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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Esther Addley

I’m a celebrity, get the Tories out of here

Carol Vorderman, Keir Starmer and Rod Stewart. The Labour party, led by Starmer, has been gaining celebrity backing.
Carol Vorderman, Keir Starmer and Rod Stewart. The Labour party, led by Starmer, has been gaining celebrity backing. Composite: Shutterstock/PA

Has Sir Rod Stewart, of all unexpected people, provoked a flood of celebrity support for Labour? Perhaps not quite yet. But after Carol Vorderman became the second celebrity in two days to hit out at Rishi Sunak’s government, Keir Starmer could be forgiven for wondering if there’s something in the water at least.

TV presenter Vorderman, appearing on This Morning on Friday, launched a scorching attack on the prime minister, demanding Sunak reveal if he has shares in the vaccine manufacturer Moderna given the government’s huge investment during the pandemic.

“That man came out in front of 10 Downing Street, as our prime minister, and said ‘accountability, transparency’, all of this,” said the former Countdown co-host. “If you are true to your word, Rishi Sunak, tell us.”

She also hit out at Michelle Mone, who lost the whip as a Tory peer after the Guardian revealed allegations she received profits from a PPE firm after using a “VIP lane”. Vorderman said she had previously known the businesswoman but then “dropped [her] … like a stone when I realised what kind of person she was. Sue me, Michelle.”

If Vorderman has previously described herself as “not a politically motivated woman”, Stewart has long been a true blue Tory, provoking anger from fans of his beloved Celtic when he tweeted congratulations after Boris Johnson’s election victory in 2019. Despite this, he phoned a Sky News call-in programme on Thursday with a plea to “change the bloody government” amid his anger over the state of the NHS.

Phoning in “while I’m working on my model railroad”, he told the presenter Sarah-Jane Mee he wanted to pay for “10 or 20” people’s scans, saying: “I personally have been a Tory for a long time but I think this government should stand down now and give the Labour party a go, this is heartbreaking.”

If Starmer and the deputy leader, Angela Rayner, coincidentally visiting a hospital near Stewart’s Essex home on Friday, were understandably delighted at the endorsement (“Rod Stewart lives near here so we are going to have a singalong later, Ang and I,” Starmer told LBC), one ageing rocker doesn’t quite make Cool Britannia 2.

And how much difference do celebrity endorsements really make to people’s voting intentions? Daniel Rachel, the author of Don’t Look Back in Anger, a history of Cool Britannia and Tony Blair’s courting of the Britpop establishment in the 1990s, said the jury remained out on how politically significant that movement really was.

“All political parties and leaders have aligned themselves with celebrities and pop stars – Harold Wilson handing out awards to the Beatles, Margaret Thatcher having … Kenny Everett at [a party] conference …” he said.

After 18 years of Tory rule, New Labour in 1997 were “trying to appeal to a new way of seeing Britain … and if you ignored pop music, that would have been at your peril.

“But whether or not that was a contributing factor to the election victory, I think it’s difficult to call.”

What could be said of Stewart’s outburst, Rachel said, is that “it’s a signifier of a wind of change, if stalwart supporters of an incumbent government are taking against it. And as a football man, as Rod Stewart is – he wants to be on the side that’s winning.”

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