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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Who's backing whom at the election?
Feature
By Jenny Matthews
BBC News

In previous elections, long lists of glamorous celebrities have been wheeled out to give their backing to the political parties.

Most famously, at the 1997 election, Labour successfully courted some of Britain's biggest showbiz stars, including musicians Peter Gabriel and Mick Hucknall, actor Jeremy Irons, and Britpop stars Damon Albarn, and Noel Gallagher.

Joan Collins
I will be voting Conservative... I would never dream of voting for UKIP
Actress Joan Collins

This time around, perhaps, the names aren't quite so galactic - but some famous faces have nonetheless come out in support of their favourite political parties.

The Conservatives are boasting a range of backers from the world of the arts, food and music.

Novelist Frederick Forsyth, lyricist Sir Tim Rice, chefs Clarissa Dickson Wright, Marco Pierre White and Antony Worrall Thompson; former Spandau Ballet star Tony Hadley, and actor and writer Julian Fellowes are all on their list.

F1 boss Eddie Jordan, designers Nicky Haslam and Bruce Oldfield, ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman and TV presenter Anneka Rice will also be ticking the Conservative box on 5 May, according to the party.

A Conservative spokesman said: "We feel that we are concentrating on the priorities of the British people.

"Celebrities are the same as all other people - whether they've been victims of crime and want more police on the streets... whether they're looking for lower taxes or controlled immigration or school discipline, or whether they realise we're the only party that's committed to keeping the pound and not signing up to the European constitution."

'Absolutely committed'

The Conservatives have scored a particular scalp with actress Joan Collins, who appears to have returned to the fold after a flirtation with UKIP.

The actress was unavailable for comment, but she previously told the Spectator magazine: "I will be voting Conservative because I think the Labour party just doesn't care about the British people. I would never dream of voting for UKIP."
Sir Alex Ferguson in Oldham
This Labour government has led this country into a period of unparalleled prosperity
Sir Alex Ferguson

UKIP professes itself unbothered by the star's defection.

"We have no doubt that Joan is a committed Eurosceptic - it's just unfortunate she's fallen for the nonsense peddled by the Conservative party," said a spokesman.

He was, however, at pains to point out that the party has not been left bereft of celebrity endorsement - former TV chef Rustie Lee is standing for it as a candidate.

"Rustie is absolutely committed to the party and what it stands for," the spokesman said, pointedly.

And although Labour may have lost some of the celebrity gloss of the 1997 era, it still boasts a fairly broad range of celebrity support.

'Cross-section'

Chef Delia Smith - who recently made headlines with her "let's be having you" outburst at Norwich City football supporters - came out in support of Labour on Thursday.

Oasis frontman Gallagher was quoted on MTV recently as still backing Labour - albeit partly because if the Conservatives get in, "Phil Collins is threatening to come back and live here. And let's face it, none of us want that".

If any celebrity backed us they wouldn't be celebrities for very much longer
BNP spokesman Phil Edwards
Labour also offers up Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, actors Liz Dawn (aka Coronation Street's Vera Duckworth), Prunella Scales, Maureen Lipman and Richard Wilson, comedian Eddie Izzard, singer Beverly Knight, and director Lord Richard Attenborough.

"They represent a cross section of endorsers on a number of issues from ID cards and the NHS to the Olympic bid and the importance of voting," said a party spokesman.

Sir Alex - who has appeared at a Labour party rally - said: "This Labour government has led this country into a period of unparalleled prosperity. Britain's a fairer, more prosperous, tolerant and caring country that it ever was under the Tories."

But this year the Lib Dems believe they are winning the scramble for celebrity endorsement.

'Academics and thinkers'

Musician and record producer Brian Eno is actively campaigning for the party, with his website LibDemThisTime urging votes for the Lib Dems in an attempt to "move the whole political process somewhat leftwards".

The party says it is particularly pleased that ex-BBC boss Greg Dyke and former TV agony aunt Claire Rayner have both come out in support of the party, given that both of them were pictured celebrating Labour's win in 1997.

Other supporters range from scientist Richard Dawkins to writer and broadcaster Germaine Greer, rabbi Julia Neuberger, and Travis frontman Fran Healy.

Broadcaster Nicholas Parsons, film critic Barry Norman and epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll are also on the list - as is Lalla Ward, who played Dr Who's assistant Romana in the 1970s.

Kate Ford, aka Tracy Barlow,
Kate Ford, aka Corrie's Tracy Barlow, has said she will vote Green
"It's a mixture of obvious celebs and then many very substantial scientists and academics and thinkers," said spokesman Sandy Walkington.

"I don't think any other parties have got anything to match it, frankly. It's part of the implication that all the momentum in this election is with us."

The Lib Dems are not the only party who have celebrities actively campaigning for them. Actor Sean Connery, a long-time SNP supporter, is backing the party again this year.

'Real people'

He has appeared in their party political broadcasts, and more than 300,000 automated phone calls - which the party later had to defend - have been made with a message from the star, beginning: "Hello there. This is Sean Connery. No, it's not a joke - unfortunately the real joke is the Labour party."

Hello there. This is Sean Connery. No, it's not a joke...
Automated message from Sean Connery on behalf of the SNP

The Green Party says author and academic George Monbiot is on board, as well as comedian Mark Thomas, Hollywood actor Tim Roth, and Kate Ford - aka Tracy Barlow in Coronation Street.

Director Alex Cox is working on their election broadcasts, and Steven Berkoff and Peter Tatchell are also supporters.

But not all the parties are offering up celebrity support.

"I'm not sure if we go for celebrities really, we're more interested in real people," said Veritas spokesman Michael Harvey.

And the BNP says it is not currently backed by any celebrities - because "they wouldn't dare".

"Celebrities survive by playing the system," said spokesman Phil Edwards.

"Celebrities only stay celebrities because they go with the flow of what the establishment wants them to do. The BNP is a political party which doesn't go with the flow.

"If any celebrity backed us they wouldn't be celebrities for very much longer."





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