David Howarth’s YouTube Moments
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 31st January, 2008
The Cambridge MP, David Howarth, entertained Kensington and Chelsea LibDems this evening, when he addressed a Food for Thought event on Liberal Politics in the Era of the Superficial. His sub-title was a question, whether the political life is still worth leading. Given the fact that David followed several years as leader of Cambridge City Council by getting comfortably elected to parliament in 2005, to an extent the answer was self-evidently ‘yes’. But he had some hard truths to tell about the limitations of politicians, the public and the media.
The very word ‘politician’ has recently assumed negative tones, he argued, irrespective of party. And the inquisitorial style of Jeremy Paxman, John Humphrys and Co has turned news and current affairs programmes in the media into humiliation ceremonies. Moreover, politicians are under scrutiny by the public all the time, constantly at risk from people’s mobile phones and digital cameras, with the possibility of being broadcast on YouTube. No wonder so many of them no longer do anything as reckless as declare openly what they actually believe.
David revealed that all MPs are now routinely given training and advice on presentation — everything from their clothes to their delivery. According to the trainers, one’s appearance has eight times as much impact as what one actually says. And in a postmodern society (well, David is an academic by profession, after all), in which nothing really matters, the superficial is paramount. Chilling stuff, though delivered with his trademark dry humour and self-deprecation.