Why Do Politicians Think Giving Us TMI Will Make Us Vote For Them?
The Debrief: Simon Danczuk has admitted that he watches porn, but do we really need to know so much about our politicians?
Picture the scene: a balding, over weight middle-aged man sitting at his desk with his trousers round his ankles and the dull sound of strained groans emitting from the computer in front of him.
Actually, don’t. I’m sorry I even mentioned it. It’s too horrible to bear. So why, oh why did Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Rochester, Simon Danczuk feel the need to share his porn habit with the rest of the country? It’s time we got to the bottom of why our political figures are sharing waaaaaay to much and called TMI on it, because a) it’s creepy, and b) no one’s falling for it.
Politicians are baring their personal lives and habits left, right and centre. For the latest issue of Men’s Health three front bench MPs stripped down and laid bare their physical short-comings in a series of before and after photos. Labour’s Gavin Shuker, Conservative Dan Poulter and Liberal Democrat Tom Brake were assessed by a personal trainer and found lacking – so came the inevitable training regime and strict diet. But did we really need to see these pale, middle-aged torsos any more than those that filled the parks in the bank holiday sun? We learnt that skipping breakfast, having a quick ciggie in the car and sitting behind a desk all day with little or no exercise is bad for you. We knew that anyway. Certainly, as Minister for health and a trained GP Dan Poulter didn’t need to be told. So why did he need to take part at all?
But, apparently, providing such insight into their day-to-day personal lives is all part of politicians, like Danczuk’s attempts to turn us on to politics. And by us, I mean young people eligible to vote, because since the last election in 2010 over 200,000 of us have ‘fallen off’ the electoral register. That’s 200,000 fewer people voting for them.
According to chartered psychologist Dr Arthur Cassidy, it’s all about bridging the gap between their lives in the Westminster bubble and those of us living IRL. ‘Politicians take great pride in understanding the reality of people’s lives and they understand that people are bored of politics.’
So in an attempt to engage us politicians are turning to what Dr Cassidy calls a strategy of personality, putting on a ‘theatrical attempt to act out a personality before the election’. Think David Cameron’s own latest claim to fame (because clearly being Prime Minister doesn’t carry enough kudos among younger generations) that he is 13th cousin to ultimate self-publicist and sharer of all things private, Kim Kardashian. And the recent shots of him cradling a lamb designed for us to coo over sweet, sweet Dave.
Personal branding consultant Jennifer Holloway agrees that people aren’t just interested in debates and what politicians claim to have achieved. According to her, ‘The bottom line in life is that people buy people. When you sell a personal brand you’re selling what and who. People want to know you’re political background, what you’ve delivered and what you’re about, but they also want to understand who you are.’
And that’s exactly how Labour candidate for Cardiff Central, Jo Stevens feels. ‘The best politicians are those rooted in the communities they serve. That involves being visible, accessible and approachable so that constituents feel they can relate to their representative and that their representative has empathy and understanding about their lives.’
With regards to the Men's Health feature, Jo doesn’t think it does any harm for politicians to take part in PR exercises of that kind, but she definitely wouldn’t want to be photographed in her pants. ‘Gavin Shuker is a brave man,’ she says.
It all depends on who they’re trying to impress, though, as Jenny points out, ‘It’s a good thing for anyone who needs people to buy into hem to show a human side, but you have to think, “Is what I’m going to convey what people want to see.”’
NO. People do not want the mental image of a guy hoping to help run the country getting all hot and bothered at what ever turns him on onscreen. Among others sex is one of the things that Jennifer Holloway advises politicians should avoid at all costs because personality really doesn’t need to extend to sexuality. She was a shocked as anyone at Simon Danczuk’s revelations because, ‘with all the issues around the pornography industry, it’s such a minefield. I don’t see why anyone would want to readily admit to that.’
And it certainly doesn’t do anything for 23-year-old film production coordinator Samya Mohamed, from London. ‘I don’t think politicians sharing TMI about their lives make me more interested in politics. It puts me off a little. I understand that some politicians feel like over sharing intimate things may make them come across as more “human” to the public, and perhaps more likeable, but what they should really be concentrating on is their policies.’ And fellow voter Cai Martlew, also 23, and a music teacher in Chichester agrees. ‘ I think Simon Danczuk's “porn revelations” show a very respectable honesty, but sexuality and sexual identity are not something I make judgements on. Unless MPs’ sexual preferences are Illegal, then it’s not my place to judge and would therefore prefer it if MPs didn’t answer such questions on the grounds that it’s outside their job title. Ultimately, sexual habits or other aspects of MPs’ personal lives don’t affect policy, which is what I vote for.’
Following their debates is hard enough without the nagging reminder of what politicians get up to get up to in their spare time. By sharing personal information and attempting to sex up their public image, politicians are overshadowing what really matters. It’s just plain patronising that politicians seem to have assumed that sex and celebrity are the only way to attract young people to politics.
We have reached saturation point, when it comes to politicians’ personal lives. If they want us to relate to them and engage with what they do, it’s time they stopped patronising us with shallow attempts to cling onto the fringes of celebrity and sexual scandal. And they’re trying desperately hard to be ‘down with the kids’, with the government reportedly spending £530,000 on a campaign to persuade students to vote, and the Tories spending £100,000 A MONTH on Facebook promotions. But rather than being made privy to the ins and outs of politicians lives, and 72% of young people aged 18-24 say that they’d be much more likely to vote if they could do it online. So there you are, we don’t want the nitty gritty of their personal lives – leave that to the celebs – easy access voting online and decent policies are the things that will really get young people voting.
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Picture: Julian Benjamin, courtesy of Men's Health
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