'Celebrity candidates' often famously fail

'Celebrity candidates' often famously fail

THE immediate electoral advantage of attracting candidates with established public profiles is obvious, especially when it can mean the difference between winning and losing in key contests.

When being noticed is at least half the battle, someone voters know - and perhaps even like - enters the race with a big head start.

But the record of achievement of ''celebrity candidates'' is surprisingly patchy and in some cases has proved downright disastrous.

The voters in John Howard's former seat of Bennelong know this well, having succumbed to the allure of the high-profile television journalist-turned ALP politician Maxine McKew.

Her star power was instrumental not only in knocking off the Howard government in the 2007 ''Ruddslide'' election, but in ending the parliamentary career of Mr Howard himself.

But after a difficult adjustment process in which she went from watching to doing, Ms McKew was herself bested in the 2010 election by another pre-made headline grabber, former tennis star and commentator John Alexander.


Sports stars are always popular because they come with ready-made profiles, often some degree of media training, and a need to do something meaningful when their sports career is over.

But transitioning from the usually content-light blah of post-match interviews, to the tricky terrain of political battle, is no small thing.

A graphic example was popular Canberra Raiders rugby league star Mal Maninga, who set a record in 2001 for the shortest political career ever by announcing his candidacy for the ACT Assembly and then abandoning it in the same live interview.

Labor's coup of enticing Cheryl Kernot to defect from the Democrats went well initially but ended in tears.

And high-profile business types have not always succeeded either. With the exception of the politically engaged Malcolm Turnbull, many, including John Elliot and Clive Palmer, have talked big but failed to fire.

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