Band on the Run: Is this the end of MP4?
With two members facing tough re-election battles, the future of MP4 is in the balance. James Millar meets the band
From pop muppets Hear’say to global heartthrobs One Direction we are very used to bands put together by popular vote. But it’s the X Factor in reverse for the world’s only parliamentary rock band – the people could vote them out of existence at the General Election.
MP4 are a Westminster institution. The line-up consists of Labour’s Kevin Brennan as frontman, Tory Sir Greg Knight on drums, former Runrig keyboard player turned SNP MP Pete Wishart and Ian Cawsey, a Labour MP until 2010. When Cawsey lost his seat the band pondered holding The Voice style auditions to replace him but decided instead to keep him on.
But with Brennan and Wishart facing tricky election battles MP4 could be reduced to a one-man band on June 9.
Wishart wistfully asks: “Can we sustain further losses and still be MP4 with any credibility?”
Kevin Brennan jokes: “It’s the question the nation should consider before going to the polls – what will become of MP4? The future of the band is in the balance, but I’m not sure whether that’s a negative or a positive on the doorstep!”
The three musos fighting this election encapsulate the various party contests around the country.
In Brennan’s Welsh seat Labour are under pressure from the Tories. He tells The House: “We’re in a difficult election. But there’s lots of evidence that people vote in a more sophisticated way and assess election by election. I’m making sure I campaign as hard as I can as people’s local candidate.”
In Wishart’s Perth and North Perthshire constituency as across most of Scotland now it’s a fierce face-off between SNP and Conservative. Wishart says: “Mine is one of the Tories top target seats, but it always has been and we’ve prevailed in tougher times than this. I’m taking the threat very seriously and I’ll try and win every single vote.”
Bandmate Sir Greg Knight will likely have a more relaxing few weeks ahead. He saw Ukip come just a few votes short of second place when he won East Yorkshire with a 15,000 majority in 2015 but that’s unlikely to be repeated.
He says: “You never take anything or anyone for granted but it’s sounding and looking very good. I’ve had three known Ukip people phone my office to say they are voting for me because they want to see Brexit delivered. I would expect the Ukip vote to go down and come to me.”
Sir Greg admits he has a “dilemma”. Fond of his bandmates he can’t be seen to endorse anyone other than the Conservative candidates standing against them. However he’s come up with a solution should the worst happen.
He smiles: “It would make life more difficult if Kevin and Pete were to lose just in terms of rehearsing and the like but I hope we will keep the band together.
“There was a popular group called The Police and none of them were policemen so I hope we can keep the name MP4. Alternatively, in the 60’s there was a band called Unit 4 + 2 who had a hit with Concrete and Clay. I wonder if we could become MP1 + 3.
“I certainly can’t see me going solo.”
His colleagues will be pleased to hear that. Like all proper bands the drummer is the butt of his fellow musicians’ jokes. Pondering the prospect of Sir Greg becoming the only member of MP4 Pete Wishart says: “God help the people that would have to listen to his drum solos then!” while Kevin Brennan jokes: “I don’t know how you can have a band without any musicians in it.”
Despite their political differences the members of MP4 are clearly good friends. Their gigs around Westminster have raised thousands of pounds for charity and they’ve recently gained more exposure as the house band on Matt Forde’s Unspun TV show.
Now it’s up to the electorate next month if the band get back together or if they’ve played their final encore.