Not the X Factor — more the Why Factor as celebrities snub parties, The Times Online

The elaborate courtship of celebrities by party leaders before the general election is being spurned. Intense efforts by David Cameron to replicate the “Cool Britannia” buzz once generated around new Labour have, so far, been largely unsuccessful.

Keen to present itself as youthful — even cool — the Conservative leadership is concerned that it remains wedded to a group of “ageing troopers” that one party official compares to the line-up of “a celebrity golf tournament”.

Labour’s showbusiness supporters are also less inclined to trumpet their views than they were before war, recession and scandals made both the Government — and politics in general — a tainted brand with which they would rather not be associated.

Cheryl Cole, the X Factor judge and Girls Aloud star, has twice stated in magazine interviews that she is a Labour voter — but is unwilling to see her vast appeal with swing voters exploited by the looming political campaign. Sundraj Sreenivasan, her publicist, said: “She still holds those views. I will not say anything more than that.”

Some of the noisiest and most publicity addicted people in Britain fall strangely silent when the subject of politics gets mentioned. Lily Allen, a pop star who is not usually shy of venting her opinions, told The Times: “It’s no one’s business how I intend to vote, which is the reason that voting happens in private booths.”

Mr Cameron is a big fan of Allen and presented Barack Obama with a copy of her latest CD when he came to London last year. Suggestions from a Conservative source that he intends to attend one of her shows and possibly meet her backstage were, however, met with a terse response. “It’s a hypothetical situation,” said a spokesman.

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Another celebrity apparently coveted by the Conservatives is Mark Ronson, the superstar DJ and über music producer behind Amy Winehouse who donated to the Obama campaign. He was reported in The Guardian as scheduled to come out as a Tory at the party conference in Manchester. He did not. Instead, the biggest star on show was Bill Roache — Ken Barlow from Coronation Street — who hosted a pub quiz with Eric Pickles, the party chairman.

“I don’t know where the rumour about Mark came from,” said Barbara Charone, Ronson’s publicist. “Politics isn’t that cool right now and people are a bit reluctant to put their hands up to endorse anyone.”

One senior Tory figure complained yesterday that stars are happy to give their name to “hot-button issues” such as support for troops but unwilling to associate with “politiicans who dig moats at the public’s expense”.

Conservative high command is thought to have identified the likes of Gary Barlow, of Take That, and Jamie Cullum, the jazz artist, as holding the type of the stellar — but mainstream — appeal they want in the election campaign.

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