Monday, 31 May 2010

Is the loss of Brown dangerous?

When I say "Dangerous", I'm not talking in terms of the direction of the country and what the replacement Government will do, but about British politics in general. For many years now, the role of the Prime Minister has been moving to one of a Presidential role, both in substance and style. It seems that we have generally embraced this change, with the Leaders' Debates adding fuel to the fire of people choosing a party based upon the leader rather than policies or the competence and effectiveness of their local candidates. The "I agree with Nick" phase served as testament to this, with a cult of personality growing up around Mr Nicholas William Peter Clegg from supporters both new and old. Something noticeable throughout the debates was that Clegg and Cameron were practically the same - there's only a year between their ages, and they've both had a privileged upbringing courtesy of Mummy and Daddy. Brown looked out of place - older, less telegenic, a bit bumbling. Whatever you think of the man and his party, I think the loss of Brown could have big negative impact upon politics in general in the future.



You only have to look at the Labour leadership contest to see what I'm concerned about: the two key players are both young and attractive (though perhaps not enough so that women start throwing their bloomers at them). In fact, the only two candidates that would serve as a leader with a different background, style, and appearance would be Diane Abbott and and John McDonnell, neither of whom are likely to even get enough nomination from the Parliamentary Labour Party to get onto the ballot paper. Why am I making such a mountain out of this? I don't particularly care about how leaders look, but I fear that the loss of Brown sends out the message to the political parties that people are now judging firmly based upon appearance and style, and therefore parties will only ever select young and fit (as far as politicians can be: it's show-business for ugly people, after all) MPs to take the helm of their party. The main parties all feeling that they have to select a candidate who ticks the boxes in terms of media appeal would reduce the spectrum of the type of people who would become PM in future, and lead us into a situation where parties feel they cannot put up their most competent candidates because they would not appeal to the public. Previously, it wasn't so much of an issue, but in recent times, the media has been growing at an astounding rate, giving us all breaking news and instant access just about everything that politicians do. The leaders' debates are now also likely to become a mainstay, and they could have a big impact on the result of elections, so the parties may be looking to pick people able to present themselves well in these debates.

[caption id="attachment_717" align="alignleft" width="187" caption="Cleggeron - is this all we have to look forward to from now on?"][/caption]

I'm not claiming that Brown was the most outstanding Prime Minister we've ever had, though he was competent, did some good things, and his heart was always in the right place, but I am making the case that the fact Brown that led his party to a defeat only topped in recent times by Foot in 1979 is likely to suggest to the parties that the public are only interested in parties led by young, charismatic leaders. This could potentially lead us into a situation where the only contenders for the top job are men in their thirties and forties who will be able to smarm their way into the hearts of the British people, whilst more competent and experienced chaps and chapesses are left in other Cabinet jobs, with no hope of becoming leader of their party of Prime Minister because they're as ugly as sin and as good at public speaking as the elephant man.

This all presumes that the role of Prime Minister continues to be important. Due to the coalition Government, there's more compromise going on behind the scenes, and Cameron is unlikely to be able to dominate his Cabinet like previous PMs did - Clegg would get upset and throw his toys out of his pram. Whilst this will be the situation until the next general election takes place (I'm expecting the coalition will collapse before the set 2015 election date), when I think we'll see Labour back in power, because the Con-Lib Government isn't going to be popular due to its penchant for cutting that will make itself even clearer soon.

I don't think it would be in anyone's interests for parties to always pick media-friendly personalities but with mediocre credentials, which is why I'm concerned we're going to see this happening in future. Amongst Labour circles, one of the reasons people have been backing David Milliband is that he's well-known and some think he's the person who will most appeal to the public, and therefore give Labour the highest chance of winning the next general election. Whilst these are valid reasons - especially as the party is itching to get back into Government - I would rather see the decision being based upon competence, track-record, and the direction in which they want to take the country. Tomorrow, I need to demand the credit card from Mum so I can join Labour and vote for the next leader when the time comes - not sure who yet. (I still find my extreme fickleness as a political whore a bit disturbing. I hope I've finally settled down and moved in with Labour, having finished my affairs with other parties. My wacky flings have lasted almost a year - they began during the rampant* summer holidays last year. (*Rampant for me is 'dull and incredibly sad' for everyone else.)

As a counter-point to what I've put forward, I may be over-playing the influence of the leaders' debates. Off the back of Clegg's performance, the Lib Dems saw a surge, even coming above Labour at times in the opinion polls. However, in the election itself, the Lib Dems only gained 0.8% more of the proportion of votes than in 2005, and in a shocker to everyone, actually lost seats. We could even see Clegg's telegenicity (no, it's not a real word, but I like it) as being his downfall. Whilst he spoke well and started disturbingly into our living rooms, not many more of us lent his party our votes than in 2005, suggesting to me that, whilst he is generally liked as a person, we didn't all suddenly decide we agreed with his policies.

Anyway, let's hope that parties keep rooting for the best candidate, and not just the best one in terms of looks, otherwise hideous, disproportionate, malformed uglies like me would never stand a chance. I must go now - that awful Rolo Tomassi advert has interrupted Spotify, and I need to leave the room before it mentally scars me. Apparently the definition of the word 'music' has now been extended to include something called 'Mathcore', which is making inhuman noises that are probably about how shit life is - I can't quite tell what they're screeching about.

(PS. I have some advice for you: next time you have a ball of mozzarella in your fridge that's about to run out of date, don't use it all up by cutting it into slices; coating them in egg and then dipping them in breadcrumbs; frying it; and then consuming the entire lot. You will probably feel a bit worse-for-wear after a few hours.)

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