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Thursday 18 March 2010

The Beauty Pageant

The latest issue of Private Eye (Number 1258) has a front cover with the banner title “Leaders’ Wives” (geddit?!?). It reflects the use by Pa Broon, Young Dave and Corporal Clegg of their wives as electoral assets, and yes, we are likely to see more of this in the run-up to the General Election.

But this is a sideshow in comparison with the image war surrounding the leaders themselves. As I noted recently, the triumph of style over, well, anything else has been an increasingly significant feature of politics, and not just in the UK: John McCain was handicapped in the 2008 US Presidential Election by his age, so bringing Sarah Palin on board was immediately useful, whatever her policy stances.

And the Tories, being jolly clever chaps, are playing this card relentlessly: their key question to any wavering voter is simply “Do you really want another five years of Gordon Brown?”. Thus far, the approach appears to be gaining traction, but with Big Al back in the Labour inner circle, there will be a suitable riposte cooking away.

What might that be? Well, the idea that voters look beyond Cameron at the rest of the Shadow Cabinet may be one approach. After all, Young Dave polls well ahead of the rest of his party, so shining the spotlight onto the ones who poll less well is one of those no-brainers.

And that’s before the likes of Ashcroft and the variously dubious groups on the fringe of the party get mentioned.

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