Just over a week ago, Boris Johnson and the leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn came head to head in the Election Debate, which was aired on BBC1. During the debate, 6.7 million tuned in to see the two wrangle with one another about pivotal issues such as Brexit, the NHS and ‘Trust’.
Yet, what I am still struggling to comprehend with is how focused so many of the British Twitter public were on Corbyn’s ‘wonky glasses’, rather than what he had to say.
After studying Politics at school and university, I seem to be unable to recall learning about the importance of the brand of suit an MP chooses to wear or the axis that their glasses sit upon their nose. Undoubtedly, we examined the role of presentability and personality in terms of electoral popularity. But such minor details would have been considered irrelevant and indeed they should be.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Corbyn has been bashed for his material appearance. Since becoming the leader of the Labour Party in 2015, he has been slandered across British tabloids and even mocked by David Cameron at PMQs, being told to ‘put on a proper suit’.
As an avid Labour supporter, I will admit that I was relieved to see that Corbyn has been increasingly making more effort to appear more ‘presentable’ over the past four years. However, that is not because I believe that the academic and emotional capability of a person depends upon what they wear or how they look. Yet I do understand that as humans we judge firstly with our eyes. We want the leader of our nation to be respected and taken seriously in the sphere of Global Affairs. Accordingly, he should try his best to be as presentable as possible.
Therefore, I hoped that through conforming to these somewhat shallow expectations, donning his new crisp M&S suit, that Corbyn would finally have the chance to project his honest and astute visions for a better Britain. Much to my discontent, this has not been the case. The focus just turned from the suit to his tie, from the tie to his glasses.
Like bullies at school, there will always be something which the media can scratch away at. The ‘neutral’ and ‘informative’ BBC even edited a photo of Corbyn placing him in a Kremlin skyline. Now would they do that with Johnson and a nazi concentration camp, despite some of his hard core racist and homophobic comments? I highly doubt it…
I remember having a conversation with my dad about why he is so adamant about not voting for Labour, despite his working-class roots and foreign heritage. The argument he fixated on was that Corbyn ‘does not know how to wear a tie properly’. The best part of that conversation was that whilst he was passionately complaining about how scruffy Corbyn is, he was sat in his pick-up truck modelling muddy tracksuit bottoms and a Primark hoodie. Ironic some might say…
Naturally, I leapt to Corbyn’s defence illuminating that policy and ideas should be at the core of our voting choices, not how someone looks. I urged him to reflect on the idea that although in some sectors of work having piercings may be frowned upon, in reality, it does not affect someone’s capability to complete their job just as well as their colleagues.
Attempting to personalise my argument, I pointed at my father’s muddy tracksuits. “Does that mean that you are not an intelligent person able to complete your job properly, because of a splash of mud?”. To which he replied: “I am not a politician. I am not trying to be elected as the leader of the UK”.
In light of this comment, I think it vital to focus on the actual ‘job’ of a politician. Stripping it back to the basic principles, living within a Representative Democracy, a politician’s essential role is to represent the masses.
If anything, considering that the latest statistics reveal that the UK average annual income is £28,677, why should we expect our representatives to be parading top tier suits and designer glasses? I would have assumed that a politician such as Corbyn who refuses to claim taxes for material possessions would be popular amongst the masses. But he still isn’t…
The conversation with my father, the endless bully-like tabloid insults and the Twitter backlash all directed at Corbyn’s appearance left me pondering why exactly is it that Mr. Johnson is exempt from such scrutiny? Maybe it is because however much Johnson needs a better barnet, his suits cost more than my monthly income. Money talks they say.
Politics should be about representing the ideas and needs of the population. Standing up for those people, protecting their rights and fighting to get them the best outcomes they possibly can.
As Naga Munchetty aptly highlighted during her interview with Johnson, if he is unable to give just one reason why he is ‘relatable’ to the British public, then why would someone vote for him? If at the heart of everything his job is to represent the people and he is incapable of even pretending to be able to do so then what hope do we have.
With just under two weeks left until the General Election, I ask you to consider your real reasons for not voting for Labour. If it revolves around how Corbyn looks or you fear how he will be perceived abroad, then also question why this does not apply to Johnson?
It reminds me of when rich people wear the most extravagant outfits and no one says a word because it cost telephone numbers. Yet, when local Larry is parading the high street with a pigeon on his head and something similar to what we see on the catwalks, people will laugh and call him crazy. People seem to never challenge money.
As a Brit living in Berlin, I can sadly confirm that we have become a laughing stock in Europe and Johnson plays the protagonist in this Tragicomedy. Rightly so they laugh at the blonde mop of hair on his head and the eccentric uncle persona he projects.
This 12th December, make sure that ‘wonky glasses’ are not your reason for voting for a stand-up, relatable politician who really cares about the people. If politics was purely about appearance then Mr. Johnson should certainly not be in power…