Wednesday, 24 September 2008

In praise of dullness

Most American presidents and senators have tended to look like actors playing American presidents and senators. Come to think of it some of them were - and are - actors. British Prime Ministers have generally not been dashing and actor-like. Voters have tended to distrust them when they were. Sometimes they just came to a bad end - Eden, Macmillan, Blair in his own way.

I don't really want a celebrity as a prime minister. To be brutally frank I don't care what he or she looks like, smells like, what their family is like, what his/her voice is like. There is a form of being like something that is not any of those things.

I can quite see Gordon's PR people saying: You have an image problem, Gordon. People perceive you as being a dour bully who used to be competent, determined and straight but is now incompetent, vacillating and pointless. The economy is down the drain, the party is falling apart, your promises mean less than they did and people are audibly sharpening knives. Can't do much about most of that but If you dropped the dour, with a bit of luck, the rest might follow.

So, Gordon, conference coming up, TV cameras, speeches. You are going to practice smiling until you develop a permanent rictus. The full smiling course might take a few years and we don't have that so see what you can do in a week. When things are falling apart you want to project an image of togetherness. This is where Sarah comes in. Like that other Sarah, hockey-mom Palin, or George W. See how they all line up on stage? Togetherness. Unity. Solidarity. You don't want to overdo it, of course - the UK consumer is not yet the US consumer - so say something about not getting your family involved, exposing them to public scrutiny and so forth. Project virtue. Substance. Authenticity.

And this is where a good song comes in, something upbeat, optimistic. Things can only get better. Or like that but different. That at least would be true. But no, what you want to say is we are already high and on an up. We are going higher and higher. Come. Let us say Jackie Wilson.

Meanwhile on the Wilson video a man is ironing. His toast starts to burn so he leaves the iron face down so now his clothes are burning too. Everyone else is at the concert but his ticket flies out of the window. He follows it out onto the ledge. The ticket blows away. He grabs hold of a drainpipe and it comes away with him. He manages to swing round to another window but the man who opens it simply knocks him off so he falls to the ground and is smashed to pieces. As he is falling he dreams he has arrived at the concert where everyone is boogying.

Look. You shouldn't be on the window-ledge in the first place. Not in your purple loon pants. You had some dignity once. It was worth something. Sub-prime dignity is worth nothing.

And that is the quality I was looking for, that like something. Like dignity, like honesty, like integrity, like a downright dullness if you like.

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