(Photograph courtesy of ITV News)
James Evans illustrates parallels between The Spin Doctors hit single and the current state of UK politics.
In The Spin Doctors’ 1993 hit single, ‘Two Princes’, two rival ‘princes’ are pursuing the same lady. Both adore her. One Prince is rich and favoured by the father; the other, the narrator of the song, says that he truly loves her and will treat her properly…
Listening to Ed Miliband as he seeks to reinvigorate the Labour Party by fixing his relationship with Len McCluskey and the Trade Union movement generally reminds me of this song for two reasons; firstly, the name of the band (‘The Spin Doctors’) is perfect for a political environment where all statements and public appearances seem groomed for maximum impact. Miliband’s changes to Labour party funding and selection procedures were duly hailed by his aides as ‘the biggest reforms for a generation’ before he even opened his mouth, and his plans were immediately described as ‘real leadership’ by predecessor Tony Blair.
This is certainly a critical moment for ‘Brand Ed’. The furore surrounding candidate selection in Falkirk brought new allegations of undue Trade Union influence within the party. Trade Union votes had, of course, got Ed Miliband elected in the first place, leading to Tory suggestions that he was ‘under the influence’ of Union leaders.
At times like this, with Miliband seeking to assert his independent leadership through a ‘Clause IV’ style moment, it is worth considering how we actually make our selections in a political system which is still upheld as the cornerstone of our modern democracy. The second reason that ‘Two Princes’ seems so apposite is because it highlights how little choice people actually make. Historically, we have tended to vote consistently and in large numbers, if indeed we bother to vote at all, for the red prince (currently represented by Mr Miliband) or the blue prince (currently represented by Mr Cameron). In this respect, the last election, with its hung parliament, was unusual: although I am sure that Mr Clegg will be keen to romance the public again in 2015! The Blue Prince has traditionally been associated with economic effectiveness, like the wealthy suitor in the song. The red prince has traditionally been associated with idealistic government, like the second lover!
But so complex and impersonal is the political equation that many people don’t really feel that they know who (or what) they are choosing at all! For some, the choice is based on instinct: whether a candidate seems like a good leader, a likeable person, or someone that they can trust. Personality has been of great importance in the political career of Boris Johnson, whose likeability and celebrity have undoubtedly helped him to win two terms as London Mayor. A good relationship with the media, forged through a slick press office or a great advertising campaign, has made some careers; a bad public image has broken others.
For some, the choice is based on instinct: whether a candidate seems like a good leader, a likeable person, or someone that they can trust.
Given the circus surrounding all political leaders, Ed’s latest salvo will clearly be followed with great interest by the press, and most of us will probably pay some attention to the outcome. Machiavelli suggested in ‘The Prince’ that people are generally impressed by leaders whose ‘appearances and results’ or ‘apparent outcomes’ are positive. With Britain’s economic recovery still hanging in the balance, let us hope that the public will choose the right suitor in 2015.
James has a practical background in politics, serving as a local councillor since 2007, and has studied both law and history at university. When he’s not trying to separate the reality from the rhetoric, James embraces culture in all its forms – especially performance arts.