I've watched all the Harry Potter movies. You know, they're not bad. That said, I've always been amazed how this regurgitation of public school ritual and traditional folklore (interspersed with spells in elementary Latin) has struck such a chord with the public. It's so dated on so many levels that it makes C.S. Lewis's Narnia allegories look positively modern. Perhaps it's the safe, comfortable tone or the moral message that good always triumphs over evil that are key to understanding where Harry Potter's appeal lies - either that, or it's simply down to effective marketing. All the same, I've never truly understood it.
Similarly, I found it strange that the press should have made so much of Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe's support for the Lib Dems in the past, or that so many column inches should be dedicated today to his indicating that he has now withdrawn that support. Why is this remotely newsworthy? I don't think the majority of voters are very influenced by support from "celebrity" backers, and quite why Radcliffe's opinions are so important remain as great a mystery as why Dobby the House Elf never considered approaching a psychological therapist to help rid him of his various demons and personal insecurities.
The article in The Guardian is interesting though. Radcliffe's grasp of political reality is exposed in the opening paragraph, when he claims that Ed Miliband is "genuinely left-wing". Really? Does he understand what left-wing means? For all the talk in his acceptance address to his party's conference in 2010, Ed is anything but a left-winger. His philosophy is so devoid of ideology to be vacuous. There are plenty within the Labour Party who aren't sure what Ed Miliband stands for. And we won't talk about the unions' views...
Radcliffe claims that Clegg is the Tories' "whipping boy". Again, I would have expected someone of Radcliffe's profile and intelligence to be able to have a better constructed view of political reality than that of the average Daily Mirror reader. I understand the point he's making (I've also been critical of Clegg at times and feel there have been instances when he has been used by the Conservatives) and obviously he's entitled to his view, but surely as a Liberal Democrat supporter he recognises the several occasions when the party and Clegg himself have successfully curbed the Tories' ambitions, the way we have frustrated them on key issues (e.g. the NHS) and openly confronted them on others (e.g. Europe). Clegg is many things and in some respects has been a disappointment, making serious mistakes - but he's no-one "whipping boy". That really is a simplicity that needs challenging.
Interestingly, what really seems to motivate Radcliffe is his passion for LGBT rights and ending faith schools. Ah, a man after my own heart. He doesn't seem to have much in the way of a personal political philosophy, although he does suggest that he would like a more redistributive economy based on fairness: "if you make a lot more money than most people - like I do - you should pay more tax and subsidise people who work just as hard as you, but don't earn as much." So you'd think Cable's proposals for a mansion tax would appeal to him, as well as the historic Lib Dem commitment to marriage equality.
But no, he thinks that Ed Miliband "speaks for what he believes in". Hmm. I don't know, but if your beliefs amount to abolishing faith schools (Radcliffe calls himself a "militant atheist") and increasing taxes for the highest earners I'm not sure you should put too much faith in Ed, who won't commit to extending the 50p tax rate and has only made vague noises about a "wealth tax" (essentially the same principle as Cable's mansion tax). And as for Ed's views on faith schools...maybe Radcliffe should read The Guardian a bit more often.
I have to admit to being amused that Nick Clegg had "asked to meet [Radcliffe] and talked [with him] about gay rights and faith schools." Perhaps sometime Nick wouldn't mind talking to me about how we can reverse the fortunes of the Liberal Democrats here in Scotland. (I'm still waiting for a reply to that letter!)
Of course it could be that Radcliffe's understanding of politics, or even interest in it, is nothing more than superficial. He once gave an interview in which he said he'd vote for us, now he thinks he'll vote for someone else. That's not unusual, but it's also not exactly newsworthy and I can only speculate at the motivations of the media when they are so keen to give such a "revelation" significance it doesn't exactly merit.
While I'd much prefer it if Daniel Radcliffe continued to support the Lib Dems (and it sounds like he has some definite liberal principles) I'm not sure why his change of voting intention is given more media attention than defecting councillors or, perhaps more crucially, grassroots activists either changing their allegiance or leaving political activity altogether. That is a greater problem for our party: they are, after all, the people who make our party what it is - not the celebrities who temporarily endorse it.