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Highland Letter: Politics Without The Celebrities

Star Wars – I'll Have My Politics Without The Celebrities Thanks

Harry Potter has yet to graduate from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, yet he may be about to make his political debut.

According to recent media reports, the author of the hugely successful children's book and Harry's creator, Joanne (J.K.) Rowling, is mulling over whether to enter the political fray.

Ms Rowling is a single-mother and combined with her high profile she has enough influence to win the UK general election for whichever party she may choose to bestow her blessing upon.

At least, that's the theory.

Labour is positively salivating over the prospect that this A-list celebrity could champion some of their policies, able to reach key voters where Labour Ministers now fear to tread.

With the general election maybe months away media coverage is building but for most sane people it takes more than Gordon Brown outlining his five economic principles to stir the political animal within.

Enter celebrity endorsement stage right.

Celebrity endorsements are a bemusing reflection of the political age we live in.

They add a touch of sparkle to a profession that despite being theatrical in nature lacks any glamour of its own.

It also makes for better TV.

But still, it is insulting to our intelligence.

It's one thing for a celebrity to endorse what they know (my kitchen is filled with Delia Smith approved products, which at least allows me to pretend that I am a domestic goddess) but to place your faith in a celebrity-endorsed politician, that's quite another matter.

General Elections here, as in New Zealand, are becoming more presidential in style.

Americans place great emphasis on endorsements and nobody has a better claim on celebrities than the Democrats.

A number of B-list actors and performers turned up to the Republican convention last year, Bo Derek was as good as it got, but the Democratic convention, appropriately held in L.A, resembled the Academy Awards.

Al Gore seemed to have all of Hollywood advising, fund-raising and campaigning for him but it is difficult to gauge what difference their presence made.

I am unaware of any exit polls which ask "And upon which celebrity endorsement did you make your election decision today?"

Any General Election media coverage in Britain will never reach the fever pitch scenes that a recent Highland wedding caused.

A near frenzy followed the news that Michael Portillo, the Shadow Chancellor, had been invited to Madonna's wedding, amid speculation that the suddenly very hip and cutting edge Conservative MP may be able to wangle a few words of praise for the Tory Party from the new Mrs Ritchie - maybe sometime after the nuptials but before the cutting of the cake.

Of course the ultimate public relations coup is the celebrity candidate.

Frank Bruno, former boxer and now pantomime regular, has declared an interest in contesting a Conservative seat at the general election – never mind that there is already a sitting Conservative MP.

Not one to be deterred Frank even has his own slogan: "Don’t be a Plank, Vote for Frank" – proving that if his political career fails he may just have the flair necessary for the advertising industry.

Such eloquence does not rival that of comedian Kenny Everett who in 1983, while attending a campaign rally alongside Margaret Thatcher, declared that Britain should 'bomb Russia.'

This is what can happen when celebrities turn bad.

With a recent row over the failure of the Labour Party to declare the names of several £2m donations, it was Labour MP, actress Glenda Jackson who captured the headlines by criticising Tony Blair over his apparent hypocrisy.

On this occasion the donors were celebrities of sorts, so Labour, not content with filling the coffers also want to corner the market on celebrity donations but were left choking on their own star power.

While money may be the mothers' milk of politics the celebrity endorsement is the star of the show.

In Scotland we have few politically active celebrities, the singer Lulu has been known to wave the Scottish Tory flag but most celebrities are drawn to the politics of Westminster.

Sir Sean Connery is a rare exception.

He is a committed advocate of an Independent Scotland and has actively campaigned for the Scottish Nationalist Party, guaranteeing prime media coverage for the party.

He also resides in the Bahamas. Oh, and Spain.

A celebrity may help politicians sell their story but they are rarely affected by political decisions in the way you or I are.

So forgive me if I fail to get caught up in the politics of celebrity endorsements but I think that we have enough distractions in the political circus already.

I'm more than happy for Ms Rowling to recommend a good book for me to read but that's all I would want her to endorse.

Belinda McCammon can be contacted at belinda.mccammon@scottishtories.org.uk

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