There is a great difference between being a popular politician and
popularising politics - a fact that the new Lib Dem leader Charles
Kennedy would do well to bear in mind in the coming months. Elected to
Parliament for the SDP in 1983 at the age of 23, Kennedy holds the
record as the youngest elected MP this century.
He has worked hard on developing his popuist credentials with
appearances on such TV shows as Call my Bluff and Have I got News for
You and has considerably more street cred than Hague, who despite the
recent ministrations of Amanda Platell has proved a rather flawed
’common man’ for the Tories.
Who can forget Notting Hill and that baseball cap?
In an interview with PR Week (published 20 August) Kennedy is positively
self-congratulatory about his own undoubted communication skills.
However he has also drawn fire from the media and his own party for some
glib responses to national broadsheets and on the hustings.
To date Kennedy’s political career has been bolstered by his
quick-witted humour and eloquence, but having secured the Lib Dem
leadership, he now needs to concentrate on his policies rather than his
persona. Kennedy needs to hitch his charisma to the ’popularising
politics’ bandwagon set in motion by Blair and given further momentum by
appointments such as that of Radio 1 DJ Nicky Campbell to front key
But to do this successfully takes rather more wisdom than wit.
A popular politician is an anathema and Kennedy now has to work hard to
prove himself an active successor to Ashdown and a politician of