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BRIT Review

General Election 2017: The Intransigence of Charisma by James Jackson

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Now, let’s put media bias to one side for a moment. It’s tacit that every outlet that produces political content shall be, in some way, inclined towards one political position on each subject. 

So embedded are a person’s political views, that it determines how they consume and produce information. Therefore, it is disingenuous for a media outlet to claim ‘impartiality’. The BBC is accused, by various political positions, that it harbours some form of bias. For example, as part of their election build up, The Daily Politics sought to cast light upon likely voter behaviour come June 8th

On the subject of Jeremy Corbyn, they asked voters whether, on the basis of the leader alone, they are more, or less, likely to vote for their respective party. However, when they conducted the same method of research on the subject of Theresa May, the criterion was changed from ‘more likely’ or ‘no difference’. Some may dismiss this as pedantic nit-picking; notwithstanding, it was peculiar that a variance occurred within their method. Anyway, I realise in attempting to avoid media bias I have, inadvertently, discussed media bias, although the media’s role in perceived personality cannot be ignored, as studies from the London School of Economics and The Independent have found.  

So much so that a factor that has emerged amongst many voters, most notably as a reason not to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, is that “he has no charisma”. 

While ‘charismatic Corbyn’ would likely have been an endearing alliteration, it suggests that charisma is, apparently, something that is not only desirable in political leader, but, perhaps worryingly, is something voters are willing to solely invest the next five years of political and economic decisions in. Perhaps it’s the result of the culture of celebrity; perhaps people just want their political content delivered in a vaguely entertaining manner. Regardless, a YouGov poll found that Labour may be victim to this, despite support for their newly published manifesto; Corbyn appears to still be a stumbling block, according to some polls.

If charisma is imperative, are we really suggesting that Theresa May is in, anyway, charismatic?

Again and again I hear people dismiss Corbyn, and his entire political agenda, because he’s apparently lacking a characteristic virtue. It’s as if every media appearance the Prime Minister delivers her message in the same manner that Will Smith would deliver a monologue from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Hair, rather than the meticulously rehearsed lines written for her by advisors. 

Perhaps before ‘strong and stable’, ‘coalition of chaos’, ‘Brexit Mandate’ routine became insufferably boring and meaningless; it was an endorphin inducing delight. Maybe it’s her bountiful charisma that allows her to dismiss an NHS crisis by giving the party rehearsed health funding figures, or that the drop in living standards may be flippantly dismissed by employment figures over the past seven years, without divulging the type of jobs occupied, how many jobs one person may be undertaking, or how many hours a person may be given. Why? Because Theresa May is not held up to the same standard of personality to that of Jeremy Corbyn, nor are her ideas subject to such criticism.

If charisma determines electability, then, the Conservatives should be in real danger.

A ComRes/Daily Mirror poll has noted the popularity amongst Labours renationalise programme. Equally, YouGov found that taxes on the rich are also popular amongst voters. I struggle to accept that people can dismiss Labour on frivolous accusations of personality. In fact, side by side, I think you’d be kidding yourself to claim May is more engaging, charismatic or likeable than Corbyn. The prime ministers refusal to partake in television debates suggests she knows as much. 

It’s difficult to avoid media bias here, as misinformation and character assassination have dogged political debate since the election of Corbyn, debasing political issues in this country. Let’s base the future of Britain on substance of ideas and intent, rather than superficial personality criteria, that isn’t even extended to all party leaders. I do like a person with personality, however, I also like the National Health Service, I dislike our current levels of productivity or poverty and, therefore, I know what my decision will be based upon come June 8th.  

About James

James JacksonI am a Political Science graduate from the University of Birmingham looking to undertake my PhD within the coming years. 

I am not a member of any political party, but affiliate myself with the politics of the left. 

My areas of interest are: political economy, structural biases of capitalism, climate policy and the environment and social policy.


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