- - Tuesday, October 18, 2011

For all their fulminations against pop culture, conservatives can be cheap dates when it comes to celebrities, romantics desperate to be openly loved by a genuine A-lister. They keep pining for commitment from a peaking star, no matter how many times they’re left at the altar.

The right’s latest runaway bride is Adele, the sultry-voiced British singer with the No. 1 single, the No. 2 album and a set of shredded vocal cords.

Adele could have had it all, but the taxman took half. She should be rolling in the deep pool of cash that comes with multi-platinum-selling albums, yet the United Kingdom’s center-right government - led by a coalition of Tories and Liberal Democrats - has kept wide the drain. The last Labor government hiked top income tax rates to 50 percent, which does not sit well with some high-income Britons - especially the new ones.

The feisty female vocalist made sonic waves in London this year after she got the tax bill of “like, 4 million quid” (about $6.3 million) for her freshman album “19.” Adele told Q Magazine, “I was ready to go buy a gun and randomly open fire” and uttered a few choice words about British public services. She said she can’t use the Underground anymore - not because of her celebrity, but because few trains run on time. She called most state-run schools excrement.

Liberal Britons pounced. Music blogger Simon D. tweeted, “God that Adele pop singer is such a moron. Her comments on tax are both ignorant and self-aggrandi[z]ing. I’m pretty sure it’s just her way.” Guardian music writer Rob Fitzpatrick opined that it is “hard to feel much sympathy” for Adele. He argued with her and predicted Adele’s complaints would not resonate with fans. “It’s … upsetting,” he said, “to hear this musician I admire seems as greedy as the most moat-friendly, port-stained Tory grandee.”

Tories came to Adele’s defense. James Delingpole praised her directly in the conservative Telegraph for “your openness, fearlessness, and integrity.” He predicted she would face a rough time in the music business because she had forgone the usual rock-star antics, including drugs and “Satan-worship,” in favor of that “one perversion that remains absolutely verboten”: conservatism.

Rock stars are allowed to live large, with mansions and private jets and the like, said Mr. Delingpole, but they are supposed to pose as “champions of the underdog.” The one thing that fans and critics “absolutely won’t forgive is any sign that they’ve abandoned their socialist principles. That would be ‘selling out.’ “

Mr. Delingpole’s reaction is typical of those of many conservatives when they detect the slightest deviation from liberal orthodoxy among actors, musicians and celebrities. They want to baptize them as conservatives, and quickly. Sometimes that works out swimmingly (see: Reagan, Ronald), but this rush to convert often ends badly.

Over the summer, conservative websites seized on comments of an old flunky of John Lennon’s to the effect that the patron saint of leftish utopians died a closet conservative. Now, Lennon was idiosyncratic, but really? His contributions to the Beatles’ great protest song “Taxman” (“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street/If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat/If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat/If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet) were cosmetic only (shots at British politicians “Mister Wilson” and “Mister Heath”) and rendered almost under duress. You could argue that, had he lived another 20 years, Lennon would have drifted rightward. Many of us will find that rather hard to imagine.

Other celebrities whom conservatives have courted include Kevin Costner, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Britney Spears. Mr. Costner rejected the label and starred in a Robin Hood flick so bad that Mel Brooks insisted on the right of rebuttal. Mr. Schwarzenegger was elected as the surprise Republican governor of California. He introduced a grotesque festival to that state: the running of the RINOs. Miss Spears was the poster girl for some time for the True Love Waits crowd. She also gave us the perfect song to describe conservative flirtations with Hollywood: “Hit Me Baby One More Time.”

Back to Adele: It quickly became clear that her comments in Q Magazine were nothing more than the mouthing off of a typical British taxpayer, grumbling about getting socked with a higher rate. Just days after her griping appeared in print, she hurried out a press release proffering reassurance that she was “a Labour girl through and through.”

What part of “Thanks, but I’ll take a cab home” don’t conservatives understand?

Adele’s anti-tax response was spirited but not passionate by her melodramatic standards. In one of her hit songs, speaking as the spurned lover, Adele booms to her ex, “See how I’ll leave with every piece of you/Don’t underestimate the things that I will do.” It’s an absolutely terrifying line - one that the Beatles might have assigned to the taxman himself.

• Jeremy Lott is editor of Real Clear Books and author, most recently, of “William F. Buckley” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).