Jeremy Corbyn’s endorsement by UB40 has experienced a slight hiccup after the rival incarnation of the multimillion-selling band – who also call themselves UB40 – declined to back him as Labour leader.
The decision of one half of the original reggae pop group to publicly support Corbyn in the leadership campaign attracted some mockery because of the parallels between the band’s bitter split and the divisions currently gripping the Labour party.
On Tuesday, Corbyn appeared in London with the UB40 led by Robin Campbell, the guitarist and singer from the original Birmingham band which enjoyed dozens of chart hits during the 1980s and 90s, including three UK No 1 singles.
At a press conference at the Royal Society of Arts in London, Campbell said: “We support Jeremy Corbyn because he is the only one willing to speak up for working people, who have been badly treated by successive governments, including New Labour, in recent decades.
“He is the only leader offering something different to business as usual. Westminster needs big change, and Jeremy is the man to do it.”
However, in a microcosm of Corbyn not reflecting all views within Labour, it transpired that this statement did not speak for every version of UB40.
The other band is fronted by Ali Campbell, Robin’s younger brother and the original group’s lead singer, and features other original members Mickey Virtue and Terence “Astro” Wilson. Asked whether they shared the other UB40’s views on Corbyn, the group declined to endorse him.
“Ali, Astro and Mickey have always been great supporters of the Labour party, and they look forward to the new leader taking the Labour party back into government at the earliest opportunity,” the band said in a statement released through their PR company, which said it was the only comment the band wanted to make at this time.A pro-Corbyn Labour source insisted they were unworried by the 50% endorsement. “We have the backing of the more popular and successful UB40,” they said. “Proof that splitters don’t prosper.”
One consolation for Corbyn is that “his” UB40 are arguably the official band. The other group go by the full name of “UB40 featuring Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue”, although they do occupy the UB40.org website.
At the press conference Corbyn said it was an “incredible endorsement” from the band. “You have brought together people of all cultures and backgrounds, and too many of our young people live in poverty, half our children live in poverty, and it’s not right,” he said.
Asked what politicians could learn from bands, Corbyn said it was “teamwork, coming together, supporting each other, being creative together, working together. That’s what bands do. Until they fall out.”
After laughs in the audience, the Labour leader joked: “No band ever fell out. I think we can learn a lot from that determination to say, this is my music, this is me, this is what I want to do, I’m going to put it out there, I hope you like it.”
The dual UB40s situation dates to 2008, when Ali Campbell left the group. Depending on whom you talk to, this was either to forge a solo career or because of disagreements over business dealings with the band. Adding to the familial strife, the middle Campbell brother, Duncan, was drafted into the “continuity” UB40 to take over from him on lead vocals.
In a 2014 interview, Ali Campbell 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 Campbell said he had 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”.