Brexit: British needed more Kerry Katona and less Keira Knightley

One can’t help feeling that a letter signed by the cast of Geordie Shore might have had more effect than Cumberbatch and Elba's attempts

Hey Britain, what happened? You are meant to love a celebrity endorsement. You can’t get enough of Clooney’s coffee or Helen Mirren’s face cream. You queue up to buy Kate Moss’s make-up and sup at the teat of Rita Ora’s fizzy drinks.

So what happened? David Beckham lined up for you. Idris Elba got in the queue. Then Benedict Cumberbatch begged you to stay.

Beckham, Elba and Cumberbatch explained why they were going to vote to Remain in Britain’s EU referendum – who wouldn’t take notice of what they say? And Elba gave the voters the best argument for immigration to Britain – ever. Elba personifies the best of the British melting pot, he said. No one seemed to disagree.

When the referendum result came in, Britain had voted to leave the European Union. So much for celebrity endorsement, it seemed.


And it wasn’t just the celebrity gentlemen who appeared to have had minimal effect.

Paloma Faith, Keira Knightley and Victoria Beckham had told the British electorate that their lives would be spiced up by staying in the EU. It was good of them, of course, but maybe the British public needed more Kerry Katona and less Keira Knightley. (They tend not to buy Chanel perfume in the Welsh valleys or the West Midlands. )

Booming Brexiter Boris Johnson was not swayed from the dark side by Booker winner and Remainer Hilary Mantel, either. She warned that if Britain voted to leave, they would find no Place of Greater Safety outside the EU. Despite his love of a literary quote, Boris remained bull-headedly Brexit - and so did many of the celebrity magazine-buying British public (which probably does not include Boris Johnson).

While it is of some surprise that Becks, Elba and Cumberbatch didn’t swing it for stay, the list of celebrities who endorsed Brexit is even more confusing.

Former cricketer Ian Botham, Dragon's Den's Duncan Bannatyne, Michael Caine and Keith Chegwin, who used to be in TV, all bowled for the Brexiters. Liz Hurley and Joan Collins put on their floral pinnies and came out of the pavilion in between innings with tea, cucumber sandwiches for the Leavers. This was England. This was white. This was aging. This was very much the way the vote went when you look at the demographics.

So that section of the great British public, who pick up a copy of New! and Closer every week with their beans and pork scratchings to get their celebrity fix, would rather listen to Beefy Botham than Benedict or Becks? Maybe.

Arguably celebrity endorsements for remaining in the EU fell on deaf ears in the way celebrity endorsements for shampoo don’t.

Arguably, both campaigns asked the wrong celebs. We may never know why the celebrities that Britain loves in its magazines did not say how much they love Britain – or why they were never asked.

In June 2016, the Guardian published a letter signed by 10 winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, expressing the view that the "economic argument" was clearly in favour of continued British membership of the EU. That was the "science bit". To be more precise, that was the "economic science bit".

Yet one can't help feeling that a letter signed by the cast of Geordie Shore might have had more effect.