An Obsession with People’s Politicians | Sarah Stook
It can be Jeremy Corbyn talking to a single mum affected by austerity. It can be Nigel Farage grinning over a pint. It could be Jess Phillips talking candidly on the radio. It could be Boris Johnson playing a game of football.
Whatever it is, we’re obsessed with so called ‘people’s politicians.’
A people’s politician is someone being seen as ‘down with the voter’ as a cool teacher is seen as ‘down with the kids.’ They’re the type you want a beer with, who you think is more like you and you’d be receptive to on the doorstep. This politician can be posh and well educated, as long as they’ve got common sense and charm. It doesn’t matter what party they are. If they’re at events, they’re not doing an awkward May grin- they’re hugging children and comforting grannies. They’re at ease, natural even.
‘He’s an alright bloke.’
It seems as though sticking ‘people’s’ as a prefix to something makes it seem more grassroots. Examples include The People’s Republic of China and The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It works on political parties- People’s Party of Canada and People’s Party (Spain) for example. It takes politics down a notch, to ground level. This is the same with politicians themselves. Recently on Twitter, #peoplesprimeminister has been trending- a fight between Corbynites and Boris Backers. Each wants to claim the party leader as the ultimate people’s candidate.
Does such a people’s politician exist?
Politicians start off in many ways. Some are moneyed and attended Eton, followed by Cambridge or Oxford. Some went to middle class grammar schools. Others were born on a council estate and didn’t attend university. They all become socially equal, however, when they arrive in the House of Commons. They enjoy power that the common person doesn’t, for they can vote on bills that will affect the entirety of the country. As well as a guaranteed wage, they have expenses and a gold plated pension once they leave. That’s not to say there are drawbacks, such as security risks, but it’s still power they have.
Once they’re sworn in, they are a step above.
Part of that being a step above is the PR machine. Some MPs are naturally hopeless. They come off as arrogant, uncaring or simply hapless. Others have their minders grooming them to perfection. Whilst Theresa May could never shake the robot image and Gordon Brown failed with the whole ‘bigot’ routine, others excel. Jeremy Corbyn hugged the survivors of Grenfell and was seen as more active. Boris Johnson isn’t afraid to jump straight into basketball or football. It doesn’t matter if they’re genuine; it’s the optics that matter. If they are seen to care, they will. More cynical voters and those who know politics are less likely to be deceived, but politicians know how to turn on the charm if need be.
There are some politicians who will genuinely not have a clue. Not all of them have to be posh. Some of them become too enchanted by the bright lights of Westminster to remember what they’re actually here for. Opening libraries and judging dog shows doesn’t make the papers. You’re on Andrew Marr or Sophy Ridge when you introduce a policy or make a splash on the green benches. They stop attending constituency events. You don’t seem them down their local high street. They use their staff at MP’s surgeries. Your MP isn’t for the people anymore.
The leadership seems to be more London centric, more in the bubble. You see them grinning at party conference with a glass of bubbly, surrounded by wide eyed young members who are running at them for selfies. When they meet party members, it’s at dinners that cost £40 or campaigning events when they’ll be splashed all over the media. If they go to a factory or school, they’re smiling for cameras and workers who are told to be on their very best behaviour. They’re not being questioned by the people, security or no security.
A lot of politicians are caring and have gone into politics to better people’s lives. Unfortunately, the people’s politician is still a rare, endangered animal only spotted in the wild once in a blue moon.