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  1. Wealth
June 1, 2009

Ready, Steady, Legislate

By Spear's

The idea that famous people could make good politicians because they are famous is fatuous. Why not elect celebrity chefs?

I filmed a TV show for ITV1 earlier this year called Taste The Nation. My role was as a judge, casting my views on the hundreds of dishes presented by amateur cooks who had slaved at the stove in their bids to become county cooking champions.  

Towards the start, Rebecca, an assistant producer, asked me, ‘So what qualifies you to judge these people’s food?’

Good question, I thought, reflecting on how I’d more or less blagged my way to that position with a little bit of luck and opportunity thrown in. And that after ten years on a food magazine I’d learnt a thing or two on the way.

So I suppose, yes, I did have some qualifications coupled with being greedy and opinionated.

And that the reason I reckon I might make a better critic than a chef – who would know far more about for, say – was that I could write having spent the best part of two decades in journalism.

As many of us know, and I have said before, most chefs can barely write. Some find even talk a struggle. Although there are some distinguished exceptions – Rowley Leigh and Shaun Hill for example.

I ponder on these things because of the current news of how for some reason ‘celebrity candidates’ think they might make better legislators than politicians, at least to replace those who have been forced out of office because of the expenses scandal.

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Here are three example: Esther Rantzen, Simon Heffer and Joanna Lumley, the latter being someone who, it is thought, so successfully campaigned for the gurkhas that she should surely make a fine politician.

This surprises me because, firstly, Joanna Lumley has always denigrated the idea of politics. In interviews she has attacked politicians for their negative influence on the world. And while she might have been great on the gurkhas, single issue candidates can never be successful politicians.

Politics has to be about compromise because everybody wants a slice of the budget cake. In order to get legislation through, a government needs to be unified. That means towing the party line on tings you don’t agree with, i.e. compromising your beliefs. I don’t believe someone like Joanna Lumley could do that, admirable though she has been in her recent battle.

Likewise, what can the posturing Rantzen offer politics? Or Heffer, for that matter?

They should stick to what they are good at, TV or writing. The idea that famous people could make good politicians because they are famous is fatuous. The next show I do could be called Legislate The Nation. We so love our celeb chefs so why not a show called Ready Steady Legislate?

Politics has got given a bad name recently. But what enough people don’t seem to realise is what a horrendous slog it is. Norman Lamont once described it as a rollercoaster ride. Huge highs, massive lows. That was the appeal – but you have to be incredibly tough to cope with it.

The late long hours, the public scrutiny, the relatively low pay and the fact that almost all political careers end in failure. A lost election, a lost seat in Cabinet, a humiliating coup. And all those compromises.

Actually it sounds quite exciting. But I don’t reckon half of the likes of Heffer or Lumley would be up to it.

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