Brian May: “David Cameron stands for a return to the old barbaric ways”

Queen icon and friend of the badgers Brian May on why David Cameron represents privilege – and why our political system is a "disgrace"

Don’t stop him now. Brian May is on a mission to clean up Westminster. The Queen guitarist, animal rights campaigner and renowned astronomer recently launched his Common Decency campaign, which aims to encourage more people to vote and calls for radical political reform. It backs no party, instead throwing its weight behind parliamentary candidates deemed as ‘decent’ (including the Greens’ first MP, Caroline Lucas, LibDem veteran Andrew George and Tory rebels Henry Smith and Tracey Crouch).The 67-year-old says he wants to usher in the end of the two-party political establishment.

What has brought you to the forefront of political activism, via rock ’n’ roll, space and badgers?

The animals led me here. I spent five years lobbying [against the badger cull] in parliament and came to the conclusion we were getting nowhere. In spite of marches, in spite of 300,000 people signing a petition, in spite of a debate inside the Commons. We won the vote and at the time thought, wow, isn’t democracy wonderful? But nothing changed. We were banging our heads against a brick wall and we decided that the only way to get anywhere was to break the wall down.

We have 15 hours in five years to make our voices heard

Was there a crucial tipping point to force you into action?

It has been a growing feeling. There is so much inequality in this country, it all adds up to a very uncompassionate society.

Shaking up the political landscape is quite an ambition – where do we start?

We have 15 hours in five years to make our voices heard. The main thrust of the Common Decency campaign is to get people to vote and to try and get through this terrible feeling that your vote doesn’t matter. It’s not going to change at once but we can take the first steps, not only in government but also in the parliamentary system that enabled the government to rule with such a despotic hand.

PM David Cameron

What defines success come May 8?

Looking at that new collection of MPs and seeing a situation where there will be freedom, where the two-party system will be defunct. If the outcome is another David Cameron-led government, then we’re back in the salt mines. Like many people, anything but that would be good.

Is there any way back for the political structure in Britain?

The first-past-the-post system is a disgrace. It’s been clung on to by the people it benefits, which in itself tells you democracy is not working. We have an electoral system that is manifestly unfair. How can you have one party with £15m of promotion – the Conservatives – and then another at the other end of the scale – the Green Party – with three and sixpence? It’s insane.

Would you ever run for parliament?

I think I can rule that out. I don’t think I’ll ever want to be an MP. I need to be a musician. I need to be an astronomer. There are a lot of aspects of my life but at the moment it’s all about using whatever notoriety or power that I have to open up the doors to make as much of a change as I can towards lessening this dreadful inequality.


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What about the House of Lords? Would you accept a peerage?

I would consider anything. The House of Lords at the moment is not completely beyond repair but it’s a long way from what it should be. If I could be a part of it, then I suppose it’s something I would look at.

I don’t think I’ll ever want to be an MP. I need to be a musician. I need to be an astronomer.

You’ve backed Conservative candidates, yet the Tories have pledged to vote on legalising fox hunting. Isn’t that uncomfortable?

I might sound anti-Tory but I would say I’m very anti-David Cameron. He stands for privilege, for the continuation and acceleration in the difference between the extremely rich and extremely poor. I find that iniquitous and almost beyond belief. It’s very difficult and it’s a fine line we tread. In fact, I’ve got more stick from people on our side than from the other. Most of the animal people are quite shocked I should consider supporting someone such as Henry Smith or Tracey Crouch but they are staunch animal advocates and that’s where Common Decency is coming from. Generally, people who have compassion towards animals have compassion towards human beings as well.

What’s your message to David Cameron on lifting the ban on fox hunting?

It’s beyond belief anyone can find pleasure in torturing an animal to death. This government, they are basically fox hunters. Moreover, they’re proud of it. I regard it as one of our briefs to make sure people know that is what David Cameron stands for, what William Hague stands for, what George Osborne stands for; a return to the old barbaric ways. People who are prepared to ride roughshod over animals are prepared to ride roughshod over humans. They shouldn’t be running our country.