By Ray Fleming

THERE have always been close links in the United States between the Democratic party and Hollywood and show business. The Republicans, too, use these connections whenever they can and are able, of course, to boast that they are the only party to have had a professional actor as president. I doubt, however, whether anything quite like the initiative announced yesterday by Bruce Springsteen has been seen before. In an article in The New York Times Springsteen annnounced that in October he would be touring the United States with several like-minded artists to support John Kerry and the Democrats. The Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks, Jurassic 5, James Taylor and Jackson Browne will appear under the umbrella of a new group called Vote for Change. “Our goal,” writes Mr Springsteen, “is to change the direction of the government and change the current administration come November.” The association of a prominent sportsman or woman or a show business personality with a political party can be a two edged-weapon and for this reason it has been used sparingly in Britain. Assuming, say, that the Rolling Stones favour the Conservatives or Labour, would it benefit either party if they were to run a series of concerts in support? Probably not. On the other hand, Bruce Springsteen may be a special case. His loyalty to his blue-collar roots has often been present in his music and for 30 years he has been the authentic rock hero of the working classes. Hitherto he has steered clear of political entanglements despite approaches from both parties. What has changed his mind? “Our American government has strayed too far from American values,” he says, “The country we carry in our heart is waiting.”

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