Trevor Ringland is, I think, the only card-carrying member of the Conservative Party that I know. So I’ve been wondering: what importance will Trevor attach to the appearance of the Tory candidates for leader?
“None!” you cry, and in a sense you’re right. Or should be right. We should select our leaders on their ability to lead, not on how nice they look. To do otherwise would be superficial in the extreme. Right?
Mmm, yes. Except there is no doubt that we are very interested in appearance, even when we know we shouldn’t be. Take when you selected your wife or partner, and vice versa: did appearance play a role? Almost certainly. We have our photograph taken and swear and curse if the photographer caught us looking like a man or woman who has just swallowed a wasp. We’re still the same us, but we really do want to look well. Looks matter.
You need further evidence, Virginia? Take TV. What would be the point in TV, as distinct from radio, if we didn’t value appearance? Why show us the newscaster or the weather person when they tell us the news or the weather? It’s just a distraction, checking out their hairstyle, their suit, their still-growing beard. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested and influenced.
So when Trevor and the other Conservative Party members vote today as to which two candidates will go forward to slug it out for leader, you may be sure that appearance will play a factor. Boris Johnson’t bulky frame makes him look a more formidable negotiator in Europe than, say, Michael Gove. He almost certainly won’t be, but appearance, believe it or not, is one of Boris’s great strengths. Why else do you think he tousles that hair the way he does? Likewise Michael Gove shows up regularly at the end of a jogging session, all bright-eyed and panting, so people know he’s a regular guy, out there pounding the pavement.
Should appearance matter? Of course not. It’d be profoundly unfair to reward those who were lucky enough to be born handsome or pretty, when those criteria have nothing to do with a person’s innate worth. But if it plays a role in our selection of a spouse/partner (and yes , Virginia, it does), you may be sure it’s part of the political mix as well.
But let me give you a tip: don’t try applying the appearance factor to any of our local politicians. ‘Nuff said.