Things Can Only Get Better: The story behind D:Ream’s song that drowned out Sunak’s election speech

As prime minister Rishi Sunak stood outside Number 10 in the pouring rain and announced that a general election would take place on 4 July, a familiar tune rang out.

The song was “Things Can Only Get Better” by Northern Irish band D:Ream, known to many from former Labour leader Tony Blair’s 1996 general election campaign, which soundtracked his road to victory in the 1 May 1997 contest.

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray, who has been protesting outside Westminster for the past five years, was behind the stunt on Wednesday (22 May), and said he had chosen the tune because it was “the top trolling song for the Conservatives”.

“I thought about what would be the best trolling tune if [Sunak] announced the election,” he told the PA news agency. “And of course, it had to be ‘Things Can Only Get Better’. Because everybody can relate to that and the 1997 election.”

Who sings Things Can Only Get Better?

Northern Irish band D:Ream, featuring lead members Peter Cunnah and Al Mackenzie along with live musician Brian Cox (now known as a science broadcaster) released the song in 1993.

It had taken a year to finesse, with producer Tom Frederikse building the sound with choirs until “it sounded like a stadium full of people singing,” Cunnah recalled in a 2017 interview withThe Guardian.


“Things Can Only Get Better” initially peaked at No 24 in the UK charts, but hit No 1 after the group toured with Take That the following year.

The band split after Cunnah and Mackenzie fell out over which direction they were taking (Cunnah wanted to go more pop). They have since reunited and are set to perform on the Glade stage at Glastonbury Festival this year.

Why did Labour pick the song for their 1997 campaign and how did they use it?

Tony Blair in Labour’s 1997 general election campaign video (YouTube)
Tony Blair in Labour’s 1997 general election campaign video (YouTube)

Labour wanted to show the public that the party under Blair was dynamic and relevant, therefore ditched 1889 song “The Red Flag”, the campaign song of choice for Labour leaders of the past.

They reached out to the former members of D:Ream and asked for permission to use the song.

Cunnah, who agreed, ended up singing the song live at several rallies. It was also used in a political broadcast that showed voters heading to the ballot box on a sunny day, led by a mysterious man in a pale blue shirt, who is revealed at the end to be Blair himself.

What did D:Ream say about it?

Tony Blair with wife Cherie after Labour’s 1997 landslide general election victory (PA Archive)
Tony Blair with wife Cherie after Labour’s 1997 landslide general election victory (PA Archive)

“After 18 years of Tory government, the song captured the prevailing wind of change and got back into the Top 20,” Cunnah said. “I sang it at two or three rallies – to politicians who couldn’t dance.

“When Labour won, I got a bearhug from Alistair Campbell. It hurt – he’s a big man. I met Tony Blair several times. He plays guitar and loved the song. He was always asking me what the chords were.”

Mackenzie said he only learnt that Labour were using it when he saw their election broadcast on TV.

“It felt surreal,” he told The Guardian. “I wasn’t interested in Labour or Conservative and I wasn’t a fan of Tony Blair. After we split, hearing the song made me feel melancholy, because one night after a few drinks Peter had told me he wrote the second verse – ‘I’m too weak to fight you’ – about me.”

After the song was heard during Sunak’s rain-soaked Downing Street speech, a Liberal Democrat source mocked: “Things can only get wetter.”

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