Monday, 5 May 2008

The Intangible Men  


Barack Hussein Obama Jr. and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson may seem worlds apart and, certainly in their backgrounds, they are. However, there are two things they share in common:

1. They spent part of their respective childhoods abroad (Obama lived in Indonesia from the age of 6 until 10 and Johnson, born in New York, was educated at the European School in Brussels before becoming an Etonian

2. They are each extremely popular politicians, one of whom has won an election to become London Mayor and one of them (providing he manages to prevent his minister from preaching any further hatred) is a serious contender for US President, and they have managed to achieve their success without having any serious policies whatsoever.

Okay, so they both have some policies. I agree with Boris (when did we all start calling him by his first name?) that bendy buses are rubbish. As a keen cyclist myself I certainly agree that they can be extremely dangerous. However, what else does Boris promise us? It seems that he swept to victory on a wave of anti-Gordon Brown, Anti-Labour feeling and the fury of the Middle England. Middle England are sure that they have got the right man to allow them to trundle their SUVs around London without the threat of paying for the pollution they have caused; they are certain that they have got the right man to sort out the delinquent, feral youths swarming the streets and threatening their very existence; they are adamant that they have got the right man to ensure that, during the credit crunch, they can still hammer away at their credit cards. He hasn't, beyond vague murmurings (the kind Boris does so well), got any polices to deal with these 'problems'. Equally, the other threat to the Middle England - people who are different - are, it appears, leaving the UK of their own accord (or possibly due to the fact that we have made them feel a little too welcome). The illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and economic migrants are leaving in their droves and, even if Boris does finally think of a policy to deal with them, it is likely that he will not need to. The fact that immigrants to the UK, including illegal immigrants, are essential to its economic prosperity (particularly the capital's) is a rather moot point.

Equally, Obama has policies beyond 'Change' (why does he keep harping on about this - one expects there to be change or else what's the point in electing someone new). Between promising to change everything he talks about, presumably for the better, he has made it clear that he has a policy on ending the war in Iraq, he has promised universal healthcare and energy independence (from Gulf states, presumably). However, like Johnson, he rarely gives any real substance to his policies.

I can't help liking these two men, however. I did not vote for Boris and, cannot imagine a parallel universe where this would be possible. I also felt a little queasy when I saw him blunder up the steps to make his victory speech, mumbling and spluttering out the words and looking thoroughly embarrassed to even be there. Even the Tories have said that his best strength will be his ability to delegate responsibility as he himself is not the sort of person to take it all upon himself. But he does seem to be a very pleasant, amusing and warm-hearted man. Sure he has insulted entire cities, but haven't we all at some point? He is gaffe-prone, but that is no reason for him not being the Mayor of London. I just hope he doesn't become Prime Minister.

Obama is a different case altogether. I'd probably vote for him in a second. If Europeans were allowed to vote in the US election the turnout would be amazing - far higher than when we elect our own leaders - and Obama would be a clear winner. We love Obama because, however irritating his constant message of change and hope is, we believe him. How can we not when his is such a beautiful orator?

The problem is, then, that we can't help loving these men without substance, these intangible men - the problem is what happens when we really need them to show substance and it fails to show.

What next?

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