Will celebrity endorsement really influence people?
With the AV referendum and constituencies bill about to go through its final intensive period at Westminster the YES campaign has unveiled what looks set to be its key strategy in the coming campaign – celebrity endorsement.
While the NO side has a line up of political heavyweights such as John Prescott, David Blunkett and Margaret Beckett the YES plan, it appears, is to keep politicians. past and present, completely out of sight.
Instead the emphasis will be on a range of celebs such as Tony Robinson, Richard Wilson, Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, John Cleese and Billy Bragg – all of whom have been signed up by YES. The latest recruits, BAFTA winning actors, Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, were revealed overnight.
The political aim is to try to stop this from becoming a referendum on the Lib Dems and their leader, Nick Clegg – but I wonder whether the celebrity route is going to resonate with the voters. Will anybody really care what Helena and Colin think about the merits and drawbacks of different voting systems?
The main spokesman for YES will be the former BBC newsman who took Neil Hamiliton’s seat from him at the 1997 general election, Martin Bell. Having watched him operate at close hand in an election a couple of years ago I think that’s quite smart. Bell, in his famous white suits, has a credibility both as an insider and an outsider, is lucid and can make a powerful case.
But all this requires is for the bill to be agreed by both houses of parliament in the next couple of days – and over that there is still just an element of doubt.