unappealing, hypocritical little man.

 

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Pop art: Composite of a line drawing of Bono, which appears on Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's website, and a picture of the Irish rocker

 

 

 

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don't get me started again!! LOL

 

At least Bono is doing something for the world

 

what the hell is Quentin Letts doing apart from not knowing anything!

 

There was a time when journalist did some homework before doing an artical

 

Obviously he didn't have time

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It made me laugh. Its the Daily Mail for crying out loud. What does anyone expect? I'm surprised there's not a reference to an illegal immigrant in the article. Look at the list of other articles from this Quentin fellow. I believe his next piece is titled "Why I became a bitter and twisted miserable excuse for a celebrity columist rather than a proper journalist".

 

As for hypocrisy. Point me in the direction of someone who isn't! Scuffy little man? Wearing no tie... What the hell is the point in a tie anyway???! Tax dodger? I'm indifferent to that criticism. Especially when he's being compared to a bunch of politicians who HAVE been elected and tax dodge and claim expenses for toothbrushes and duck houses. At least the guy hasn't earnt his money honestly!!!!!!!

 

Pfft. Daily Mail readers should be put in stocks and pelted with tomatoes anyway. I'm all for freedom of speech, but the Daily Mail makes me wish for book burning at times!

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I agree that the world is full of scribblers who have to fill their pages...

But we have to remember that even Larry wasn't so enthusiastic about Bono's political frequentations. My opinion is also mixed, even if he keeps on saying that his words aren't anything political and they should be everyone's business, expecially if you are engaged in politics and you can change things...

 

And yes, the tax-avoiding move to the Netherlands in 2006 didn't help at all to make him look more believable.

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Bono isn't just some puppet for this party or that party....his trying help the world by getting aide for people in need. And pushing for change...if he wasn't supporting and doing the things he has been doing...you have to ask yourself if any of this progress would have happened? In my opinion it wouldn't have...Go Bono...Go!!

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I read Quentin Letts column in the Daily Mail yesterday and felt really upset that he felt it necessary to devote a whole page to slagging off Bono. I generally read the mail but not normally QL's bit as I don't like him very much. Bono does come in for criticism from time to time and I'm sure he can take it! I just think that Bono doesn't have to do what he does, he could just sit back and enjoy the fruits of his work but he chooses not too. As for being a tax dodger, I'm sure a lot has gone into the Irish coffers over the years. I can't help thinking that Bono must have given a lot of his personal wealth over the years to the causes for which he campaigns otherwise, perhaps he could be called a hypocrite. Wisely, he choses not to say how he spends his money, that is private to him. If he told us all every time he gave something to others then Quentin Letts would have a field day. Giving and spending our own money whether a little or a lot is a private matter at all times.

 

I think I'll start reading The Sun instead!

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From what I remember, the last time I was specifically asked to give money to Africa  was "Live aid" 85

Its been all about raising awareness ever since and asking governments of the world to do the decent thing.

If Bono was to give all his money to the cause how long do you think that would last?............about a year I think.

The guy just doesn't like him.

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