I don’t know about you, but when I first read Trainspotting’s darkly comic tales of working class life in Thatcher’s Britain, Iggy Pop and hard drugs, my first thought wasn’t ‘This guy’s clearly a massive Tory’.

And yet, whoever’s responsible for the Scottish Conservatives’ social media output clearly believed the book’s author Irvine Welsh would appreciate them parodying his iconic ‘Choose Life’ monologue.

Delivered by Ewan McGregor as Mark Renton in the 1996 film adaptation, the words soon took on a life of their own.

There was the single ‘Choose Life’ by PF Project, which sampled McGregor’s dialogue and reached number six in November 1997. There was the orange and white ‘Choose Life’ poster that set up home in HMV’s poster section for at least 15 years.

And now there’s a ‘Choose Life’ election ad from the Scottish Conservatives.
On Monday night, they tweeted: “Choose life without the SNP. Vote Scottish Conservative on May 5”. This was accompanied by a parody of the famous poster, with a total of 22 apparent SNP failings listed before the “Choose another future. Choose life without the SNP” payoff.

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There are, of course, plenty of accusations that could justifiably be levelled at the SNP, but some of the choices made in this particular graphic are…curious. Take “Choose flags. Choose more flags”, which coming from Tories is akin to being told your social media output’s been a bit iffy of late by Matt Le Tissier.

And then there’s “Choose Humza”. Not ‘Choose Nicola’, ‘Choose Angus’ or ‘Choose John’. Just “Choose Humza”.

Welsh shared the tweet and added: “Get ****ed you *****”.

What did they think was going to happen? Welsh was going to view the 14,832nd ‘Choose Life’ parody and think ‘That’s original. Well played’? The outspoken writer would see his work bastardised by the Tories and say ‘Well, I might not agree with the sentiment but it’s great to see my work remain influential three decades on’?

This was just the latest example in a long-standing tradition of right-wing politicians being condemned by creative people for misusing their work.
President Ronald Reagan was rebuffed by Bruce Springsteen when he attempted to use ‘Born In The USA’ for his 1984 re-election campaign.

Anyone familiar with Springsteen’s politics will realise how inappropriate a fit this was.

Rather than the bombastic, jingoistic ‘America, F*** Yeah’ song Reagan presumably heard, ‘Born In The USA’ is mournful and condemnatory, lamenting the war in Vietnam and subsequent failure to look after American soldiers upon their return home.

Not everyone reads the lyrics, though, and the song continues to be misinterpreted by listeners who conclude ‘I too was born in the USA, therefore this song is relatable’.

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In terms of misunderstood songs, it’s up there with couples sharing their first dance to the song where Bono admits “We’re one, but we’re not the same” or the one where Sting obsessively stalks a woman who’s just going about her day breathing.

Numerous artists had similar issues with Donald Trump before and during his presidency. In November 2018, journalist Philip Rucker tweeted: “Trump’s rallies are unlike anything else in politics. Currently, Rihanna’s ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ is blaring in Chattanooga as aides toss free Trump T-shirts into the crowd, like a ball game. Everybody’s loving it”.

In response, Rihanna tweeted: “Not for much longer…me nor my people would ever be at or around one of those tragic rallies, so thanks for the heads up Philip!”.

Trump’s propensity for misappropriating music is such that there is a Wikipedia page entitled ‘Musicians who oppose Donald Trump’s use of their music’, featuring 26 artists including Adele, Elton John, Pharrell Williams and Nickelback. When Nickelback are embarrassed to be associated with you, it’s time for some serious soul-searching.

It’s clear to see why politicians would want to appropriate the work of these beloved artists and Nickelback. The common touch of Springsteen and vibrancy of Rihanna are appealing qualities, and by aligning them with their campaigns they hope to project similar traits.

When it’s clear that the artist will call them out on it, however, they’re setting themselves up for public ridicule. At least to the extent that these people are capable of feeling embarrassment.

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Welsh’s tweet amassed nearly 20 times more likes than the Scottish Conservatives’s post received. His response became a news story and provoked widespread mockery of the original.

While it might have appealed to dyed-in-the-wool Tories, it will have done little to attract floating voters ahead of May’s local elections. Many have little love for the SNP, but few will ever want to be on the same side as a Tory in an argument.

Trump eventually lost his re-election campaign and departed to the sound of ‘Gloria’, whose performer Laura Branigan duly condemned his use of her song.

If you’re a Tory, you’ve already got national newspapers, salmon pink polo shirts and the ability to go through life without guilt or consequences. Leave music for the rest of us.

Choose something else.

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