Once upon a time, a handsome pauper lived. He was desperate to become king, so used his dashing looks to convince the villagers that he was the right man for the job – despite the fact that he was not the rightful heir to the throne.
King Clegg now sits on his throne, ruling from atop the coalition. And unfortunately, The End is nowhere in sight.
If the last election showed us anything, it should have been that the nation’s short-lived love affair with a good-looking ministerial candidate was nothing short of misguided teenage cognition. We set our sights on the prom king despite knowing very little about his personality. And look where it’s left us.
I say should have been, because it would seem that 18 months on we are none the wiser when thinking about our future leaders. At least, if BBC Today’s John Humphrys is anything to go by, when he implied that Ed Miliband was “too ugly” to be this country’s leader.
Now I might not think much of Ed Miliband’s politics, or his leadership qualities, but judging on his looks? Really?
I get that a politician needs to have charisma. And a certain sense of style. But when an unfortunate and uncanny likeness to Wallace of Wallace and Gromit becomes the dominant factor in determining whether or not one is suitable to be leader, we know things are bad.
Forgetting that this alleviates the faux pas he’s already made as Labour leader and focuses instead on the one thing he actually has no control over, it also doesn’t say much about our own politics or what we look for in a leader.
A report out last week revealed that men worry more about their body shape and appearance than women do. The study, which involved 394 British men, found that respondents blame the media and celebrities for unhelpfully reinforcing unrealistic ideals of physical perfection.
“These findings are worrying but not surprising”, professor of men's health at Leeds Metropolitan University, Alan White said. “There’s been a big increase in the numbers of British men having cosmetic procedures such as a nose job or removal of breast tissue; that's gone from almost nothing to quite a significant industry over the last 10 years. All this fuels the idea of the body beautiful and encourages a quick fix rather than appropriate diet and physical fitness levels.” I don't know about you, but to my mind the only ‘quick fix’ the politicians of today need encouragement for is their politics.
“We think John Humphrys should have been asking about energy prices and issues that affect ordinary people”, a senior Labour insider said. “But if he wants to ask about Ed’s looks that’s a matter for them.”
Well, not really. If the quality of our politics is going to be based on looks, then I’d say it’s more a matter for us.
“Imagine, for a moment, if Miliband were a woman and had been asked the same question”, an article in the Guardian said. “Outrage would have lasted all day.”
And imagine if he was a politician. Oh, wait …