The American way? Not for us

November 24, 2016 23:20

Picture the scene: It's Tuesday, October 4, and we are in Symphony Hall at Birmingham's International Convention Centre.

Stage lights are flashing and a Taylor Swift song is booming across the auditorium on the penultimate day of the Conservative Party annual conference.

A bespectacled 58-year-old with a slight resemblance to Arthur Askey strides out, smiling, waving and pointing at activists he recognises.

Some in the crowd openly weep tears of joy as Philip May, husband of new Prime Minister Theresa, shouts: "Hello, West Midlands!"

Supporters from his home county of Norfolk whoop and cheer as blue balloons tumble down from the rafters around the wealthy fund manager at the podium.

OK, snap out of it. Such scenes are unlikely ever to be played out in British politics.

Yet these were the sort of pictures beamed around the world from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week as family, friends and celebrity supporters of Hillary Clinton promoted her candidacy ahead of November's Presidential election.

There were similar offerings in Cleveland seven days earlier as Republicans considered the prospect of Donald Trump grabbing the keys to the White House.

Watching the coverage left me both admiring the scale of the American political arena and repelled by it. There's only so much schmaltz you can stomach.

There was Michelle Obama's inspirational, eye-moistening "when they go low, we go high" speech; Bill Clinton's peculiar meandering through the history of his relationship with Mrs Clinton (minus the marital indiscretions) before donning a badge displaying her name written in Hebrew; and vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine, surely one of the most boring men ever to be on the ticket.

Britain and America are vastly different. Despite our many shared values, there could barely be a greater contrast between how we conduct our politics.

Theresa May's initial Tory leadership campaign seemed so remarkable because she admitted how dull she was as a modern-day politician.

"I don't gossip about people over lunch. I don't go drinking in parliament's bars. I don't often wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me," she said.

The response from the public was largely positive - no wonder after years of political leaders trying to convince us, through soft-touch chat show interviews, that they were fans of Aston Villa or the Arctic Monkeys.

Contrast Mrs May's approach with Jeremy Corbyn's current tour to promote his Labour leadership campaign.

An estimated 3,000 people filled Hull city centre to cheer him on and pose for selfies last weekend.

Mr Corbyn is the only party leader to attract such attention. Only Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson could truly be considered to stir similar levels of public interest. Why? Because fundamentally such behaviour sits uncomfortably with British voters.

We - the British - are not attracted to the sort of atmosphere and hysteria generated by mass political rallies. And we - the Jews - know only too well why.

You can keep the balloons, the banners and the hysteria; when it comes to politics we much prefer Mrs May's measured tone.

November 24, 2016 23:20

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive