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Why wheeling out celebs like Arsene Wenger or Ian 'Beefy' Botham for EU debate won't make a cent of difference to public vote

Published 20/04/2016

Brexit rivals: Arsene Wenger and Ian Botham (pictured) have opposing views on the EU debate
Brexit rivals: Arsene Wenger and Ian Botham (pictured) have opposing views on the EU debate
Brexit rivals: Arsene Wenger (pictured) and Ian Botham have opposing views on the EU debate
Richard Branson

For a while there I took my eye off the Brexit ball and as a result, I'm now not entirely up to speed on who's In and who's Out. Or indeed who is out to persuade us to stay In. Or Out.

Politicians are generally predictable for reasons of party background and/or personal ambition (yes, you Boris.)

But I'm thinking more of other seemingly important voices of influence. Like former cricketer and Shredded Wheat advocate Ian "Beefy" Botham (who's just come out as an Out) and Arsenal footie manager Arsene Wenger (he's an In. Concerns about the impact on the game, apparently.)

Seriously, though, would either sway your vote?

Arsene Wenger may seem like a big name for the Remainians to flaunt but, disturbingly for the Inners, not even all Gunners are impressed by the manager. I know this because a friend, Martin, who is an Arsenal stalwart has, as his social media profile pic, a rant about how "I want that man out of my team." Or words to that effect.

Perhaps not such a powerful addition to the In arsenal then.

As for Beefy - this is a man who previously promoted Shredded Wheat with the memorable challenge: "Bet you can't eat three!" He was on safe enough ground there. Bearing in mind that Shredded Wheat has the consistency of deep-fried Brillo pad, most of us couldn't even eat one. But never mind breakfast, has Botham got it right about the public appetite for Brexit? More to the point, from the perspective of the still wavering, could his enthusiasm for something else some might consider pretty unpalatable be enough to sway opinion?

Put simply - does celeb endorsement ever actually make a pin of difference?

Okay, it might be enough to persuade us to be a tad more adventurous with breakfast cereal options. But on less important issues such as ... oh, let's say ... the nation's potential withdrawal from the European Union, is it not actually a bit of a turn-off?

Where the Undecided are concerned, it's hard to imagine that if they haven't made up their minds which way (or indeed whether) to vote by now, then they're going to be talked into it by someone whose expertise is sports or cereal related.

It's a bit like depending on Angela Merkel and David Cameron for football analysis.

Oddly though, just the fact that they're famous is encouragement enough for celebs to believe they can influence great national debates.

I always remember the example of Richard Branson who suddenly surfaced in Belfast back at the time of our referendum on The Agreement. Branson was a Yes man invited here to talk up the peace dividend for local business. Nothing actually wrong with that argument. But there is something so arrogant and trivialising about trolleying in a celeb to try to sway such an important vote. I thought that at the time.

And I was a Yes voter.

Similarly this time round I'm on the In side. But some of the also In celeb endorsers are enough to make me wonder.

That said they're out in force on both sides. Maybe a cricketing legend balances out a football manager. Who knows?

And who next to offer guidance? Wayne Rooney? The cast of Towie? Mary Berry?

Emma Thompson, Lily Allen, Joan Collins, Charlotte Church, Russell Brand, the posh pair off Gogglebox ... everybody's a political pundit these days. I suppose life in the spotlight and the attention that comes with it can lead a celeb to think that he or she's a special one (sorry, Arsene.)

The stars come out with this stuff because they assume we hang on their every word.

But campaign managers should have more sense and discretion. They're cheapening their own arguments by bringing an important debate down to a level that amounts to little more than name-dropping.

This is major constitutional decision time. It's no business of showbusiness.

These elections could give you a sore head

Election posters have once again multiplied like great plastic weeds around lamp-posts and road signs, but what happens if you get hit on the head by one? Who's responsible then? The local council? Stormont? Or the relevant political party? Because sooner or later somebody is going to get clipped by a low-slung one.

Councils have cut down chestnut trees because conkers could pose a health and safety risk.

Assembly hopefuls may not all be hard nuts.

But their plastic portraits could have your eye out.

Injunction proves the law really is an ass

By now everybody should know the name of the "married celebrity involved in a threesome" who resorted to an injunction to gag papers from carrying the story.

Either because the courts have ruled that his name can be made public, or because it's all over the internet anyway.

Scottish papers (different jurisdiction) have carried it and, well, just about everybody, everywhere, is now talking about the case.

Not a great ad for the concept of privacy injunctions, is it?

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