General election: Voters crying out for better leaders – Scotsman leader comment

Boris Johnson has been accused of 'running scared' from a TV interviewer (Picture: Peter Nicholls/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has been accused of 'running scared' from a TV interviewer (Picture: Peter Nicholls/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
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Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have been far from impressive in the general election campaign.

As Boris Johnson attempts to avoid tough questions by dodging an encounter with the BBC’s Andrew Neil and Jeremy Corbyn testily insists that interviewers “let me finish” while he repeatedly fails to produce a direct answer, many voters must surely be hankering for an honest, decent and genuine politician who is what Americans like to call a “straight-shooter”.

Many Conservatives simply do not trust Johnson because of his track record of dishonesty and that of the Leave campaign colleagues now central to his team, while Corbyn’s obfuscation about Brexit – is he secretly a Brexiteer, is he just a terrible political campaigner or does he simply not care about the issue? – has left many Labour supporters wondering what his real agenda is.

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And the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson has been trying so hard to appear prime ministerial that she has ended up going over the top, sounding alternately too tough and then foolishly naive for talking up her prospects of moving into 10 Downing Street.

One of the reasons that populists have proved appealing to voters around the world is that you get a sense – rightly or wrongly – that they are telling you what they really think, not what some PR guru has told them to say in order to win over a particular demographic. Some of what they say is utterly appalling, but they get away with it as supporters begin to buy the idea that they are “telling it like it is”.

But surely there are decent people who are blessed with sufficient intelligence and charisma to run rings around any interviewer, no matter how tough, and who can “tell it like it is” while putting forward policies that are economically viable, compassionate and fair and in the national interest.

If democracy is to retain the confidence of the people, we will need leaders with such qualities.

Nicola Sturgeon has made an impression on English voters during this election campaign and previous ones, not because they are in favour of Scottish independence, far from it, but because she generally appears to listen to a question and then give what sounds like a decent and genuine answer. Even some on the right of politics south of the Border have respect for her abilities as a politician, if not for her main ambition.

Voters are crying out for leaders who don’t sound like a party political broadcast, mindlessly repeating slogans. Could you be one?