We must not let British politics become more about appearance than policy

Nowadays in politics, it seems that appearances matter to the public more than principles. And to some extent this is true. Ever since the first televised US presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, personal appearance has become an increasingly significant factor in determining whether or not candidates have any hope of a successful political career. This appeal to our aesthetic prejudices has made and broken numerous hopeful statesmen and women, but the necessary question to ask is if this is the most reasonable way to go about choosing our nation’s leaders.

Much of the ridicule directed at Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in regards to his appearance, has been trivial. Whilst party leaders are always going to be subject to a degree of heckling, this particular strand of teasing has persisted to the point of becoming what seems to be little more than an over-drawn offensive, bordering on cliché. It’s tedious, both for Corbyn, his supporters and readers/viewers around the country. For those who know anything about British politics before the 1990s, it is hard not to draw comparisons between Corbyn and former Labour leader, Michael Foot. Both have been belittled by Tory press and politicians alike for their appearance, with the Prime Minister last week exclaiming at PMQs that his [Cameron’s] mother would force Corbyn to ‘put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem’.

Every criticism of Corbyn’s appearance and failure to conform to the status quo of statesman’s etiquette has, within certain communities (namely the student community), had the effect of making his appeal greater than it would have otherwise been. It is almost undoubtable that Corbyn dresses and conducts himself this way deliberately, but he has reason for doing so. He is aware that many people across the country are weary of the solemnity and robotic opportunism of statesmen in ‘proper’ suits, who’ve come to be referred to as ‘career politicians’, an ilk of politician that – according to wiseGEEK – has ‘no significant professional experience outside the political arena…’ and thus ‘…lacks real-world experience.’ By this definition, Corbyn is also a career politician, as he has little experience outside of politics, besides working for trade unions (which are ultimately ‘hand in glove’ with the Labour party) and a brief stint as a newspaper reporter.

The difference, however, between him and the other career politicians is that whilst he is as ambitious as the rest of them, he doesn’t play along with the bland game that so many parliamentarians do, nor does he present himself as someone who’s above the citizenry. He continues to dress like an ordinary person going to work – not too polished, nor too shabby – and stays respectfully silent at events, such as the Battle of Britain memorial service last year, where the establishment’s tradition of singing in praise of God and the institution of monarchy, conflicted with his principles.

To know someone such as himself can get this high up the political ladder is reassuring, regardless of whether one supports his policies or not. It is comforting to know that someone in Parliament is more concerned with making a genuine difference and staying true to their principles, rather than how patriotic they seem and how well they present to the public. This is not to say appearance has no importance at all, merely that it needn’t trump policies and the principles they’re founded on.

George Jackson 

Image courtesy of Huffington Post/Getty

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