‘We’re not in 1997’: Keir Starmer brushes off D:Ream song snub

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
-Credit: (Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)


Sir Keir Starmer has brushed off a snub from the Northern Irish pop group behind New Labour’s victory anthem Things Will Only Get Better, saying “we’re not in 1997”.

The Labour leader said his party would find a different song after D:Ream’s founding members Alan Mackenzie and Peter Cunnah said they would deny any request to use their track in the upcoming General Election.

The band expressed regret at letting Tony Blair have permission for his general election victory in 1997, saying they were accused of “having blood on their hands” after the UK got involved with the war in Iraq, adding they would not let their music mix with politics again.

READ MORE: TUV leader sets election priority as ‘reunifying the United Kingdom’

READ MORE: How the first week of General Election canvassing developed across the country

Asked about the group’s stance at Labour’s campaign bus launch in Uxbridge on Saturday, Sir Keir told LBC radio: “Well, look, we’re not in 1997. We’re in 2024. The choice before the country is absolutely stark.

“We’ve had now 14 years of chaos and division. And if the Tories get back in there’s just going to be more of the same. We can turn the page, we can start anew rebuild our country with Labour. And we will have a song for that moment if we’re privileged enough to come in to serve.”

Cunnah and Mackenzie said they were dismayed to hear a protester play their number one hit play through a loudspeaker as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a July 4 election on a wet afternoon in Downing Street.

The pair told LBC their first thought was “not again”.

Speaking from his recording studio at home in Donegal, Cunnah said: “The fact that it’s gone back to a political thing, I find disturbing. I was thinking, can we get on with our lives? But now it’s come back.

“You question, are we just some sort of protest song on a speaker down at the end of a street? It’s like some very odd piece of gravity that you just can’t escape.”

On New Labour’s use of the song in 1997, Cunnah said: “I remember clearly, there was this wonderful sea change, and the nation had this feeling that there was a need for change.

“Everyone was really behind it and giving Labour the benefit of that doubt, but after the war, I became politically homeless.”

Mackenzie, who spoke to LBC from his home in the Midlands, said: “I don’t think politics and music should be linked.

“It’s happened to a lot of other bands as well in America and here because songs get sort of intrinsically linked to something, it can really affect it in a negative way.

“I mean, I’ll be voting to get the Tories out, but I don’t really want the song to be linked to that.”

When asked what they would say if they had been approached by Sir Keir with a request to use a song, Mackenzie told LBC: “There’s no way – our songs and politics, never again.”

“I’ve learned the hard way. No, no, no,” Cunnah agreed.

“This is a change of guard, I don’t see this as an election. It’s just a change of guard, someone handing the baton on.”

The original D:Ream line-up also included now-Professor Brian Cox, but the group split up shortly after New Labour’s victory in 1997.

Cunnah and Mackenzie reunited in 2008 and are preparing for their performance at Glastonbury this summer.

For all the latest news, visit the Belfast Live homepage here and sign up to our daily newsletter here.