"If spin doctors could design a politician, I suspect he wouldn't look like me." - Ed Miliband, June 2012

7 Feb 2013

They say that when you meet someone, you form an impression within the first 30 seconds. This impression can be based on how the person is dressed, how they speak and they way they act towards you. 

Therefore it’s pretty obvious that first impressions are important. After all, once you’ve made a decision about someone it’s pretty hard to change your mind. I’m sure that we all know a person who we met on a bad day and now we can’t get past how annoying they seemed, despite how nice they might have actually turned out to be. How we look is important on certain levels and on others it isn’t. But would you ever vote for a politician based purely on how they look? 

 

I’m sure if you’re reading this you’re an open minded person who looks past things like age and looks and gives people a chance, after all you’re on my page!

However, it’s becoming increasingly common for politicians to be judged on how they look. Researchers at Princeton University found in their 2007 study that most people judge a political candidates competency within seconds of seeing their face. Seconds…that’s barely time to notice someone’s eye colour. And it’s no doubt true of us all, that as soon as we meet someone, we instinctively form an idea about them. But is this any real reason to vote for someone who is going to make decisions which could have a massive effect on your life for the next few years?

After all just because Mitt Romney has, as one political columnist described last year, a chin “chiselled out of granite”, that surely doesn’t automatically mean that he would be able to run his country any better than anyone else. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than a flick through gossip magazines to check out who is cradling their Starbucks and the latest Mulberry handbag or which of my favorite handsome actors have their top off. But judge a person on how they look and then go out and vote based purely on that? I’m sorry but I’m afraid you lost me at “judge”. 

Of course it’s a bonus if your MP or councillor has a stunning smile or arms like Michelle Obama’s, but if they don’t stand for something you believe in then surely their perfect pearly whites shouldn’t cloud your judgment? I have a friend who is (I’m proud to say) quite high up in her area in local politics, but the abuse she has been put through based purely on how she looks is appalling. The comments about her, most of which have been tweeted or have even been written in the local paper, are terrible and no one should have to put up with that kind of abuse. But because she is in the public eye and people don’t really have anything else to complain about, they take to the internet to try to humiliate her into stepping down. Instead of challenging her on her opinions, or trying to spark a debate, they would rather try to break her on a personal level.

Whilst I’m happy to join in with jokes about the MP in the chamber who fell asleep on camera, or some of the outstanding ties on show, I can guarantee that my vote is and always will be based purely on what they can do to support me and my local area. With websites and magazines often publishing lists of “who’s the sexiest MP?” it’s little wonder people have been swept along by the notion that the nicer you look or dress, the better you are at your job. So just why has politics become such a beauty pageant? What’s next – “I’m sorry Mr. Prime Minster, that suit isn’t Armani so I’m afraid you won’t be able to enter Downing Street today”? 

Personally I believe that the blame lies with inadequate political education which, if you’ve read my earlier article, you’ll know that I firmly believe that a comprehensive political education is a must. How can we blame people for voting purely on name or looks if they don’t know what issues the candidates stand for and, in some cases, don’t even know why they are voting in the first place? It’s a shame that people who are passionate about what they believe in are often so ridiculed because of their looks that they may decide not to stand and fight. It’s little wonder that some people don’t want to become involved in politics. 

Of course, I am not saying that just because you may admire your MP (maybe even fancy them if you’re one of the lucky ones) you’re shallow - not at all. Everyone at some point looks at a person and notices how they look, and that is completely natural and it would be unfair of me to ask you not to. 

But there comes a point when perhaps we need to strip back to the basics and just look at what the politicians are promising (or not in some cases) because while you’re busy admiring your MP’s looks, you might just miss them stopping your bin collection or closing down the local youth club and even his “sparkling eyes” won’t be able to help then. 

By Jilly McKiernan

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