Watch and read the transcript of this Kirsty Wark interview with George Michael aired on February 25, 2003. George talked of his political beliefs, his stand on the Iraq War, and why he wrote the song “Shoot the Dog.”
KW: George Michael hasn’t been one to shy away from politics. But his controversial single ‘Shoot the Dog’, a less than subtle swipe at Tony Blair and George Bush, provoked outrage in America and raised eyebrows here.
KW: So how have your politics changed over the years? You came to power as it were Mrs. Thatcher, the height of Mrs. Thatcher’s power.
GM: Until I was .. until I was 30, early 30s … Until I was early 30s, I’ve never paid a penny that hadn’t gotten to the Tory government, you know. So … so I was … I was well and truly used to the idea that I didn’t like where my money was going.
KW: And did you held to any better than you done?
GM: I did yeah I was one of those Falls that self at night with a tear in my eye thinking, ‘My God, things could change!”
KW: Had he feted you, because he feted quite a lot of artists?
GM: Yes, I mean I’d spoken to him. I’d gone to his house in Islington before he was elected. And a very, very nice, pleasant, decent man.
KW: So what did he want from you in Islington? Support?
GM: Well, just support. And I had said I wasn’t gonna go to that whole Britannia thing. I, you know I’m a little, little smarter than that … little longer in the tooth than that. I just knew that that was going to be a bit of a joke so I stayed away from that and said, “Oh, if he wants my support I’ll see him personally.” And it was very nice, very nice man. I hate the fact that I’ve had to slag him off so much, but I just hate what he’s doing.
KW: But do you still support him?
GM: I can’t. I’d love to, because I think his .. his … I actually think that public spending is a good thing in the areas that they’re there, whether they’re creating a few false jobs along the way or not. I do actually think that the public spending and the money that is going towards the attempts at least that are being made in various areas have been quite successful. So it breaks my heart to have to criticize their leader.
KW: But you became very overtly political around the Iraq war. Do you think that was wise? I mean some people called you naïve about that and there was a fact …
GM: I think what was naive about it was the timing. I thought all I genuinely believed people were more concerned than they were already. You see .. you know you can really … that’s the thing about being a politician. isn’t it? You have to understand timing. And there are two things that I understood after that: one was, if you are one of the earliest messengers of doom, people can react the wrong way. Whereas if you try and take that message at the exact time that people will listen to it, you know, I think I really was a little …
I wrote a song in the year 2000 about the fact that I thought it was very uncomfortable that our leader was so friendly with a born-again Christian at a moment where fundamentalism was the most dangerous thing on the planet. And it really was that I had no idea what was gonna happen; I had no idea Tony Blair would make me look so astute, you know, over the next five years.
But I really did something that I think was initially meant to make no impression at all outside of my fans because it was just talking about a possibility. That was the thing, and actually on the last day of recording ‘Shoot the Dog’ the planes hit the towers! It was just so ridiculous! I just thought then, suddenly thought, “My God! Well obviously this can’t come out now, you know.” It would be too offensive.
But then a year later when there was still some question about whether or not Tony would go ahead, I thought I had to go for it. I had to do something because I was just too really .. I was just eaten up with guilt that I had an opportunity to speak out and I wasn’t taking it, you know.
KW: So you’ve been to their house for dinner and then you have this cartoon which shows Cherie saying, “Are you horny tonight, Tony?”
GM: Well it says, “Tony Tony Tony I know that you’re horny / but there’s something about that Bush ain’t right” which is a bit naughty really. But you know I try. I did actually understand the concept that people would be scared to talk about it in some ways which is why I used humor, you know, and the idea that I, it was … I really didn’t create anything very, very controversial. I think it was absolutely necessary to make it look very controversial in order to shut other people up.
KW: You must have known of course that it would down a label in America.
GM: I knew it but I … uh I was naïve. I just thought there were more people with their eyes open than there were. And of course now, now the vast majority people have their eyes open, but you know I don’t think I’ll be doing that again in a hurry. For the simple reason that you have to be the right man for the job, you know. You don’t … you have to not be somebody that your average male journalist wants to jump up and down on from a great height, you know.
KW: What do you think now though that the draft constitution seems to have had the acceptance of a reasonable number of Iraqis.
GM: I don’t doubt for a moment that the vast majority of Iraqis want this thing to work. Whether or not it will I think is another question entirely. And I think that they are absolutely … they’re locked in to a dreadful, dreadful situation and it will be constantly a matter of trying to keep civil war at bay. And I think as long as that’s going on.
I’m just I’m just horrified by speeches that totally ignore the amount of Iraqi loss and talk about terrorists as though somehow there is a massive difference between blowing somebody up from a car 20 yards from them and dropping a bomb on them from a great height. You know I …
KW: It’s motive, isn’t it?
GM: it’s well the real difference is that one is an elected party and one is not, you know. But ultimately terrorism just breeds terrorism – death. I mean that every time they kill an Iraqi civilian or soldier they create a family who at least one member of will probably be prepared to die to avenge that that that death, you know.
KW: What did you think when the London bombings happened then?
GM: Well I thought again I think … I think very cleverly the media tried to downplay what was actually being said. You know, that very disturbing message from, you know, the guy with a northern accent, the one that was sent back you know the tape about the bombings. What he was really trying to say but unfortunately the rhetoric of it was a little, you know, dignified. But really what he was trying to say was that we had been spared the bombing until the point that we voted Tony back in again.
KW: Okay but you don’t demand … there’s no justification for that?
GM: No! Absolutely no justification whatsoever. What I’m saying is I think killing is killing is threat. It’s you know an absolute sin and outside of very, very definite situations I think what we did in Iraq was absolutely terrible. I think I do not agree …I don’t have any sympathy with anyone who decides to strap explosives to themselves and kill hope to strangers. No, it’s a horrific dreadful crime! But the … to me, the obvious human dynamic is that the longer this war or quite rather this you know insurgency goes on in Iraq the more bombs the more suicide bombers you know every day that part is you create new terrorists and I don’t see how that situation goes away, really.
- BBC Hardtalk Interview with George Michael (2003)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- World Exclusive Interview: George Michael (Mirror, 2002)
- George Michael in Q Magazine Interview (October 1990)
- George Michael on Beating Drugs, Depression and His Outing in LA (GQ Magazine, 2004)