The predominance of celebrities involved in, or endorsing, politics once seemed a distinctly American affectation. However, singer and frontman of the band The Smiths, Morrissey, is said to be seriously considering standing for London Mayor for the Animal Welfare Party, celebrity politicians seem a very possible reality in the UK.
In a statement published on the ‘True to You’ website, Morrissey passionately rallied the vegetarians: “There must be a governmental voice against the hellish and archaic social injustice…we cannot just sit around waiting for establishment enlightenment.”
Celebrities are, like everyone else, entitled to their opinion. Morrissey’s campaign for animal rights is an ambition shared by many people and his position allows him to articulate their views to a large international audience. Still, does celebrity status grant individuals the respectability to hijack politics?
Russell Brand was a major media feature in the run up to the 2015 General Election. In a typical display of arrogance, Brand blamed himself for discrediting and “fucking up the election.” In particular, his YouTube video with Ed Miliband has been accused of undermining the Labour party’s credibility. Brand’s hollow rants in his dubious news feature ‘The Trews’ were a source of publicity and notoriety, indicating a bleak drive for self-promotion over any genuine political concern.
Celebrity’s worth in a campaign
Although Morrissey’s reasons for involving himself in politics seem more admirable, as they are done in the name of animals who are unable to represent themselves, what makes this different to Brand pursuing his interests of fame and publicity? The position of Mayor involves a multiplicity of roles and does not simply concentrate on animal welfare.
Even if Morrissey secures the post, his other obligations will undoubtedly dilute his focus on animal welfare. Realistically, it will be difficult for his policies take precedence over the growing human needs of London such as the refugee crisis, the housing bubble and increasing levels of homelessness.
Martin Freeman also promoted Labour policies and featured in official party broadcasts. Although he appeared a more sympathetic figure than Brand, his preaches still seemed to cheapen Labour’s reputation.
Freeman’s mere presence detracted from his remarks. The broadcast was featured on YouTube, where commenters questioned his right to preach and how Labour allowed celebrities to affiliate with the party in the first instance, one even wrote “who gives a damn what this Hobbit thinks?”
Celebrity endorsements seem to work differently than in the US, where everyone from Eva Longoria to Katy Perry is hounded for their opinion. Here, they are a source of ridicule and undermine the very causes they claim to support. Mo Farah’s face might sell tofu but will it sell hard Conservative policies?
Regardless of Morrissey’s intentions, his foray into politics will be principally dictated by his reputation; as a celebrity, both his fan base and critics will project their opinions of him onto his every decision. By running in the name of animal rights, not only does he ignore the varied responsibilities of British politicians, Morrissey undermines the cause he is endeavouring to help.
What do you think? Should celebrities be involved in politics? Is Morrissey right to run for Mayor of London? Have your say in the comments section below.