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Friday, February 18, 2005

Smiler Blair

The Guardian reports that the Prime Minister has eschewed spin and the normal tools of political debate during elections in favour of a new softer, more cuddly Tony. Out go the battlebuses, mass party rallies and playing political chess with Jeremy Paxman. In Labour's view such things are relics of how politics used to be played out. Instead Tony will be spending more time with the likes of Richard and Judy, Kirsty Young, Matthew Wright, June Sarpong and a host of people that most in Westminster have rarely heard of. The paper tells us that the aim is to rebuild the prime minister's relationship with the British people by proving with his wide smile, natural charm and relentless willingness to listen and engage that he is still the Tony Blair the nation fell in love with in 1997.

To an extent all of the party leaders are playing this game. Tone was followed onto the set of Coronation Street by Michael Howard, whilst Charles Kennedy, rather unwisely in my view, appeared briefly in the Eastenders Christmas panto. But how does all this help people to take their politicians seriously? For that matter, how does the dumbing down of politics in this way advance political debate in this country?

It is my view, for what it is worth, that people want to be engaged in discussion on the issues. They want to feel that they have a real choice when they come to elect a Government and that this choice should not come down to which party leader is the most effective mannequin. Yes, they want to feel that they can relate to the Prime Minister but more importantly they want to be able to trust him or her and have some confidence that when it comes to important decisions he or she will do the right thing. How does this new approach deliver that confidence?
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