Sunday, 25 May 2014

Do celebrities influence voter intentions?

Does anyone know where this dog stands on Scottish independence?
I really need to know.

This morning I switched on the TV and caught a couple of minutes of the actor James McAvoy squirming and avoiding giving any sort of an answer when asked by the interviewer, Sophie Raworth, where he stood on the Scottish independence debate. He's Scottish, you see. Never mind the fact that the reason he was being interviewed was so he could promote the latest X-MEN film -- Raworth (or her producer) clearly felt that his voting intention in September must be broadcast to the world. Alas, poor Sophie came away empty-handed -- McAvoy waffled on for an excruciatingly long time trying not to offend anyone's sensibilities, until the interview was mercifully brought to a close.

My first thought was "Does anyone really care which way James McAvoy is voting?" My second thought was "Presumably people DO care, otherwise they wouldn't spend so much time making hay out of it."

A veritable cavalcade of Scottish and non-Scottish celebrities have been courted to give their views on the independence question, and quite a few have obliged. The No side "boasts" John Barrowman of the SECC Christmas panto fame and Sharleen Spiteri from the band Texas (and clearly not the sharpest tool in the box, given that she said, and I quote, "We don't have the resources -- like oil and gas -- we'd need to keep Scotland afloat")... and David Bowie, who may or may not have intended his "Scotland, stay with us" plea as an open invitation to the whole of Scotland to lodge with him in his New York penthouse. (Though given that he communicated his thoughts through the medium of Kate Moss, it's possible something could have been lost in translation.) The Yes side, meanwhile, has the support of musicians like Annie Lennox, Julie Fowlis and Billy Bragg, actors like Brian Cox, Simon Pegg and Rhys Ifans, and a variety of others, some of whom have been listed here by National Collective. Yes Scotland was today touting Morven Christie as the latest recognisable face to publicly back a Yes vote.

But throughout the whole affair, the main sentiment I've been feeling is that it's all neither here nor there. I'll admit that I did, for a moment, think "Good on ya, Morven, I always knew you were a good egg" but at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter a jot to me one way or the other. I watch actors for their acting ability, not their political opinions. If they happen to chime with mine, that's great, and I'm more than happy for the likes of Pat Kane and David Hayman to weigh into the debate, given the insight they have to offer... which, I should point out, is entirely unrelated to their chosen professions. (And conversely, Sharleen Spiteri is the living proof that some people really should just keep their mouths shut if they're incapable of engaging their brains.) But I don't lie awake at night wondering how Ewan McGregor or Laura Fraser or (yes, Sophie) even James McAvoy is going to vote.

I very much doubt anyone would ever admit to basing their voting intentions on any matter on what actor X or singer Y thinks, but I'm curious as to how people feel about the whole affair. Do celebrities' voices have a genuine place in the constitutional debate, or is the fact that they're asked to express an opinion at all simply more proof that we live in a vapid, celebrity-obsessed culture?

And, more importantly, which is James McAvoy's preferred type of apple? Golden Delicious or Granny Smith? Surely THAT is the burning question of our times. And the answer will certainly affect which I buy next time I'm at the supermarket.


  1. Got to love Billy Bragg.

    The Radio Times did the same thing to McAvoy this week too.

    And as I've said before, if the Yes campaign need a celeb to influence floating voters they need look no further than Stephanie Fox ;)

    1. Haha, if it was men we were having a hard time convincing to vote Yes I'd agree with you. Alas, it's women who are the more cautious of the two, and I'm not convinced Stephanie would do much to sway many of them...

    2. Oh I dunno, 'You too could have two like mine, if you vote YES' That could work right?

      Given me an idea for a post actually, give it a sec...