Belfast Telegraph

What makes One Direction beautiful? The fact they actually have something to say

By Jane Graham

A fellow school-run mum told me yesterday she's gone right off One Direction. In fact, she's downright angry with them.

Her daughter is a longtime Niall devotee (mine is a Harry girl, cheered on by me since I saw him in a shirt that was clearly a homage to Dylan circa '66). One Direction may indeed be the only thing I have in common with the woman. But our shared interest appears to have been nixed by an act of effrontery by the modern day mop-tops.

What, I wondered, had the cheerful cheeky chaps done to rouse such animosity? Oh dear, had Harry been off sniffing around mature women again, showing signs of aspiring to find a girlfriend who might know something he doesn't, who can initiate a conversation that isn't about Cheryl rejoining The X Factor, or treat him like a person with a hinterland rather than a balloon with a pop star's face stuck on it? The dirty brute!

It turned out the problem was a recent move of the band to 'exploit' the loyalty of their fans. Who are, of course, 95% teenage girls. I waited to hear tales of overpriced merchandise or inappropriate offers of sexual favours, perhaps a 'Hire Zayn, get Louis free' kind of deal. But no, what irked this mother was One Direction's bullish foray into politics.

The band are encouraging their followers to take a stand against global poverty by emailing George Osborne before next week's budget to ask him to maintain the UK's commitment to devote 0.7% of gross national income to the international development budget.

They also want Osborne to tackle tax avoidance by British companies in the developing world, and are offering free concert tickets to fans who sign up to globalcitizen.org to get an email template if they're not confident about composing their own plea to the chancellor. This is not the point of One Direction, the mum said.

Their function is as providers of unprovocative fluff pop which girls can dance to at school discos, or as cosy visual aids for young ladies keen to maintain a romantic aspect to their mid-puberty fantasies (it might surprise boys to know girl fantasise too; we just like to have a falling in love bit at the start).

I'm paraphrasing a bit, but that's the tenet of what the mum said. And she felt it was unacceptable for Harry and his pals to overplay their hand, to "drag young girls into things they didn't understand" by forcing their political persuasions upon them and bribing them with free concert tickets if they towed the line.

After checking she wasn't the CE of the Taxpayers' Allowance, I asked the woman what it was she most objected to. Was she pro global poverty? She claimed not, but said she wasn't "into" politics (never understood that phrase, it's like saying you're not "into" life) and felt her daughter's trust was being abused.

I didn't tell her that not only are the band into fighting third world poverty, the crazy guerrillas, Harry Styles has been overheard expressing a party political view, stating that he "leans to the left".

Personally, I rejoice at this turn of events. I can't think of a better reason to support your child's inclination to listen to the views of a boy band than the band actually having something to say.

Imagine a generation of teenage girls getting genned up on TB inoculation or female genital mutilation because they checked out the latest missive on their favourite band's website. That's a more effective act than a millionaire singing "Imagine no possessions." Power on, 1D.

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