Saturday 20 July 2019

Do we really want A-list actors turning their hands to politics?

Pamela Anderson and Angelina Jolie have expressed a desire to influence politics, but can they shift opinions?

Star quality: Angelina Jolie speaks at a UN security council meeting. Getty Images
Star quality: Angelina Jolie speaks at a UN security council meeting. Getty Images
Chat queen: Pamela Anderson
Power of Six: Sinead Sheppard

Andrea Smith

They're popular, we admire them, and we're certain that their intentions are fine, but is the idea of a celebrity-turned-political-campaigner necessarily a good one? In a month where some of our biggest stars are suggesting they might have a tilt at the political arena – take a bow Pamela Anderson and Angelina Jolie – how effective is having a famous face on board when it comes to winning votes or bringing about change?

The Irish political landscape is certainly no stranger to the lure of the celebrity candidate. Former Olympic medallist, Kenny Egan, knocked out the rest of the competition to become a Fine Gael councillor in the recent local elections, and the 32-year-old boxer wasn't the only familiar face throwing his hat in the ring, with actor and playwright, Mannix Flynn, also taking a seat. Former world champion runner, Eamonn Coghlan, was not so successful, however, crossing the finishing line in sixth place in his constituency with fewer than 4,000 votes, and was duly eliminated.

The problem with a sporting or celebrity career is that it can frequently be illustrious, but short-lived, and when people become redundant in these fields while still relatively young, their thoughts sometimes turn to politics or lending themselves to trendy campaigns.

And who could blame struggling charities or political parties for pursuing a celebrity campaigner, when they are all competing for a piece of one ever-shrinking pie. Having a famous face attached to a cause means that pictures are more likely to land in papers, and that same face might very well be the key to opening the door to other, more powerful, avenues.

Take former Baywatch star, Pamela Anderson, for example, who became a household name worldwide for her magnificent physical assets and ability to run attractively down the beach in a red bathing suit. The actress is committed to animal welfare, and in a move that may have irked other, more homely campaigners, revealed that she said she had "earned the ear" of many world leaders after Baywatch was screened in 150 countries. She recently revealed that she had convinced Vladimir Putin to ban the import of seal products, which closed 90pc of the market, and had discussed major policy with Fidel Castro. Go Pammie!

"We start off with all these people, then the meetings get smaller and smaller, and by the end they only let me in. They always want a lot of pictures. But whatever it takes," she explained, demonstrating that she is more than willing to take one for the cause, even if it means cosying up to star-struck communist dictators to enhance their Facebook profile pics.

While they say politics is showbusiness for ugly people, the average attractiveness quotient would ratchet up immeasurably in the event of Angelina Jolie following through on her recent suggestion that she might be tempted into entering politics. "If I thought I'd be effective, I would," she said.

Angie and her partner, Brad Pitt, founded the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which is dedicated to eradicating extreme rural poverty, protecting natural resources and conserving wildlife. She is also co-hosting a summit on ending sexual violence in conflict zones in London next month. Will it attract acres of press coverage and pictures? You betcha.

Perhaps the best example of a someone harnessing the celebrity razzle-dazzle to bring about a worthwhile outcome lies with Bob Geldof, who was behind Band Aid and Live Aid in the mid-80s.

The Boomtown Rats singer convinced major celebrities to come on board to help raise millions for famine relief. To his credit, Geldof seems passionately committed to the cause on an ongoing basis and, unlike other celebs we could mention, actually does real work for Africa, rather than flouncing up to air-kiss other famous faces at trendy fund-raising events, without having forked out the price of the ticket.

Potential politically-minded celebs can be inspired by the success of Terminator actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, however, who was first elected Governor of California in 2003, and won re-election in 2006. Arnie earned key legislative victories on issues relating to the environment, including a landmark act to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in California. His success may have inspired former member of the 'Popstars' band Six, Sinead Sheppard, who was elected to Cobh town council for Fine Gael in 2009, and went on to become the youngest-ever mayor of Cobh, at the age of 30.

This maybe goes to prove that, when it comes to the lure of famous faces, there can be 'A Whole Lotta Votin' Going On' at the polls.

Irish Independent

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