It’s becoming abundantly clear just how important presentation is in politics - and I haven’t even seen Gordon Brown’s infamous YouTube broadcast yet (I didn’t want to scare the children that were in the room).
The thing is, I don’t really care how politicians appear. I don’t require them to be attractive, or polished, or great wits. I don’t want to be their friend. All I require of politicians is that they are intelligent, driven individuals that pursue principled politics that I can relate to (if not necessarily agree with).
Put it this way: if you had the choice of choosing the surgeon who was about to operate on you, you wouldn’t choose the one who seems like they’d be most fun down the pub. You’d go for the one who was most experienced and had the best recovery rates. Image isn’t important in fields such as medicine.
Such common sense rarely applies to politics.
If Abraham Lincoln were around today, it’s doubtful whether he’d get to be President. For all his undoubted intellect, ability and courage, he was – let’s face it – an odd looking cove. He’d be a challenge for the Republican Party communications team in today’s media saturated, image obsessed world. (“Listen, Abe. If you’re to stand a chance of getting the soccer mom vote, you’re going to have to sort out your eyebrows. And for God’s sake, lose the beard.”)
If you’re still not convinced that image is everything, consider that Esther Rantzen is now contemplating running for Parliament. Truly, we’ve gone through the looking glass. We’re so desperate for integrity, and trust, that anyone who’s appeared on TV will probably get into Parliament with a thumping majority.
And yet – with all due respect to Esther – I’m not sure what she stands for, besides being against expensive dry rot claims. Which is fine, as far as it goes. But what else is she planning to do in her five years as MP? And will she be able to function effectively without the support apparatus of a political party? As David Aaronovitch argues, it’s a moot point. It’s also something that most of us don’t tend to consider as voters.
After all, why have a boring MP who’s slogged their way through grassroots politics and knows their constituency inside out, when you could elect that one off the telly?
The way things are going, the next Parliament will be littered with the remnants of daytime TV. Bowing to public pressure, the next Cabinet will probably contain the likes of Rantzen (she’d be good as a touchy-feely Minister for Health); David Dickinson (getting the taxpayer bargain deals as Chancellor); and Jeremy Kyle (as Home Secretary, he’d keep the chavs in line through a combination of tough legislation and shouting loudly at them). While we're at it, why not bring the Loose Women team into the fold (as a special no-nonsense Cabinet taskforce to sort out the Israel-Palestine conflict).
Oh well. The campaign for Ant and Dec’s joint premiership may as well start here.