Friday, October 06, 2006

Tales From the Casting Couch

If I’m ever seen out in public like this – please shoot me.

What does this man do for a living?.

Fine yeomen, when our British readership gets to vote in the next General election, the chances are they will vote for someone who is white, middle class and male. In fact, if you are British, I will go as far as saying that you will vote for a white, middle class male.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not accusing you of any hidden prejudice or anything like that. It is just that for most safe seats, the current incumbent will be a white middle class male and that most candidates from all of the major political parties will be white, middle class males. You can only vote for what is presented on the ballot paper after all.

All of the main political parties appear keen to get greater diversity amongst their candidates and to get these candidates into the safe seats so that Westminster ceases to be dominated by white middle class men.

All very laudable and I’m not going to enter into a debate over the advantages and disadvantages of positive discrimination here.

Of course, when you really get down to it, the whole thing is about projecting the right image to get people to vote for you. With the majority of the electorate women, making sure that you have a few women MP in the photo opportunities might help scavenge a few votes.

The image is of an environmentally concerned leader – the truth is that he is being followed by a member of staff in a car carrying his papers.

In order to help bolster an image of what a warm and inclusive party, the Conservatives has become under that nice David Cameron. There was a bizarre scene at their party conference this week. They had a procession on candidates who were definitely not white, middle class men act out their version of Dragon’s Den.(Note 1)

Politics is all about image. It is about finding ways to part people from their vote. It has very little to do with actual policies and a lot to do with media management. About making sure you are projecting the correct image. Making sure that everyone is staying ‘on message’.

Sadly, it has meant that you end up with a rather bland set of politicians. The need for a consistent message and image has tended to weed out the individuals from the political herd. Finding political characters is getting harder. (Note 2) The image makers tend to make sure that the characters are kept well out of the journalists’ way.

And then there is Boris Johnson, the Conservative MP for Henley on Thames.

Boris is a character. You could describe him as an upper class twit, a bumbling duffer and loose cannon. Boris is the sitting MP in one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Currently, he is the Conservative spokesman on Further Education.

In his short career, our Boris has managed to upset a wide range of the British populous with his foot in mouth escapades.

Strange then, we have a Political climate that normally marginalise someone with Boris’s ability to upset and alienate. (Note 3) In a great synaptic leap tinged with the lime tinge of cynicism, I’ll give you a few theories.

1. Boris has made himself a bit of a celebrity on TV quiz shows. The cult of celebrity that has allowed actors to achieve high office in the US despite their foibles is creeping over to the UK.

2. Boris is becoming a bit of a cult amongst the young with his antics. Strangely, this is getting them interested in politics and the Conservative Spin Doctors think this will win them votes. (Note 4)

3. Boris’s gaffs take attention away from the horrible ghosts of the Thatcherite Right (Like Norman Tebbit) which still haunt the party and from the potential for quarrels over membership of the EU.

There are probably others. Mind you, I would much rather have Boris than David Cameron.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: It is an obscure synaptic tangent, but the Dragons Den format has people wandering into a room to be faced with business people sat behind piles of cash. The idea being that they have to persuade the business people to invest some money in them. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that the candidates were making a pitch for a brown envelope stuffed with cash in return for ‘favours’. So much for improving the ‘image’ then.Click to return

NOTE 2: Quite often, describing someone as a ‘character’ is seen as a genteel type of insult or perhaps as a back handed compliment. It is almost as if society is conditioning us to try and fit the mould and being a character is somehow something to be avoided. Am I alone in finding this a shame? Click to return

NOTE 3: Please don’t think that Boris is in anyway stupid – he isn’t. Read those quotes of his. Check out his CV. He is far from stupid. He just has a faulty clutch between brain and mouth. Click to return

NOTE 4: One look at the audience at the Tory Conference shows how despearately they need younger members. In ten years they’ll be playing to a hall of skeleton and zombies. Click to return

Boris demonstrating his contempt for Jamie Oliver by eating bread and dripping in front of a school dinner lady convention.

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