It can be tough for backbench MPs to get attention for their political campaigns. Political journalists beset with news about internal cabinet warfare and global political disintegration, are not always easily grabbed by the latest press release about trading standards or plastic bag charges.
Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh had similar struggles getting attention for her “National Living Rage” campaign.
Designed to expose companies who have cut workers’ pay packages in response to the government’s new higher minimum wage, McDonagh says the press were unwilling to cover the issue. So she decided to try something different. She decided to create a viral Christmas video.
As she explained at the launch of the video in Parliament last night.
“It all began as it does for many people here who are MPs and are completely dedicated to their constituents, with somebody who came to my advice surgery,” she said.
“He works for B&Q and he earns £17,500 a year and he has two children and rents his home. He came to see me and he said ‘Siobhain I think my money is going to be cut because of the national living wage’ and what we discovered was that he was about to lose £2,600 a year because they were going to cut his Sunday time and his winter and summer bonus…
“So we got a bit desperate as it got closer to Christmas and fewer and fewer people wanted to cover the story of the people I am talking about. So we thought and everybody in my office leaves in fear of this simple phrase ‘I’ve got a good idea’ and we thought we would do a song.”
And so she did. With the help of production company Silver Fish and the permission of Bob Geldof, McDonagh and a group of other Labour MPs, including Dan Jarvis and Angela Rayner, recorded a new version of “Do they know it’s Christmas?”
The result is, without wanting to be mean to all those involved, quite awful.
With lyrics including “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all? B&Q, Tesco and Waitrose” (I’m pretty sure they do) and some rather unfortunate subtitles, the overall effect is at times painful to watch.
As Blur drummer and Labour party activist Dave Rowntree said after hearing it last night: “I’ve been asked to say a few words about the musical content.
“All I can say is Parliament needs you.”
And as even Conor D’Arcy of the Resolution Foundation, who introduced the screening last night, admitted:
“I had a quick look at the video for the song and it is interesting this year when there have been so many controversies, one of them was with Bob Dylan winning a Nobel prize, and the question of whether song lyrics can really be literature and I think those who said it probably can’t be will be supported by the lyrics of this song. There’s no need to worry about a call from the Nobel committee.”
He is not exaggerating. You can watch the full, painfully bad video below:
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