Sunday, 5 April 2015

Campaign getting shirty

It shouldn't matter what politicians wear, should it?  Sadly, in the modern age, such image-related issues have become the main focus of election coverage; the politics of personality – of identity – has superseded the politics of ideas in a quite alarming fashion.  Which is why the BBC News website today is running a story about what shirts David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have been wearing on the campaign trail.

It shouldn't matter.  And yet, for some reason, it does.  It matters because the strangely homogenous garb of political leaders (all three leaders have favoured a dark blue V-neck jumper over a light blue shirt, with dark jeans or trousers) is indicative of the 'no-win' situation many politicians find themselves in.  What I mean by that is that politicians are always being told that we (the electorate) want to see politicians who are 'normal', and who act just like 'ordinary people' (whatever that means); they can't go out and about campaigning in a suit and tie, because 'normal people' don't go out in a suit and tie, and they need to look like they're 'one of us'.  And yet when they try to look like 'one of us', we lambast them for trying to look 'normal'.  Which is pretty mean of us, really.

It's also pretty stupid.  This shallow vapidity distracts from the serious side of politics, and while everyone's busy laughing at the Prime Minister trying to be one of 'the kids', or the leader of the Opposition looking silly while eating a bacon sandwich, their policies – which may well be pretty ghastly – go unnoticed.

The fetishisation of 'normal' is not good for British politics.  The more we force politicians to behave in the way they think we want them to, ever fearful of putting a toe wrong lest they be laughed out of office by the court of public opinion, the more homogenous and consensual politics becomes, and the less choice there is (or, at least, appears to be) between the different parties and their different leaders.  And then we have the temerity to complain that all politicians are 'the same'!  Maybe you think politicians are all the same – but as I have remarked before, the incessant whining of the electorate has made politics that way.


Kit Marsden said...

mate I is so good at writing m8.

Ripplingkeys said...

But they do all look the same! It's confusing....

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