Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Fattening up for jolly old Christmas

The weight of leadership makes political posturing hard on the knees. To hold sway when the fat is in the fire it’s important to be a heavyweight. So I’m growing my very own potbelly.

The first phase of my plan to get fat got underway last night with a double helping of mince and potato, followed swiftly by a crunchy, oaten apple crumble and washed down with three – yes, three – tall glasses of cool milk. And I’m drinking milk as I type.

The great thing about drinking milk is that it fills you up and gives you energy; dairy fats prepare the belly for a night out, which means that I was able to happily chase it with a few pints of heavy and a pub quiz to work on the beer belly. I can see it shaping up nicely into a jolly old Christmas paunch.

As we all know, a man of a certain age should be fat. This is true in all situations in all walks of life, either side of the pond: Chameleon Cameron struggles (however admirably) after the gravity that Gordon Brown has in spades; for all his Presbyterian prudence, the latter carries more weight because he carries more weight; likewise, Obama’s greatest danger is that he is literally a lightweight.

If one can’t muster statesmanly rotundity, one must at least try for a mild podginess, an ambassador’s paunch; in order to properly lead a political party, let alone a country, one should be a plodder, a clunker. A deep booming voice supported by an expansive diaphragm can stir the souls of nations and plumb the depths of the hearts of men. It speaks to them, rather than squeaks at them (like a certain country mouse candidate generally expected to shrill her way through the 2008 United States vice presidential debate on a untried wing and a divisive and arrogant prayer who shall remain nameless).

This is the hope that Obama’s wet-eared youth must promise – and, in the old country, it is everything that D. Miliband isn’t. The Chameleon Cameron has more chance, but he must root himself, plant his feet firmly and stand tall (shoulders back) – and try to look as if his Eton-fag frame could support the weight of governmental office. When he understands this he’ll understand that the least he could do is to put on a few pounds.

If jolly old Christmas (my target for achieving fatness) teaches us anything it is the Kriss-Kringlesque manliness of jolly fatty-men. Jovial hearty fatty men may be a cliché. (There are plenty of angry fatties, and a really angry one, red faced and sweating, isn’t at all pleasant.) And we’ve all been told depressingly how Santa Clause would be ill if he was real. But the happy flipside that proves the stereotype is rarely mentioned. Angry fatty men get heart attacks and die, leaving only the jolly ones to chuckle with us as life’s black comedy.

Besides, when fatty men are merry they are merry. A moment’s thought will confirm that you know the fat drunk party animal is much more fun than the drunken skinny guy in any barroom (even if only because his stagger is augmented with a wobble factor). So eat and drink and pile on the pounds and one day you – yes, you – will be President of the United States.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Facing Them Down: head-on or roundabout?

Two weeks, two political party conferences, two leaders' speeches. The Liberals’ watery tax and loose end waffling and wandering left it to Labour to raise the bar by standing still and speaking the common sense of our age.

A week ago, Nick Clegg, already lacking gravitas, had abandoned the dignity of the lectern to waltz the podium. If you think it didn’t look absurd that’s down, quite literally, to media spin – the pan and tilt of the camera, hovering over him, always close enough so we can’t quite see the edge of the stage and that he’s got nowhere to go. Watching on TV we could entertain the idea that he might be moving toward something instead of plodding aimlessly, an illusion his speech mirrored rather less effectively.

To get an idea of how much of this is for the camera’s benefit (short of actually going to one of these things), picture it stripped down: no big screen backdrop, no mood lighting; a small stage in a dark room in a village school. In fact, imagine your own last school assembly. The headmaster is wishing a fond farewell after your GCSEs and best of luck to you in the big old world out there.

Now imagine him doing that while turning in circles looking like he’s dropped his keys. Do you think, “Wow! The talk and the walk! He’s got my vote”, or, “Always seemed like a nice chap, but why’s he prancing about like that?”

Watching Gordon Brown is quite different and it occurs to me that headmaster isn’t quite the right metaphor for the new breed of downstage ramblers. For Brown, maybe. But for all these young lads who can’t stand still, head boy is more like it. And with D. Miliband even that’s a stretch. He’s not a wanderer; he’s a fidget. That wide-eyed wonder, that naive arrogance, the clumsily presumptuous political manoeuvring of the most childlike forty-odd-year-old in politics make him a third former. A geeky one. Perhaps he’s the ‘Harry Potter’ Brown was referring to and that odd jokey bit was sending a message to his heir apparent. The “no time for a novice” bit surely was: that the sorcerer’s Blairite apprentice should keep his flapping Mickey Mouse ears to the ground and his bootlicking mouth shut.

Saturday, 20 September 2008