Red red win: UB40 incarnation endorses Jeremy Corbyn

UB40 lineup featuring Robin Campbell – the older brother of original lead vocalist Ali Campbell – comes out in favour of Labour leader

The good news for Jeremy Corbyn is that he has gained the endorsement of a hugely successful band with 70m record sales to their name. The less good news: this is a band with a history of brutal infighting that puts even Labour’s recent tumultuous months in the shade.

The band in question is UB40, the Birmingham-formed reggae superstars who enjoyed dozens of chart hits during the 1980s and 90s, among them three UK number ones. More specifically it is one incarnation of UB40 – the version led by guitarist and vocalist Robin Campbell, and featuring the majority of the original lineup. There is, however, another band of the same name, headed by Ali Campbell – Robin’s younger brother and the original lead vocalist – which also features two founding members.

The band, whose best-known hit was Red, Red Wine, have offered to share a stage with the Labour leader at a press conference in London.

The dual UB40s confusion dates back to 2008, when Ali left the group. Depending on who you talk to, this was either to forge a solo career, or due to disagreements over business dealings with the band. Adding to the familial strife, middle brother Duncan was drafted into the “continuity” UB40 to take over from him on lead vocals.

In the 2014 interview, Ali said he felt betrayed by the “acrimonious” split and his replacement by his brother. “If you went to see the Rolling Stones and Derek Jagger turned up instead of Mick, you’d feel a bit peeved,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to Duncan or Robin for six years now. It has torn the family apart.”

Ali said he formed his own version of UB40 because the remaining band – “the ‘dark side’ as I call them” – were “destroying the legacy of my band, playing smaller and smaller venues”. Inevitably, there was a court battle, and the newer version now ply their trade as “UB40 featuring Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue”, the three longstanding members.

The band’s website says: “We would not want anyone to confuse Ali, Astro and Mickey’s band with the band that carried on using the name UB40 after 2008 made up of other founding members and new members they tried to replace us with in their attempt to trade off the reflected glory of the success of the original lineup.”

Amid all this, it’s less of a surprise that at least half of UB40 have endorsed Corbyn. The band were always seen as left-leaning, taking their name from a document filled in by unemployed people at the time, and released a series of political songs, such as One in Ten, which was about joblessness.

In a statement, the band said: “Jeremy has reignited an interest in politics for people who no longer felt included, and engaged and inspired a new generation of young voters who, for the first time, believe that they have an incorruptible politician who truly represents them. For these reasons, he has our full support as leader of a genuine, believable Labour party.”

The Labour leader welcomed the news. “I am delighted to receive the endorsement of UB40, one of the most successful British reggae acts of all time,” Corbyn said. “UB40’s story was and remains inspiring; people from across cultures and backgrounds coming together and combining their talents – in a time when prejudice was more prevalent – and creativity to produce music that has endured across decades.

“The arts are of central importance to our economy, and will be one of the key priorities for the next Labour government. For every pound invested in the arts, £1.06 is generated for the economy. This is why, as part of my plan to rebuild and transform Britain, I have pledged to increase funding to the arts to reach the European average, so that no one and no community is left behind.”

Contributor

Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jeremy Corbyn fails to win backing of other UB40
Split between bands over Labour leadership reflects divisions within party

Jessica Elgot and Peter Walker

06, Sep, 2016 @6:00 PM

Article image
Jeremy Corbyn and UB40: dullest ever music Q&A hits bum note
Time and truth stretch at Labour leadership love-in where Corbyn salutes ‘one of the most successful acts of all time’

John Crace

06, Sep, 2016 @6:47 PM

Article image
Has Corbyn been endorsed by the right half of UB40?
The famously divided band have offered to share a stage with the Labour leader at a press conference in London – and the irony has not been lost on anyone

06, Sep, 2016 @1:45 PM

Article image
Jeremy Corbyn plans academies to train Labour activists
Labour leader set out plan as rival Owen Smith called him ‘delusional’ over party’s chances of 2020 victory

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

13, Sep, 2016 @6:57 PM

Article image
Can Momentum survive after Jeremy Corbyn stands down?
As part of our Inside Labour series, we look at how the grassroots movement will fare after party’s disastrous election defeat

Kate Proctor Political correspondent

23, Jan, 2020 @6:00 AM

Article image
Unison endorses Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leadership
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis says Corbyn’s message is resonating with union’s 1.3 million members working in public services

Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent

29, Jul, 2015 @3:20 PM

Article image
Angela Eagle is an early favourite to challenge Jeremy Corbyn
The experienced former shadow business secretary is increasingly seen as the person to unify the Labour party in the event of a leadership race

Jessica Elgot

28, Jun, 2016 @6:13 PM

Article image
Jeremy Corbyn earns geordie acclaim at debate against Owen Smith
Labour party leadership candidates clash in Gateshead over European referendum and plans for the future

Frances Perraudin

11, Aug, 2016 @9:30 PM

Article image
Tom Watson to meet unions to discuss Jeremy Corbyn leadership standoff
Corbyn defends leadership record as challenge from Angela Eagle looms and 65th member of frontbench resigns

Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot

04, Jul, 2016 @8:20 PM

Article image
Jeremy Corbyn calls for all-female shortlists to create equal Commons
Placing women’s issues at the heart of his leadership campaign, leader also commits to regular gender audit of Labour policies

Caroline Davies

31, Aug, 2016 @7:03 PM