Does New Zealand need more celebrity politicians?

by Jake Quinn

Putting aside Trevor Mallard’s previous stardom as a topflight cage-fighter, Gerry Brownlie’s cameo in Whale Rider and Chris Hipkin’s alleged role in the hit TV series The Partridge Family, this county has been poorly served by it’s celebrity talent in the MP ranks.

It is then only natural that rugby legend Michael Jones’s flirtations with National Party politics and the recent victory of comedian Al Franken (who has just been sworn in as a Minnesota Senator) encourages one to ponder the relatively untapped resource of celebrity in New Zealand politics.

Our friends across the Pacific are particularly well versed in the dark art. In a paper titled Arnold Schwarzenegger and Celebrity Politics, Darrell M. West explains the power celeb’s have in drawing support from across the political spectrum:

“Unlike established politicians who most appeal to conventional political constituencies, celebrities can build coalitions that are more broad-based. They can reach out to Republicans, Democrats, and Independents without necessarily compromising their public support.”

He points out that this advantage can also act as a double edged sword:

“Although this electoral strategy works very well and helps to explain why celebrities win, this same quality harms them in the governing process. The presence of broad voter support often is based on an allegiance that is not very deep. The lack of a firm base means that when their public support drops, they do not have a committed base that will stay with them through thick and thin.”

California has a history of celebrity politicians and besides from Schwarzenegger has in past years seen entertainers George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, and Sonny Bono seek elected office. Murphy was elected as Senator, while Reagan became governor and later president and Bono served in Congress.

Alec Baldwin of 30 rock, The Departed and in-numerous b-grade films has been talking (like in this Playboy article – I found it googling him I promise) about running for office a great deal over the past few years.

FOXnews reported that from a list of six celebrities, a poll asked Americans which one they would like to hypothetically see in the White House. “In addition to Eastwood and Winfrey, the list included Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand, Mel Gibson and Angelina Jolie.” Jolie! Seriously.

So which Kiwi actors, musicians or comedians would you say are worthy of the task?

Fair Go presenter Kevin Milne would be a strong candidate but the poor fella is currently battling a brain tumour – he’d make a stellar Minister of Consumer Affairs.

Outrageous Fortune star Robyn Malcolm would make a bloody sight better Westie Social Development Minister than the hapless Paula Bennett. What about Rithie McCaw? Kiwi’s love strong silent types…

On an unrelated matter, if you haven’t seen the New Zealand response to the Lily Allen ‘Fuck You’ YouTube meme, please do [Hat tip: Russell Brown’s Hard News]