You Only Get What You Give, David? Really?

Why the rubbish music played at party conferences matters.

"Dealers keep dealin', thieves keep thievin', whores keep whorin', junkies keep scorin'." Not exactly the musical accompaniment you'd expect Home Secretary Theresa May to choose to soundtrack her speech at the Conservative Party Conference.

And it wasn't.

As much as Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie, allegedly a card-carrying member of the Socialist Workers Party, might want to give the Tories a kicking, it was actually Dandy Warhols' Bohemian Like You that sounded out as May left the stage.

That isn't really any better, however. The song featured on a Vodafone TV advert for years, and I'm pretty sure the Tories wouldn't want to remind everyone about the £6billion-tax-bill-sized ball they dropped with that one.

David Cameron didn't exactly lead by example either, walking on to the sounds of You Get What You Give by The New Radicals.

If our ruddy-faced premier had anything to do with the song choice at all -- and let's hope he spent all available time perfecting his speech rather than poring over his iPod -- it suggests no more than a cursory glance at the tracklisting of whichever Now That's What I Call Music compilation that particular chart-bothering one-hit wonder came from.

"You get what you give? I like the sound of that idea, Samantha, it's like my Big Society. And the band are called The New Radicals. How jolly! That's what they used to call Boris and me when we were at Eton."

If Call Me Dave had delved deeper into the lyrical content of the song, of course, he would have discovered lines about "trashing Mercedes-Benz" and chasing the rich back to their mansions, plus an honourable, topical mention for lying "big bankers buying".

His exit music, meanwhile, was The Lovecats by The Cure which, on the surface seems rather lovely with its melodic double bass and kooky piano-led chorus, but it's all too easy to imagine Cameron and his cabinet "slipping through the streets while everyone sleeps, getting bigger and sleeker and wider and brighter". The slippery buggers.

Ed Miliband is no better. Choosing Florence + The Machine's cover of You Got The Love is as lame a grab for the zeitgeist as there ever was. I'm actually surprised, given the ubiquity of Flo's appearances at UK festivals over the past couple of years, that she didn't float out onto the stage and demand to perform it as a duet.

Now, I may have been giving the music used at the various party conferences too much thought lately, but that's only because I wish the parties cared as much. I'm not stupid; with 80,000 more unemployed people on the streets in the last six months and Mervyn King warning of the most serious financial crisis in decades, I realise there are more important things to fret about than which Killers song to play as the PM takes the lectern.

But I think it does point at something far more worrying - that they Just. Don't. Get. It. On any level. Politicians have long battled to appear connected with the voters, and an easy way of doing this is with shared cultural influences. Gordon Brown saying he loved Arctic Monkeys in 2006 was a pathetic, last-ditch attempt of grabbing some young voters. And he got found out, which is even more embarrassing than lying in the first place, although perhaps not quite as desperate-looking as Mr Tony Blair carrying his Fender Stratocaster everywhere with him. He was in a band at uni, you know...

David Cameron learned nothing from the Brown debacle and keeps on insisting he's a fan of The Smiths. Music is in the public domain once it's released, and no matter how much Johnny Marr forbids Dave from listening to The Queen Is Dead, he can't stop him.

Cameron, however, should know better than to endorse a band born during Thatcher's formative years. How can he seriously enjoy songs such as Miserable Lie, I Don't Owe You Anything and Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now? And an album title that rejoices in the fact his boss has carked it.

Dismiss the Tories' musical faux pas as unimportant if you will, but for me, their lack of research into the matter is symptomatic of a government not only obsessed with the superficial, but worryingly slack with the details too.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood