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South: Politics, personality or policy
Ian Paul
Ian Paul
The Politics Show South

David Cameron
David Cameron installed as leader

Politics, personality or policy or ... the importance of not being Earnest. The Politics Show South reports.

So, David Cameron, MP for Witney in Oxfordshire, is the new Conservative leader.

Over the last few months as the leadership campaign has hopped about the country, we have learned quite a bit about his personality - he likes to cycle, he was educated at Eton, his wife has a tattoo.

But of policy there has been, ahem, rather less mention. Indeed, he has actually refused to commit himself to specifics.

Yet such reticence has done him no harm at all with the voters in his party at least - they have been quite happy to take him on the basis of being a nice guy with an easy manner.

Almost the same as could be said of Tony Blair when he was elected leader of his party.

So on Politics Show South we ask whether personality has taken over from policy in modern politics.

Just how important is it for politicians not to be too earnest?

You could argue that some presentational skills have always been necessary to a political career - and many of our local politicians have managed to stand out from the crowd.

Robert Key
Robert Key: Political serenade

Like Robert Key, MP for Salisbury, who each time he has been re-elected has serenaded the good people of his constituency from the balcony of the White Hart Hotel.

Martin Salter is the Labour MP for Reading East. He feels strongly that the image has to be right, but it also has to be 'real':

"People like to feel they are represented by people like them.

"I take great store by shopping in my local supermarket, by making sure when I go to see my beloved Reading football club I am not in the directors' box, I am actually in the stands with the people.

"I know for a fact it plays well with people. I do not do it for those reasons.

"I have always been to the supermarket, I have always followed Reading football club but people do relate to people that appear to occupy the same planet as them."

Matthew Parris
Matthew Parris: Personality opens doors

Matthew Parris has had a ringside seat at the Westminster Punch and Judy show for many years, first as a Conservative MP, then as a sketch writer for the Times.

He is certain that who you are has to be a part of it:

"Personality puts a foot in the door of the consciousness of the nation. It gets you your first hearing.

"But if there's nothing to back it up, if all you have got is personality, then you will drift."

"When I say personality matters, it does not mean big white smile and teeth, the American idea of personality.

"You can have bad teeth, you can be bald, you can be bad tempered. But you have got to be memorable, got to be a real character. You have to be a little bit larger than life."

Another of our local MPs, Boris Johnson, is certainly a bit more than life-size.

He is probably far better known from his appearances on "Have I Got News For You" than his stint as shadow Culture Secretary.

On Politics Show South this week, some politicians with big personalities but big policies too.

Lord Healey - a Cabinet minister for 11 years but also a politician famous for having a 'hinterland' before that was the only thing politicians might be famous for having.

And there will be a surprise appearance from Tony Blair as Buttons!

The Politics Show

Let us know what you think. Are you more impressed with the breadth of a politician's smile or the depth of their policies?

Email us with your thoughts, and we will put them to our guests.

Join Peter Henley on Sunday 15 January 2006 at Noon on BBC One.


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11 Sep 05 |  England


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