Looking Closer: Column Three (Cameron vs. Obama)

DAVID Cameron’s the man! I stayed up until 6am watching David Cameron win the election! David Cameron is so handsome!

All of those statements sound completely bonkers, don’t they? Replace Cameron’s name with Obama’s and those were all Tweets I read the morning after the recent US presidential election. Obama-fever really did sweep over (and engulf) the majority of young people in the UK and I understand why. But, having once been asked what party David Cameron was in by a 20-year-old university student, I’m left wondering why a massive percentage of the Obama-disciples couldn’t care less about the politics of their own country. Some young people wouldn’t even open their blinds if Nick Clegg and David Cameron were out in their garden engaged in some sort of bare back wrestling match.

Maybe being ‘fit for office’ has something to do with it (and I don’t mean that in the sense of being ‘politically competent’). Everybody remembers the pictures of Obama emerging from the sea in Hawaii. Everybody can picture that massive I’m-a-stud smile. The same can’t be said for our Prime Minister. I googled ‘David Cameron on the beach’ and found a picture of him on a beach in Cornwall, chilling on the sand, reading a newspaper with his face on the front page. Somehow it’s not quite the same. You’d think that the ‘hunk’ factor wouldn’t come in to play in politics, but it’s not really all that surprising to admit that people generally warm to the more attractive among us. I don’t want to paint the young generation of our country as shallow… but do I think a lot of them would be more interested in who runs our country if suddenly an absolute babe was threatening to overthrown Cameron from the top spot? Probably.

Of course, there’s a more serious point to the issue than that of physical attractiveness. Obama seems attractive in many other ways too. That’s probably why a lot of our population took an instant like to him and rigorously tuned in to the election coverage. He seems more like a real person than much of our party leaders, too.

There was also the issue of Mitt Romney, though. Anyone not wired to the moon was terrified at the prospect of him moving into the White House. Even in the UK, the thought of him governing the most powerful country in the world was a scary one. The fear-element added a sense of excitement. Perhaps we’re lucky that, in Britain, despite the different range of political beliefs, we’ve never seen such extremities between the parties, and therefore have not encountered the same fears as those across the pond. But is that what it’s going to take? Do we need someone like Romney, threatening to take charge of women’s uteruses and weed out those of us who don’t ‘belong’ here in order to shake young people out of a state of political apathy?

Maybe the only thing that will get people moving is if Nick Griffin is suddenly in a position where he might become Prime Minister. Thankfully with our voting system this will never happen. And it shouldn’t have to. The Times Educational Supplement recently revealed that one in five Scottish schools have no Modern Studies specialist, and pupils’ political literacy skills are suffering as a result. Perhaps it’s not too surprising then that having learned nothing about politics at school, these teens find themselves turning to Obama and his flowery shorts. It’s easier and far more exciting than trying to teach themselves the ins and outs of British politics. For most of us in the UK, the US election was a case of the Good Guy vs. the Bad Guy, and that kind of drama will always be more exciting than the various shades of grey in British politics.

It’s like the cinema. Nobody would watch a film with a plot scattered all over the place, the baddies constantly changing places before suddenly becoming allies, all the while subtly hinting that they’re probably still enemies. What we’re interested in seeing is winner takes all. We want Bruce Willis throwing the bad guy off towers in Die Hard, Liam Neeson’s race against time to save the day in Taken. We want an Obama saying ‘Yes We Can.’

By Zoe Storrie, columnist
(Published December 2012)

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