Movers and shakers line up to support main parties

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Indy Politics
Business leaders, big names in sport and entertainment, and then there was Baroness Thatcher. The list of those coming out for Tony Blair seems endless. Even if Lady Thatcher yesterday rowed back on her apparent support for the Labour leader, the Blair endorsement list remains impressive. By contrast, John Major's support among movers and shakers looks ... well, shaky.

Whether this reluctance openly to support the Conservative Party is due to the intimidating 20-point plus poll advantage, the prospect of a resounding electoral defeat, or the trend noticed by pollsters in the 1992 election of Tory voters to conceal their allegiance is open to question.

Among the few personalities who have come out for the Tories have been Earl Attlee, grandson of the Labour prime minister Clement Attlee, who crossed the floor in protest at Labour's plan to abolish the hereditary peerage.

The chief executive of Nissan, Ian Gibson, showed his preference when he argued that Labour's support for the Social Chapter could damage the competitiveness of British companies. Geri, of the Spice Girls, has also indicated her backing for Mr Major (though Mel C of the pop group has said that she will vote Labour).

Other than Lady Fairbairn, who has promised to move to Mexico if Mr Blair moves into Downing Street, and various international contributors, few other personalities have signalled their support for the Tories.

Most of the 150 people who attended a recent fundraising event for the party are well-known for their political preference. The boxer Frank Bruno, the England cricket captain, Michael Atherton, and football stars David Platt, Michael Ball and David Seaman were among sporting personalities who have indicated they will be voting Tory on 1 May. Other supporters at the function included Baroness (PD) James of Holland Park, Lorraine Chase, Sir Cliff Richard, Barbara Windsor, Carol Vorderman and Fiona Fullerton.

Mr Blair, on the other hand, has received the nod from a significantly larger and arguably more influential list of backers. In the business sector: Granada Group chairman Gerry Robinson, Reed Employment Agency founder Alec Reed, Sun Life chairman Lord Douro, and WH Smith chairman Jeremy Hardie, were among many key figures who have said they approve of the Social Chapter and will be voting Labour.

From the entertainment world, Lord Attenborough, Bianca Jagger, Richard Wilson, Sinead Cusack and ex-EastEnders stars Michelle Collins and Michael Cashman have announced their support for Mr Blair.

Stephen Fry said at a Labour Party fundraising function earlier this year: "I hope Labour wins - but we will not be counting our chickens. I will be voting Labour."

A variety of other personalities have agreed to stand up in public as Labour people. They include two religious leaders - the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, and the next Bishop of Worcester, Peter Selby - and the designer and restaurateur Sir Terence Conran. "If you are rich and selfish you vote Tory," Brian Moore, the former rugby union star, said earlier this year.

Coming out for Major:

Earl Attlee, grandson of the Labour PM Clement Attlee;

Frank Bruno, former boxer;

Lord Lloyd-Webber, composer;

Baroness (PD) James of Holland Park, writer;

Spice Girl Geri;

David Seaman, goalkeeper;

Michael Atherton, cricketer;

Barbara Windsor, actress;

Robert Powell, actor;

Backing Blair:

Gerry Robinson, Granada Group chairman;

Jeremy Hardie, chairman of WH Smith;

Dr Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi;

Mel C, of the Spice Girls;

Sir Terence Conran, restaurateur;

Lord Attenborough, film director;

Michael Cashman, actor;

Richard Wilson, actor;

Alan Shearer, football player;

Stephen Fry, actor and writer.

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