Keir Starmer at Glastonbury? Please no, and no changing his name to Starmzy either – Aidan Smith

More than a bustling town centre, more than a packed football match and more than an airport rammed with holidaymakers not going anywhere soon, the post-Covid money shot is but a few days away. This will be the first image from the first Glastonbury since the pandemic showing a sea of people stretching to the far horizon, all of them socially undistanced. And what a beautiful sight it will be.

This will be a special Glastonbury for quite a few reasons. The delayed 50th anniversary spectacular. The rail-strike-busting Glasto. The age-defying edition featuring Sir Paul McCartney who’s just turned 80 and for goodness sake was 14 when he wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” and surely can’t have thought he’d still be turning out classic pop ditties at pensionable age, never mind singing them as an octogenarian.

All of which might make you wonder: will the secret surprise act – because there’s always one and the speculation surrounding their identity can spread round the pop-up city at Worthy Farm like an airborne transmissible virus – be that other rockin’ knight of the realm, Sir Keir Starmer? And if not, should it be?

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Tony Benn was a Glasto dependable while in 2013 another Labour regular, Tom Watson, had his Drenge moment – named after his new favourite band – when he quit the Shadow Cabinet and, in his resignation letter to Ed Milliband, suggested the then Labour leader needed to get out more and recommended some punky thrash.

Stormzy rocked Glastonbury last time out but Sir Lenny Henry says he doesn't see enough black faces in the crowd (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)

Then there was Starmer’s predecessor who got down with the kids in 2017 and the kids sang right back: “Oh Jer-emy Cor-byn, oh Jer-emy Cor-byn”. Was this a chanted group-hug for a plucky loser in the General Election just gone, the kind of spiky not smarmy politico who was very much Glasto’s cup of nettle tea? Or, fuelled by something stronger, fashionable but empty idolatry of – as the title of a Corbyn biography had it – the Dangerous Hero?

Take your pick. Either way, it ruined White Stripes’ Seven-Nation Army. You couldn’t hear the original song anymore without visualising Corbyn emerging from his overgrown garden and refusing to answer questions about a Jezbollah/Hezbollah controversy or somesuch.

Corbyn was called a lot of things but never boring. This is what they’re saying about Starmer and by “they” we’re talking about some members of Labour’s frontbench. Sir Keir does Glastonbury might seem like a quick fix for his perceived image problems, and I can almost hear it being suggested by a panting spin-doctor, but Starmer should resist the idea (and sack the spin-doctor).

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The other day Gordon Brown, after being reminded that he suffered image issues of his own, told Starmer to ignore the noise and hold steady. One of Brown’s spin-doctors had his boss claim he was a big fan of the Arctic Monkeys, who’ve headlined Glasto twice. This was patently nonsense.

It was pointless trying to trendify Broon. He spent his nights poring over fat piles of government papers, as opposed to David Cameron who, his office let it be known, liked to snuggle up with wife Sam of an evening to the chillaxing grooves of the xx (a band whose credibility promptly plummeted like a stone).

I don’t want to see Starmer at Glastonbury. To paraphrase the Monkeys, I bet he wouldn’t look good in the moshpit. I don’t even want to be told his musical preferences, be they Extreme Noise Terror or Mumford & Sons.

I only want to know that he’s poring over fat piles of his own paperwork, stopping merely for curry and beer. He is, don’t forget, up against a Prime Minister who cannot pore over a Post-It. After Boris Johnson – who to paraphrase David Brent is a greased piglet first, an entertainer second and a boss some distance further back – “boring” might be good for us all.

All that said, Glasto’s attraction for a politician is obvious, given the abundance of impressionable youth and those who might not be in total control of their minds during the speeches.

But not a place to pick up the black vote, according to Sir Lenny Henry, who laments an absence of ethnic diversity in crowds at music festivals. “I’m always surprised by the lack of black and brown faces,” he says. “I think, ‘Wow, that’s still very much a dominant culture thing.’”

He’s right, but I’m not sure how you change that. You make a choice whether to attend, no one is being excluded from trying for a ticket and the organisers are definitely striving for greater musical diversity.

Starting out as a festival of British folk and rock, the middleclassisation of Glasto probably began when fans could no longer sneak through holes in the fence and tickets currently cost £300.

But organiser Emily Eavis was concerned the event had lost its edge and in 2008 persuaded her father Michael, the founder, that instead of “yet another white indie band” they should hire Jay-Z.

There was a 100,000 petition against the rapper and disgruntlement from Noel Gallagher but the performance was a triumph, as was Stormzy last time out when the grime star became the first homegrown black headliner.

Yes, the middleclassisation of Glastonbury is almost complete but isn’t that life? Yes, TV has taken over but it allows me to watch from my sofa and not be mown down by a Bugaboo because Marcus and Cassandra are dashing back to their yurt so she can change into her Hunter wellies. I will watch it all this in this year of years and hope to see nothing of Sir Keir, far less that he might contemplate changing his name to Starmzy.


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