Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Beauty Tips for Politicians: How to maintain a Thick Skin

Beauty Tips for Politicians: How to maintain a Thick Skin

Maintaining a thick skin is absolutely essential for all politicians, especially the one who are campaigning in their own constituencies.

Philip Ozouf Tweet: "At St Helier hustings Mike Higgins likened me to Nazi Dr Goebbels. This personalised politics that is wrong & upsetting. He needs to apologise."

This is causing a stir, while the question about of the former Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache, and his part in the Roger Holland affair, has gone unreported in the BBC News or the JEP report on the Hustings. It confirms my opinion, that the Hustings themselves may not be well attended, but they are reported - the general public get information selectively from the Hustings, and there may be significant omissions based upon editorial whim. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but there does seem to be a certain bias towards Sir Philip in the JEP, and perhaps anything detrimental to his campaign would be likely to be omitted.

But there is also the idea of "old news", that the anything in the past, is distant, not newsworthy, and should not be resuscitated, especially not where news space is in short supply - the idea that "we dealt with that at the time", so it does not need raising again. Newspapers and news media are prone to this, and they also tend to run with the sound-bite, the kind of story that can be built up in an instant, and involves, preferably, a clash between politicians.

Now here is a story which - in the UK - also involved Goebbels, and no apology was demanded, no apology given - it was taken as very much part of the cut and thrust of politics:

Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, accused his cabinet colleague Lady Warsi of descending to Goebbels-like propaganda after she claimed the alternative vote would make mainstream parties pander to extremists such as the BNP.

Huhne said: "If Baroness Warsi thinks that AV will benefit fascism she has to explain why the BNP wants to stick with what we have and Operation Black Vote supports AV. The BNP know the present system is their only chance of election.

"This is another example of the increasingly Goebbels-like campaign from the anti-AV people, for whom no lie is too idiotic given the truth is so unpalatable to them. AV makes lazy MPs work harder and reach out beyond their tribe. It is what Britain needs to clean up politics."

Interviewed later, he didn't change his stance, but simply used to opportunity to explain why he had made the comparison:


But you could easily work and you feel she could with someone you have accused of acting like someone who was in the Hitler regime, acting like Goebbels?


I didn't say that, I said that the tactics of the No campaign were Goebbels like because they have relied on using falsehoods, duplicity .


Correct me if I'm wrong but I think Goebbels was in the Hitler regime.


Well the key point about him of course is that he advocated using propaganda which was based on a big lie, on repeated use of untruths and falsehoods and that is what we have seen from the No campaign but I think the key point now in the run up to Thursday is to stress the positive points of this particular change which actually will get rid of that old politic, it will get rid of the name calling and the very underhand tactics which have unfortunately become a part of this campaign, precisely because MPs will have to reach out beyond their party base in order to get half of the voters in their constituency and they are not going to go about alienating .


You mentioned name calling, so you won't have to use language like this because by any stretch of the imagination, likening someone's tactics to those used by Goebbels is pretty hard stuff and therefore saying Baroness Warsi was lying.


I have never, ever in all the years I have been involved in British politics since the early 1980s come across a campaign where one side has actually made up facts in the way that the No campaign has done and it really shows the desperation that some of the people in the No campaign, particularly on the Conservative right, have in order to make sure the British people don't vote for a change which is going to give them more power and the Conservative party has throughout history always opposed changes in the electoral system which give more power to people, whether it was votes for every man, whether it was votes for women.  Over and over again we've seen this but the British people are  sensible enough to know they have got a unique opportunity to take more power over the political system on Thursday and I believe they are going to do it.

Politics often does involve name calling, even with the most admired politicians. Churchill made a notable jibe at Ramsay Macdonald in the 1930s:

The young Churchill was one day taken to P. T. Barnum's celebrated circus, which contained an exhibition of freaks and monstrosities. "But the exhibit on the programme which I most desired to see," Churchill recalled, "was the one described as 'The Boneless Wonder'. My parents judged that that spectacle would be too revolting and demoralizing for my youthful eyes, and I have waited 50 years to see the boneless wonder sitting on the Treasury Bench."

What I think would be out of order would be comments against a politicians family. They are not standing, and they should not be subject to any kind of viperous comments. But for the politician themselves, as Simon Crowcroft pointed out, this is part of the rough and tumble of politics, especially at elections.

People who put themselves in the public arena are expected to have thick skins, as Danny Alexander said:

Was he offended when Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, called him a "ginger rodent"? "I thought it was hilarious," he says. Really? "She phoned me to apologise, and I've got a pretty thick skin. I said: 'Don't worry about me, this is politics. But there are hundreds of thousands of other ginger-haired people out there who you've probably mortally offended that you should be worrying about.'"


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