Irreverence Column

For the past couple of decades, British politics, unlike its American counterpart, has not been very sexy. If the USA’s politicians are an amalgamation of “24” and “Sex and the City”, Britain’s is more like “Last of the Summer Wine” meets “One Foot in the Grave” (“One Foot in the Grave”, it should be added, is the sex in this analogy). The US have Barack Obama: charismatic, handsome and thought-provoking; Britain has Gordon Brown: as one perceptive Labour advertising campaign pointed out, ‘Not Flash – Just Gordon’. With other examples emphasising the case (Monica Lewinsky or Edwina Currie: with whom would you rather have an affair?) it seems that British politics is just not as trendy.

This is partly Gordon Brown’s fault: not only does he look like he is morphing into a youthful Jabba the Hutt, but he also has a strange breathing technique, a cross between looking shocked and vomiting. Equally, David Cameron is to blame: he tried to be “cool”, and failed, as hugging a hoodie is as rewarding as hugging a hedgehog. The reasons many Britons are unhappy with both these leaders are because they are too boring and too inept – and there lies the final problem: a fixation with image.

Obama, although concerned with his appearance, also has substance; his main priority is to fix America, by attempting to create a free health service, getting rid of the country’s budget deficit, and, generally, remedying all the mistakes made by George W. Bush. British leaders, on the other hand, are now so overwhelmed with concern about how they appear, they have forgotten that what voters really want is competence. Rather than hearing Brown compliment Susan Boyle on her brilliant performance in “Britain’s Got Talent”, people would rather see him get cracking on finding £175 billion to free us of our national debt. Indeed, people would rather Cameron stopped conspicuously cycling everywhere and started thinking of some good policies, so that he wins the election on merit, not by default.

In a weird way, British politics is like Bolton Wanderers Football Club: they are not pretty, not by a long way, but if they are going to get anywhere, they cannot copy Manchester United. They have to start playing for results, because at the end of the day, fans want to support winners. If Cameron and Brown just started playing the ‘long ball’ now and again, they may just get somewhere.

James Adam-Pace


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