Anyone in the UK who has been watching the coverage of the US presidential elections cannot help but notice how different the debates and activism have been to what we usually can expect to get here. And when I say different what I actually mean is strikingly popular with endless seas of people coming to hear what politicians have to say.
Lets face it, our political system simply sucks at getting people interested in, well, itself. Ideas, arguments and concepts are lost in a never ending barrage of statistics, opinion polls, claim and counter claim. The speed at which examples to support the strategy of the day are rattled out can only be matched by the lightening fast counter claim by the opposition desperately trying to keep the political momentum.
Why? Because politicians assume that we care about facts and figures, or because it makes it sound like they know what they are talking about. Personally I have totally given up on statistics in politics. I would trust someone more if they turned around and simply said they weren't going to bother getting into an argument over statistics and stuck to that line in good times and bad. Campaign managers sit behind our politicians and feed them this endless, meaningless ream of numbers so it looks like they have done their job.
Now, back to the US. Here statistics are used but, God, they're much more subtle with it. And why am I more forgiving? Because every four years a new candidate gets to throw his or her hat in the ring and explain their views. The novelty of having an almost completely independent and unique agenda which is not tied to the historic actions of your political party is what gives the US political system such vigour. If Barak Obama was tied to the political history of Clinton or if McCain was forced to follow through with the policies of Bush then this idea of change, for which both campaigns are fighting so hard, would be completely implausible. McCain doesn't work for Bush in his Cabinet and therefore can break totally with the president's policies free of accusations of betraying his party or having changed his political outlook.
The individual is not important enough in UK politics and the Party wields too much influence. If we were actually able to see what Gordon Brown would choose to do free from the hangover of working in a Blair government for 10 years don't you think that there would a huge difference between his policies and those of the Conservatives? Sadly political leaders in this country go through a long and protracted political indoctrination which forces them to vote against every thought they have which might be considered even vaguely individual because to do otherwise would prevent them from achieving top office in the first place. Don't get me wrong, we have plenty ofMPs who speak their mind and vote the way their conscience as well as personal view dictates, but these brave souls rarely make it beyond the back benches because they are considered a liability.
Which brings me to Boris Johnson. Here is the exception to the rule.
There always is one. Boris is exactly what this country needs someone else to be. Boris is a great man because he has managed to break free from the mass ranks of MPs with his individuality largely intact.
That's not to say that the Conservative indoctrination committee through which he surely must have passed has not reduced his capacity for self expression but our new Mayor of London is still recognisable as the man who was such a hit on "Have I Got News For You". And why did they let this free thinking radical loose on the electorate with the Conservative Party's reputation at stake? Because the only way they were ever going to win is if anyone paid attention. And because Boris is an individual with his own views and is not ashamed of expressing them the media got stuck in, knowing that they actually had something more than just figures to work with. Can you imagine Boris trying to reel off a set of statistics in the way Blair did every Wednesday in PMQs. He would be likely to get the numbers wrong, attribute them to the wrong department (not that anyone would notice or care) or simply forget what he was saying mid-sentence so bored with himself he would have become. No, Boris won because he has opinions, answers questions directly (most of the time; he is a politician after all) and actually allows his personality to shine through, God help us.
The problem with Boris is that he will never be taken seriously enough to be PM. His personality is that of a buffoon, not a free thinking orator with inspirational views and opinions which would draw the attention of the media and public alike because he doesn't treat them like primary school children. I would say we need our own Barack Obama but then it would be such a waste. Until our political system changes, anyone with his talent would find his political individuality squashed out of him under the weight of party history and the agenda of the leadership of the time. Better anyone with Mr Obama's talent be born in the US where he might get the chance to say what he actually thinks.
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