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Lights, camera, election : celebrity, performance and the 2010 UK general election leadership debates

Drake, Philip and Higgins, Michael (2012) Lights, camera, election : celebrity, performance and the 2010 UK general election leadership debates. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 14 (3). pp. 375-391. ISSN 1369-1481

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Abstract

The 2010 general election was the first in the UK in which a series of televised leaders' debates were broadcast. This article takes forward research on mediated political performance and the relationship between celebrity and politics through an analysis of these debates. By discussing how the candidates perform ‘personality’, the article highlights the use of performance in constructing informality and a personalised audience address, contrasting these with where candidates engage in conventional political speech-making. The article also examines the strategic use of language, particularly where it is designed to align speakers with the public in opposition to the political establishment. The article argues that celebrity should not be viewed as an innate quality but instead as an interpretative set of frames, the terms of which are established through performance. The article concludes by reflecting upon the implications that can be drawn about the relationship between performance, framing and political celebrity.