Policy? Just busk it

Dana, singer and pro-lifer, may run for the Irish presidency. And why not, asks Rupert Cornwell
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Well, one may ask, why not? After all, the two trades have many distinguishing characteristics in common: ambition, no aversion to the limelight, and an ability to charm a great number of people a great deal of the time. The real surprise is not that show business luminaries become politicians, but that they don't do so more often.

However, the slim list may be about to acquire a new aspirant, in the person of Dana, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest (remember "All Kinds of Everything"?) in 1970 and subsequently a Catholic radio talk-show host in the American Deep South. Now, it seems, she wants to succeed Mary Robinson as President of Ireland, running on a pro-life, family values platform. The idea was first put to her by a group of conservative Catholic MPs, dismayed by the Republic's new-found tolerance of divorce and abortion. She is said to be "very interested". Unfortunately Dana's chances look small to non-existent, given the increasingly probable candidacy of John Hume, backed by Ireland's two largest parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

Still, it's a nice idea, and who's to say a bad one either? After all, as Ronald Reagan, the ultimate entertainer-turned-statesman demonstrated, politics is largely presentation, and those who have followed in his footsteps have generally fared well. Mayor Clint Eastwood has done no harm to Carmel, California. If the experience of Melina Mercouri in Greece is anything to go by, a job in a Labour Government may yet provide Glenda Jackson's finest hour. And as Reagan proved, shortcomings on the intellectual front need be no drawback. Sonny Bono, once Cher's other half, is no rocket scientist - but none the less manages to project relative gravitas as a Republican Congressman from California, albeit in a Washington whose similarities with Hollywood become more glaring by the day.

But as metaphor for the times, he pales beside Ilona Staller, better known by her stage name of Cicciolina. Formerly a porn magazine queen, she was elected a deputy for the Radical Party in the Rome Parliament in the Seventies, as Italy's ancien regime was entering terminal putrefaction. It was an outrage, everyone acknowledged, but a curiously healthy outrage none the less. "Better one honest whore than a dozen thieving politicians," commented a left-wing member of parliament, catching the public mood exactly.

Today, la Cicciolina's political career is over - but not before she bred an imitator in Japan. Boasting an almost identical CV, Anri Inoue founded the AV ("Adult Video" or "Able Volunteer") party in 1994. Her impact on local politics, however, seems to have been rather less than that of the blue lady of Montecitorio.

Now, from the opposite end of the decency spectrum, Dana is contemplating her entry into the business of politics. She probably won't make it. But in the remote event she were to, her prospects are unmitigatedly bright. Few entertainers may become politicians. But on both sides of the Atlantic, the reverse stream grows stronger by the week. From Mario Cuomo to David Mellor, the examples are legion. Get kicked out by the voters, and there's a talk show waiting for a host n

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