When I first met Mrs J and tried to impress her with my political exploits of running for parliament (she had previously worked in parliament) she responded with Ben Begala’s famous line; “Politics is show business for ugly people.”
Last night, we saw that line between politics and show business blurred a little further with the appearance of Theresa May and her husband, Philip, on BBC’s flagship light magazine programme, The One Show. For those of us with long memories, it was a throwback to the day Tony Blair, then opposition leader, went on the Des O’Connor Show. Yes, Des O’Connor.
The chat show or breakfast TV sofa has increasingly become the medium of choice for politicians who are looking to reach the electorate.
Why? It is a lot easier than facing a snarling Andrew Neil or a foaming at the mouth Question Time audience of disgruntled voters looking for their fifteen minutes for fame, and importantly its reaches a large and different audience – often folk who don’t tune in to BBC Parliament or the Daily Politics.
The key to success with these “softer” outings is authenticity. Keeping it real. Not trying to be something you are not. And the Mays appearance last night was a triumph. They were exactly who they are; decent, straightforward, fairly dull, pretty cautious and as comfortable with each other as you would expect a couple who have known each other since their late teens and been married 37 years. There were no great revelations, no gaffes, not huge insights into their lives but it was a success because they met our expectations of them. They didn’t try too hard. They didn’t try to sound ‘with it’ or ‘down with the kids’ – they were themselves, comfortable in their own skin and it worked a treat.
This was not Gordon Brown and his Artic Monkeys, William Hague with his nine pints of beer or Ed Miliband and his two kitchens. They avoided the pitfalls others have fallen into and I turned off after making my debut watching The One Show reassured. Exciting it was not but in these incredibly volatile times, I don’t want excitement from my politicians. I don’t want show business. I want strength and stability. I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere else recently………