‘Put Some Lipstick On At Least Your Lies Will Be Pretty’ – Politics and Image

Vanity and Image are integral to the ‘make-up’ of modern day politics. To succeed one must walk the walk and talk the talk. As fashion designer Ben Sherman said ‘looking good isn’t important; it’s everything.’ And this has never been more true than in an age where partisanship, values and ideology are in distinct decline; where presentation beats policy at the polls.

The 2010 UK general election is a perfect example. Nick Clegg was propelled to centre stage, despite (or maybe even because of) being a man of no substance or integrity. His articulate lies won over the nation in the first televised debates and thus gave him his 15 minutes (which he took at the cost of the Liberal Democrat’s future.) He’s now shedded this image for the look of a competition winner.

Dave Cameron meanwhile is a plastic politician. On becoming Tory leader he was wildly inexperienced – he knew about stationary yet thought Nye Bevan was a kind of Hogmanay drink. But by appearing young and presentable he emerged successful.

Conversely, poor Gordon Brown really suffered. A combination of appearing jaded, dull and out-of-touch with the common man (despite having never vomited over a poor person at Bullingdon) cost him office. Admittedly a series of high profile PR gaffes hardly helped his cause; calling a bigot pensioner a bigot never goes down well. Tough crowd. The main point is that if anything the perceived failures of New Labour were an afterthought.

Like Halloween and Justin Bieber we have the United States of America to thank for this ‘trend’. The electoral victory of the young, charismatic John F. Kennedy over the sweaty, stuffy Richard Nixon set the precedent/president.

And all of this points to one very worrying conclusion. Ed Milliband has no chance. Ed, even if he had popular policies (or even just policies), is doomed to opposition. He is drabber than a glum Henry Hoover watching You’ve Been Framed on a wet Sunday afternoon. And no-one with that voice is moving to Downing Street.

Fashion goes in cycles. The 1920’s Flapper look is very much in today, as is that of the 1950’s gent. However politics is now mirroring the 1980’s in  style and mood; Neil Kinnock, the then Labour opposition leader, also didn’t get a look in. The world wasn’t (and still isn’t) ready for a balding ginger Welshman to take charge.

Of course for every rule there is an exception to prove it. Boris Johnson is said exception. It is clear that his mum cuts his hair. He was perhaps the first example of a British politician being elected to office on the back of comedy value – rather than substance or style. It remains to be seen whether the public will make the same mistake twice however; surely a life confined to ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here…’ beckons for this Eton Mess.