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Keywords:

  • celebrity politics;
  • New Labour;
  • political communication

This article asks what it means to take celebrity politics seriously. It does so from three perspectives. It begins by looking at the case of New Labour and the role that celebrity politics played in party political communication and in government policy-making. It places both in the context of New Labour's cultural policy more broadly. This leads to a second perspective, in which the focus is upon how celebrity politics might be seen within social and political change more generally. A contrast is drawn between the ‘late modernity’ approach adopted by David Marsh and his colleagues, and the media-oriented approach adopted by Aeron Davis. Both approaches, it is suggested, invite a turn to empirical investigation, and the article's final section reviews existing research into celebrity politics, and argues for more emphasis on (a) cross-national comparison of forms of celebrity politics, and (b) audience perceptions of celebrity politicians, going beyond the current focus on large-scale surveys and experimentation.