Let's try an election without celebrity endorsements shall we?

16 Dec 2019

 

In the days building up to the general election, you’d have better chances of winning a free I-Pad or meeting ‘Single women in your area’ than you would of avoiding a celebrity imploring their followers to vote.

 

Everybody had a go – Adele, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, even Americans like Danny DeVito and Taylor Swift joined in. Whereas some tried to stay impartial with a simple reminder to vote, others out and out endorsed candidates (No prizes for guessing which party they hailed from...)

 

On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with celebrities expressing their political opinions. If a celebrity is asked their opinion in an interview, I would expect them to answer honestly. Likewise, a celebrity can use their social media platforms in any way they choose.

 

What I find bizarre, and to an extent, troubling is the way many fans clamoured for an endorsement. 

 

Take the example of Charli XCX. She’s the singer best known to the general public for songs like ‘I Love It’ and ‘Fancy’. But online, she’s no unfamiliar face. Charli has 3.5 million followers on Twitter and 3.6 million followers on Instagram, so what she shares on social media has considerable reach. 

 

Young women generally lean left in Britain, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Charli supports Labour. Her endorsement of Labour is not something I take issue with, it’s absolutely her right to do so. But the way some of her fans responded seemed a tad feverish.

 

Charli first put out a tweet on December 4th, encouraging her fans to get involved with the democratic process. She told her 3.5 million followers that she was going to ‘vote for a party who support LGBTQ rights and give a voice and platform to members of the community on a national scale, who support minorities.’ 

 

It’s pretty easy to conclude that she’s talking about the Labour Party. Most Labour Party supporters would speak of their party in this way, whereas if you were to speak to a Green Party supporter, they’d talk about environmental consciousness and a Conservative would talk about fiscal responsibility and individual freedom. 

 

Charli XCX was clearly advocating a vote for Labour, but for some of her followers, that just wasn’t good enough.

 

‘Just say vote Labour!’

 

‘Tell people to vote Labour then.’

 

She tried again on December 10th, telling her fans ‘plz do not vote Tory!!!’

Still not good enough Charli! 

 

‘JUST SAY VOTE LABOUR’ 

 

‘You’re so close! Just say Labour!’ 

 

Why this rabid insistence? Charli had seemingly done what was expected of her – she encouraged her fans to vote and she came out against the right-wing option. But in the end, that wasn’t enough for some people. 

 

Why is this? Why do people place celebrity endorsements on such a pedestal?

 

Thinking about it logically for a second, the vast majority of Charli’s fans are left wing. She’s an artist with a young fan-base, and a significant LGBT+ following. I can’t imagine any more than 1% of her fans are anything other than left-wing. 

 

So, who were her endorsements (Or any celebrity’s endorsements for that matter) meant to convince? 

 

Undecided voters?

 

Frankly, if you’re inspired into voting for a candidate solely because of a celebrity, then you probably should rethink why you're hitting the polling station. We hear a lot about uninformed voting, but I can’t think of anything more uninformed than voting solely because your favourite singer told you to.

 

Here’s the other thing about celebrity endorsements – they tend to backfire. Notice that the candidates Hugh Grant went out canvassing with all lost. Apparently, the efforts of the Bridget Jones star weren’t enough to inspire voters.

 

Though, to be fair to Hugh, at least he didn’t resort to doing what Steve Coogan did. The comedian, best known for playing Alan Partridge, appeared on Channel 4 when he remarked, “Alan Partridge is ill-informed and ignorant, and he’s therefore a Conservative and a Brexiteer.” 

 

Coogan went on to say, “The reason Tories don’t invest in education is because they depend on a certain level of ignorance for their support.”

 

Nothing like the snobbery of celebrities to rally support, eh? Coogan insisted he was right to state his opinions, as he felt anybody with a degree of influence was ‘honour-bound’ to try and influence the election however they could.

 

It’s not been a great track record though, has it? 

 

Eddie Izzard’s appearance on Question Time right before the EU referendum was nothing short of a disaster. He ranted and rambled over Nigel Farage to the point where an audience member yelled “Shut up!”. 

 

Was anybody who was undecided about Brexit moved to vote Remain by Izzard? I doubt it.

 

Here’s just a sampling of some of the comments left on the BBC’s video of the debate –

 

‘Eddie Izzard did wonders for Brexit, certainly convinced me to vote for it’ (276 likes)

 

‘Eddie Izzard was Brexit’s secret weapon’ (158 likes)

 

‘Eddie Izzard has no idea just how much his appearance on this show aided Brexit!!’ (216 likes)

 

In future elections, Labour should probably avoid leaning on celebrity endorsements from Lily Allen or Stormzy. The only people who would be convinced are young people – many of whom would probably vote Labour anyway. The majority of voters will be unconvinced, and as this election has shown, an electoral landslide is possible without the aid of show-biz voices. 

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