Party political allegiance is increasingly being over-shadowed by the power of personality, writes Jim Duffy.
I recall that old bulldog of the Labour Party – John Prescott – standing up at party conference in the heyday of New Labour and asking, well demanding, that the audience make sure they were card-carrying members.
Mr Prescott was adamant that they and people they knew should sign up to the database, pay a modest fee and proudly carry the card that said: I support Labour.
It worked as the membership swelled and New Labour romped home on not just one, but three occasions.
But, alas, the party seems to be over for political parties as personality politics has taken hold. Increasingly, we are no longer supporters of movements with a cause, but fans of the individuals who lead them.
The prominence of political ideology is receding as the preference for individual personality worship has come to the fore.
Manifestos used to be so important, sitting alongside party membership. But if we are being truly honest, the marketing people and political strategists own the manifesto, not the real politicians. Ostensibly, they are not worth the paper they are written on these days.
And in any case it is difficult to differentiate between them. So, what or who are we voting for in the 21st Century?
It’s all about the personality, the man, the woman or the non-binary gender person. I’m pretty sure that’s about to come in. And what a scoop that will be. What a draw that will be – the UK’s first non-binary party leader going for office. The hype alone will make him/her/them/it a star!
READ MORE: Brian Wilson: Why Theresa May will cling on for a while yet
And as I look around and survey what is happening with those politicians I identify with and who have fans on social media, I can see why personality politics is so important. We not longer care for politocal dogma or ideologies, but crave a human personality.
Let’s look at the current Prime Minister. #OMG, isn’t she so boring? She had a brilliant opportunity to really get her party motoring and secure a double-digit majority in the House of Commons, but failed miserably.
Now, it’s easy to blame her two political strategist stooges and give them the bump.
But, let’s face it, Theresa May is greyer than that bastion of grey, Sir John Major.
Mind you, he fooled us all as we as larking around with that “eggs are bad for us” MP in his office. What a naughty boy.
But, I can’t see Mrs May getting up to any shifty shenanigans, while she is at work. Albeit, her number two, Damien Green, seems to be in a bit of a spot, with some retired Met cops alleging he was on the porn in office hours. I must say, I kind of like him now. He’s normal.
READ MORE: Britain would be ‘deeply damaged’ if Theresa May fails to strike Brexit deal
But Theresa feels a bit prudish. In fact, she doesn’t inspire any real feelings of being a passionate or driven or colourful individual in any way shape of form.
And that is why I think in today’s world of personality, she is dead and buried or very soon could be.
Contrast this with Jezza and I can see why so I many people who may not be “political” feel an affinity with him.
Yes, Jeremy Corbyn and his merry band of Corbynistas are on the march. How many MPs could turn up at Glastonbury and have their name chanted warmly by the audience?
This tells a story. Jezza – and I’m calling him this as I feel if he turned up to my house for dinner this is what I would call him after a few sherbets with his full approval – feels like a man of the people who is much bigger than the party.
He has swept aside the New Labour branding exercise to bring in a tough, no-nonsense approach to making sure life is fairer for all.
And now, more than ever, it is resonating with his 1.6 million Twitter followers. Especially, when the unit set up to look at aligning the “those who have” and “those who have nots” led by Alan Millburn has thrown in the towel, stating that Theresa is not fully on board. Says it all really.
And what about Scotland? We are a Scottish newspaper after all. Well, there is that wee dynamo who likes to go on BBC quiz shows – Ruth Davidson. She has something quite magnetic about her.
I’ve sat at dinners with her and she is comfortable in her own skin. She is fearless and will debate anywhere.
She has a real “let’s have a go” attitude and I think this personality is what attracts not just us fans to her, but the political strategists in Downing Street who see this quality as long-term vote winner. Watch this space.
The new guy at Scottish Labour has come through a bruising battle and has the opportunity to show us what he is made of. But, to be honest, I’d like to see Richard Leonard dress down a bit. Maybe a bit more cool and hip, less boring shirt and tie.
He has six months to create his fan “personality” or the voters will simply stick him in the boring and “cannae get things over the line” box. My challenge to him is to pick up a few tips from Jezza. Yes, Jezza who was the money shot for GQ magazine this month. Fancy that.
As our appetites change with constant content and social media, our politicians need to adapt. We need to see their personalities more and more and with that comes a look at their private lives. If you think hard about it, two personality politicians nudged us into Brexit – Boris Johnston and Nigel Farage.
So, whose fan club are you a member of?