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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 12:11 GMT
Campaigning with the stars
Tony Blair and Noel Gallagher
Tony Blair invited Noel Gallagher to Number 10
As the Labour Party enlists Geri Halliwell to promote its policies, BBC News Online looks at how the celebrities line up behind the political parties.

Politics and celebrity have never mixed as well in the UK as they have in the US, where high-profile stars are happy to rattle the fund-raising tin on behalf of selected candidates.

Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand and Martin Sheen are just a few of the A-list celebrities who are unafraid to voice their political persuasions.

Ben Elton
Ben Elton is a long-time supporter of New Labour
In the UK there has always been a more uneasy relationship between politicians and celebrities.

It is doubtful that the three main parties will call on high-profile figures for support in the same manner as American parties, but a sprinkling of "on-message" supporters during the campaign should be expected.

Actress Maureen Lipman was the first well-known figure to be drafted into the campaign - hosting a question-and-answer session led by Tony Blair.

Labour celebrity backers
Chris Evans
Neil Tennant
Eddie Izzard
Ben Elton
Peter Gabriel
Jeremy Irons
Geri Halliwell
Richard Wilson
Stephen Fry
Gabrielle
Kevin Whately
But the Labour Party's enlisting of Geri Halliwell to appear in an election broadcast - with a voiceover by Inspector Morse actor Kevin Whately - has raised the benchmark for the use of celebrities.

Miss Halliwell has said she "genuinely admires and believes in Tony Blair", a marked turnaround from five years ago when she described him as "not a safe pair of hands for the economy".

Paralympic athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson also makes an appearance in the broadcast.

She said she was supporting Labour because the party had "proved its commitment to tackling issues of equality".

"I'm keen to support the work Labour has been doing for disabled and non-disabled people," she added.

Tory celebrity backers
Jim Davidson
Paul Daniels
Peter Stringfellow
Anthony Worrall-Thompson
Frank Bruno
Mike Read
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber
Bill Roache
Roger Moore
Bob Monkhouse
Tim Rice
It will be no surprise, if other political parties follow suit with their own celebrity backers in the coming weeks.

Celebrities are used by parties as stealth bombers - dropping key campaign messages onto the electorate without alerting our boredom radars.

In the 1997 election independent MP Martin Bell had the services of actor David Soul.

"I think he schmoozed me 500 votes in Tatton," Mr Bell has said of Soul's assistance in his campaigning.

"Any venture needs some sort of recognisable image to gain attention," said Soul, explaining his help.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has said he has no qualms about the mix of celebrity and politics.

Mr Kennedy said: "Speaking as one redhead to a former redhead, I think Miss Halliwell is a talented entertaining artiste.

Lib Dem celebrity backers
Matthew Kelly
John Cleese
Barry Norman
Barry Took
Andy Kershaw
Dave Allen
Nicholas Parsons
Edward Woodward
Ludovic Kennedy

"She is entirely open to give her support to the party that she wishes. But I hope she does not walk out on the Labour Party the way she walked out on the Spice Girls."

A Conservative Party spokeswoman told BBC News Online that the party had no plans to enlist the help of celebrity figures.

"We are concentrating on policy. We appreciate that Geri Halliwell will be everywhere for Labour but we have no plans to date to use celebrity figures."

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats told BBC News Online that the party was not planning to start a presidential style campaign with the frequent use of celebrity figures.

Strenuous attempts

He said: "Celebrities have a role to play because they make people who are not following politics so much more aware."

But the party has already lined up film critic and TV presenter Barry Norman as a speaker at a London rally.

Jim Davidson
Jim Davidson has given his support to the Conservative Party
However, celebrity-backed rallies are unlikely to figure strongly in the campaign.

"We are more interested in pushing our policies," said the Liberal Democrats spokesman.

New Labour made strenuous attempts to court the more high-profile members of the electorate when they swept into power in 1997.

Among the first through the door of 10 Downing Street to congratulate Tony Blair were stars such as Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher, singer Jarvis Cocker, actor Ross Kemp, Mick Hucknall and Ben Elton.

The night before, acting quartet Helena Bonham-Carter, Bob Hoskins, Richard Wilson and Alan Rickman were at the door of Number 11 to be greeted by Gordon Brown.

High-profile donors to the party include Mick Hucknell, Alan McGee, former head of Creation Records, and Chris Evans.

But in the four years since, Oasis star Noel Gallagher and Alan McGee - the man who discovered Oasis - have been vocal in their criticism of Labour, especially the government's hard line on drugs offences.

Fundraiser

The Conservatives too can call on a host of supporters.

Last year the party organised a fundraiser where performers such as Sir Tim Rice, Patti Boulaye, Jim Davidson, Anthony Worral-Thomson, Anthony Andrews and Dana were on hand to give their support.

The Liberal Democrats have much more understated celebrity support but can call on John Cleese, Edward Woodward and Matthew Kelly for support.

Ex-Monty Python actor John Cleese once fronted a party political broadcast for the Liberal Democrats.

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