Bono to address Labour party conference in Brighton on September 29
BONO, the lead singer of the rock band U2 and a prominent campaigner on Third World debt relief, is to address the Labour party conference in Brighton next week.
The Dublin-based star, whose real name is Paul Hewson, recently gave Tony Blair an electric guitar as a present.
Both Blair and Gordon Brown, the chancellor, are likely to be on the platform to listen when Bono takes the stage on September 29.
Brown has championed reduction of Third World debt and increased the budget of the Department for International Development in his July spending review.
Another speaker at the conference will be Ken Livingstone, the London mayor and former Labour MP who was expelled by the party for opposing Labour’s mayoral candidate in 2000. He was readmitted earlier this year.
Livingstone is expected to share a platform with Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, to promote London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics.
But Blair and Brown are likely to be far more welcoming to Bono, 44, who has recently spoken at both Democrat and Republican conventions in America.
The prime minister used his conference speech three years ago to call on the world to address the problem of Africa, which he said was a scar on the world’s conscience.
Bono said last week: “The year 2005 is our chance to go down in history for what we did do, rather than what we didn’t. This campaign (to eradicate global poverty) is critical and is coming to a stadium and pulpit near you.”
He has joined forces with a powerful group of charities, non-governmental organisations and unions who are pressing Blair to do more to tackle world poverty.
One Labour source said: “He will add a bit of rock-star glamour to proceedings and we will again be assured of some decent coverage for what is a very serious issue.”
The government has set up a Commission for Africa to take a fresh look at the issues that have made it the only continent where poverty has worsened in the past 25 years.
Blair has promised Sir Bob Geldof, another rock star who has become a debt relief campaigner, that he will make the issue of Africa a key part of discussions when Britain hosts the G8 summit of leading industrial nations next year.
Geldof has attacked Blair’s commitment to the Third World as “guff and grandiose” and condemned Britain’s “pathetic” contributions relief. Since Brown’s spending review, however, Geldof is understood to have softened his position.
Blair had originally wanted Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi prime minister, to address the conference as the major overseas speaker. Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton have both played this role in the past.
The Labour leader wanted to signal that what he has done in Iraq has been for the good of the Iraqi people and that the country it is in a far better state than it was when Saddam Hussein was in charge.
However the plan was shelved following protests from backbench MPs and anti-war activists.