Britain needs a bit of US-style hype

NEW YORK CITY: With a UK general election not too far off, it would be wise for the comms teams of both Gordon Brown and David Cameron to import a little of the enthusiasm going on here in New York.

Tara Hamilton-Miller
Tara Hamilton-Miller

Political apathy - at least here - is dead. There seems to be little else to talk about.

Every TV channel has managed to incorporate an element of the political bandwagon into its schedule. Barack Obama promised daughters Malia and Sasha a puppy, so an entertainment channel dedicated a half-hour programme to what kind of canine he would adopt. This featured a Hugh Hefner bunny girl holding up puppies to her decolletage, beaming at the camera and asking, 'Could Barack choose a puppy like this?'

You cannot escape politics. Linda's hair salon on 2nd Avenue and 50th holds a Wednesday evening 'wash, blow and glass of wine' for $25. The chat was about Cindy McCain taking her hair down for Sarah Palin's speech. The majority of women welcomed that she had, in an act of sisterhood, 'tonged for Palin'.

On the Lower East Side, men sit in the sauna of the Russian baths and get thrashed with birch leaves. Karl from New Jersey was concerned that, in a recent White House favourites music poll, both Obama and John McCain had chosen Sinatra numbers - this was going to make his choice of presidential candidate difficult.

My Russian-born masseur abandoned his usual gentle touch and subjected me to a thorough pounding. He apologised, saying he was cross that Palin's knockout speech was going to give the Republicans the edge.

Toddlers run around Tompkins Square Park in tiny Obama T-shirts. In the Cornelia Street Cafe, a woman eating mussels shrieks at a couple, having listened in to their conversation and decided they were Republicans.

In the coming months, Britain needs to grasp this kind of hype. Every city, town and village should be involved.

It's different in the US. McCain's spokesman Tucker Bounds gave a fob-off answer to a CNN anchorwoman's question about Palin's experience. She replied: 'Hey Tucker baby, I'm gonna have to ask you again.' Would Kirsty Wark call Jack Straw 'baby'? He might enjoy it.

- Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and formerly worked for the Conservative Party press team.

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