BEING an effective politician is about getting things done. Too many MPs sit on the back benches for their whole careers because of a lack of ambition or ability. Joanna Lumley has shown that star-power can drive through change far more than a knack for patiently sitting through constituency surgeries and the support of a local constituency party can.
Bob Geldof bemoans the fact that he is the face of the anti-poverty movement: he admits that it is absurd that a singer has to take up a cause for it to make the newspapers. But it’s a fact that those with a high public profile get publicity, whether they are releasing an album or film, or campaigning for the rights of Gurkhas. Celebrities can highlight injustice and stir public opinion.
There is a prejudice against celebrities’ professional achievements. It is assumed that if you are a barrister or a businessman, then you are a good solid sort who should be welcomed into the Commons. But boring careers are not the only ones with value.
An actor often works far harder for success than a lawyer who has joined his father’s chambers. They might have other areas of knowledge that complement the usual parliamentary ones. Singers, actors or writers might well be authorities on the funding of arts or freedom of speech. Not all famous people are stupid. Who would say that JK Rowling, Rowan Atkinson or David Baddiel, for example, would be bad MPs?
It is a shame that it has taken parliament to implode for celebrities to get involved in politics: they have a lot more to offer than some of the current lot. It is often said that politics is showbiz for ugly people. Maybe now the people will get a little better-looking.
IN general, celebrities are celebrities because they can’t bear the idea of not being loved, loathed and entirely validated by the outside world. So powerful is this need that they’ll go to any lengths – starvation diets, plastic surgery, endless soul-denying parties, boundless arse-kissing of influential people, sensationalist stunts – to do it. They devote themselves to perfecting their surfaces in return for superficial approval – it’s their job.
This must be why so many of them go political, taking on causes, trying to make a difference. They are sick of their Botox-infused, party-circuit lives. They want grit. In short, they want to be like us.
Actually, they don’t want to be like us. They want to represent us, lead us, talk for us. Which is very nice of them. But in order to fulfil the role of an MP – which is to understand the world on a local as well as political level – you have be someone who has cared about taxation, healthcare, social services and so on.
They have to have affected you and your family as an adult, not as a theoretical construct for dinner party discussion. It’s doubtful that someone like Esther Rantzen has had to worry about such things within recent memory. How will the residents of Luton South – where she is expected to run – benefit from her decision to wade in to something “substantial”? Certainly not from her instinctive understanding of the mundane issues affecting their lives.
It’s true that non-celebrity politicians have hardly made a good name for themselves. But what we need is a new breed of candidate – idealistic, unmotivated by money, and doing it for the love of public duty. For my MP I want someone who is a politician not because politics is a great way to increase fame and power, but because it is a way of bringing about meaningful, unglamorous change.