Lord Mandelson: David Cameron is ‘inauthentic’ like Des O’Connor and Terry Wogan
It used to be said that politics is show business for ugly people.
But then John F Kennedy burst onto the world stage.
Followed by Margaret Thatcher.
And Ronald Reagan.
And Pope John Paul II.
Followed by Tony Blair.
Closely followed by David Cameron.
And suddenly politics was about the beautiful people.
And the more beautiful you were, the more people listened.
And while Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II had a background in acting (if that isn’t being a little generous in the case of the former president), and while Tony Blair at least flirted with the idea of a performing career, there was no sense in which their politics were deemed to be inauthentic as a result of their thespian inclinations.
But that is the accusation levelled by Lord Mandelson at David Cameron.
In a further reference to this tedious issue of ‘airbrushing’ posters (as though no New Labour advertising agency ever airbrushed any photograph of Tony Blair), the wholly authentic Right Honourable the Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the County of Durham, First Secretary of State and Lord President of the Privy Council and Secretary of State for Business and Secretary of State for Innovation and Skills (and Church Commissioner) has described Gordon Brown as a ‘more authentic’ figure.
Is it the possession of a 'clunking fist’ or the revelation that he throws foul-mouthed tantrums or physically abuses his staff evidence of authenticity?
Discussing the Prime Minister, Lord Mandelson told the BBC: "Look, you know he's not a sort of TV personality. He's not sort of Terry Wogan or Des O'Connor in the way that some people see David Cameron. Gordon Brown is actually a rather more authentic figure than that and I think when people evaluate the relative merits of both leaders, they may well come to a different conclusion from the one people are assuming now."
Des O'Connor is a former member of the RAF has been in showbiz for more than half a century. He is one of only a handful of British entertainers to be acclaimed internationally on stage and television. On stage he has starred at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, the Sydney Opera House, The O'Keefe Centre, Toronto and has made over 1,000 solo appearances at the London Palladium. He has met and worked with many personalities of the day, from rock and pop stars, actors and TV performers, to politicians, princes, to luminaries, such as Frank Sinatra, Adam Faith, Sean Connery, Liberace, The Beatles, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Tony Blair, and members of the Royal Family.
It would appear that even Tony Blair is sufficiently inauthentic to desire to touch the hem of Des O’Connor’s garment.
It is also noted that he has recorded 36 albums and sold more than 16 million records, being awarded a CBE in 2008.
The man is a national and much-loved institution.
And Terry Wogan?
He is the son of a grocer whose inauthenticity went on to attract a regular audience of eight million listeners, making him the most listened to radio broadcaster of any European nation. His sardonic rambling and acerbic esoteric tangents are what made the Eurovision Song Contest bearable (if ever it were), and he has presented the BBC's Children in Need appeal since its inception, helping to raise tens of millions for charity. He became a British subject in 2005, and was awarded a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Another national and much-loved institution.
If David Cameron manages to be even half as popular and respected as either of these 'TV personalities'; if he manages to stay at the top of his game even for half as long, he will be the most successful prime minister in British history.
Perhaps Lord Mandelson might care to explain which ‘authentic’ people the Prime Minister tries to emulate.
Or is the fact that Gordon Brown has no greater conceit than perfect contentment with every aspect of himself and every judgement he makes evidence that his authenticity is no virtue and his lack of humility no attraction.
At least David Cameron understands that in a televisual age in which image is all, the medium is the message: there is no point contending against the vernacular.