Politics and Beauty

It seems everything in life has become increasingly associated with how aesthetically pleasing it is to the eye. Whether its buying a perfume or voting for winners in singing competitions, it seems looks carry more and more weight in society today. This seems to be increasingly true of politics. With its past reputation as being the profession that offered ‘show business for ugly people’ slowly deteriorating, with no disrespect to some of our finest leaders, it seems image is increasingly being used as a way to criticise our leaders. In modern politics, this seems to be unquestionably evident when looking the way Miliband has been mocked in the British press. A simple search on Google will show you the harsh reality of the situation for Ed. If the curiosity has not killed you, typing ‘Ed Miliband ugly’ into the search engine comes up with 171,000 results in a matter of seconds, comparing the Labour leader to everything from Babs in Chicken Run to a slimly sloth. But why has Miliband’s face become such a target for the media in helping undermine his leadership? And does the media’s ability to portray him as a weak and a potentially ineffective leader because of this reflect that the electorate has become increasingly superficial?

Well maybe what we should initially ask is whether we do have a right to demand our politicians do live up to certain aesthetic expectations and aspirations. Some would argue we do, for reasons that extend beyond basic vanity. To many, politicians are role models as to how to live our lives, a role they have, in a way, created for themselves. Politicians love to lecture the public on how and why to be healthier, something reinforced with the continuous waves of policy initiatives and bills encouraging us to fight obesity and so on. So in regards to their basic physic, surely it is not irrational for us to expect our politicians to practise what they preach? In regards to being a leader, it seems looks are increasingly imperative, especially with it being associated with a leader’s charismatic qualities.  Moreover, with politics being increasingly leader-centric, as reflected in the leadership debates in the last general election, perhaps there is room for an argument that a political leader’s looks are becoming increasingly important.

But surely such an argument is ridiculous? Surely looks cannot have such influence over the electorate’s thoughts towards politics? For many, such a superficial sway is often associated with American politics, with presidents such as Obama, Kennedy and Clinton all being fairly good looking and popular leaders. But maybe this should not be associated with European politics. And yes, believe it or not, when I say Europe, Britain is included in this. Leaders like Merkel, in my opinion, are a clear demonstration of this. This is not my way of calling Merkel ugly, however she is not the most attractive leader in the world. Despite this, what some would class as a shortfall, she has used it to her advantage and remains a fairly popular leader. By embracing the image that she does have this has portrayed her as a strong mothering figure, becoming something that the public can embrace and has been effective. A more local example can be seen in Churchill. A well respected leader, yes, but I think most would agree that he, perhaps, was not the most attractive of men to be selected to run the country. Yet he is a massive iconic figure, loved and embraced by the people.

So what does this mean about Ed? Why has his face become so central to the criticism of his leadership? Well from what I have seen of him, and what I have read, I feel Ed’s initial failure to establish himself to the electorate as someone they can relate to, or just basically as someone they feel they know, is part of the cause. The political leaders aforementioned from across the pond, in Germany and Britain’s own Churchill, all show that establishing a clear and identifiable persona that the electorate can understand and embrace has been part of the formula to their success. This is essentially what Miliband has failed to do. With his failure to establish a clear personality, he has become the mystery man of British politics today, with no ‘inner man’ coming through, he inevitably becomes a stranger, naturally pushing the public to fixate on his physical attributes, with this being all that is coherently and collectively known about him.

So what will become of Ed? Will the words of John Humphrys be proven true, and Ed, like Robin Cook, be deemed too ‘ugly’ to be a good political leader? Or will he find a way to shrug off or embrace his image, becoming someone the electorate feels they know, and thus can make an informed decision as to whether they feel he is fit to run the country, rather than a removed one? Well, only time will tell

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