Fame for politics: Why do celebrities stand for election?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

 

Less than a month to go. Broadcasts, posters, flyers, news reports, articles, tweets; reminders that the country is going to the polls are everywhere, down your streets, on your screens, in your homes. Yet, the people who usually make a career out of much more enjoyable and much less in-your-face forms of entertainment, are breaching that fourth wall and stepping right through it. Whether Martin Freeman is talking down your telescreen advocating that you vote for Labour, or Al Murray the Pub Landlord is bartering with the public to vote for him instead of Nigel Farage, there is a single message being spouted from all fronts that runs through the core of this election: vote for an alternative.

 

Despite this being the message behind various social movements and protests for a few years now, it seems to be being capitalised on by outsider parties, and now individual celebrities. Among previously successful celebrities-turned-politicos are Oscar winning former actress Glenda Jackson, and former athletes Menzies Campbell and Sebastian Coe. When celebrities do stand up against an established view, as Russell Brand has, some call them out for not taking politics seriously unless they actually stand for election. Even then they are further, and hypocritically, attacked for abusing the formalities of political society, as Al Murray has been.

 

 

It is not simply the case that celebrities are more capable of persuading the electorate who to vote for than the parties themselves. Despite J.K. Rowling donating £1 million to the ‘No’ independence campaign in the Scottish referendum, as well as countless other famous faces offering their support for either side, the impact it made to the final vote was questionable. Although we may lambast celebrities for supporting political campaigns, and even argue that these people should not be giving us their opinion at all, celebrities still belong to the same electorate as you and I. We simply give them a platform in the first instance.

 

Why then do celebrities stand for election? Whilst Al Murray stands for FUKP in South Thanet, designed to be an attack in itself on UKIP and established politics viewed as being out of touch with general society, there are others who take a more realistic approach. (Murray’s policies are more unconventional than most.) Comedian Eddie Izzard has declared that he will run for London Mayor in 2020 for the Labour Party, because, quite simply, he wants to stand up for what he believes in. Brand, likewise (although not standing for election), wrote Revolution, and commits his time to his daily The Trews as a means of expressing, as a member of our society, his opinion.

 

 

Although many of the high profile candidates of the past haven't been successful in being elected into office, as with Katie Price, Esther Rantzen, and Garry Bushell, most famous candidates run on genuine issues. Bez, of the Happy Mondays, is running in May's election in Salford under an anti-fracking ticket. Bez's locally focused policy approach resonates with the campaigns of Independent candidates up and down the country. Menzies Campbell fought three elections before winning, going on to lead the Liberal Democrats. Eddie Izzard has been a long-term supporter of the Labour Party, campaigning in previous general elections and for Ken Livingstone's bid for London Mayor. 

 

The fact is that people stand for election because they believe that they can make a difference. Whether it be for the Monster Raving Loony Party, the Conservatives, FUKP, the Liberal Democrats, Labour, or the Greens, the underlying ethos is to challenge the status quo, whatever it is perceived to be. When it comes to elections, we all get one vote. The only difference between celebrities and the rest of us, as with politicians, is that we give them a pedestal. Choosing to listen to what they have to say, and indeed if they deserve our vote, is up to us.

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