What is it about politicians that makes them all so loathsome?
I can remember every single British Prime Minister all the way back to Harold Macmillan, and I can safely say that I loathed every single one of them.
In fact, I don’t think I loathed Harold Macmillan that much. I don’t remember seeing that much of him. But I remember the rest of them, and I loathed them all.
I think maybe it’s just that I saw too much of them. They were on TV or in the newspapers far too much. You kept seeing their faces staring out at you like Big Brother.
They all started out as being fresh, interesting, new faces. And then they became familiar faces. And then the loathing started. And once the loathing had set in, it only ever got deeper and deeper.
And I loathed some much more than I loathed others. I had a peculiarly intense loathing for Harold Wilson. He had a bumbling insincerity that I came to detest. And I loathed Edward Heath’s sickly wooden smile. And of course I loathed Margaret Thatcher. And most recently Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and David Cameron, who were all equally loathsome, but in different ways.
I haven’t started loathing Theresa May yet. Kitten Heels remains an interesting new face. She hasn’t done anything too awful yet. I saw a clip of her speaking at the dispatch box in parliament a couple of days ago, and making a slightly risqué joke that had the house roaring with laughter. She can tell jokes. That’s good. Margaret Thatcher couldn’t tell jokes. Neither could Edward Heath.
But if I haven’t started loathing her yet, I’m sure I soon will. It always starts up sooner or later. It took a long time for me to start loathing Tony Blair. He was a rather likeable, regular guy when he first entered Downing Street. And the charm took a long time to wash off. But eventually it did, of course.
It’s not just that I loathed all the Prime Ministers. I loathed all the drab, grey, interchangeable ministers around them as well. And all the trade unionists. Remember Arthur Scargill? And all the London mayors: e.g. Ken Livingstone. Although I haven’t learned to loathe Boris Johnson yet. He’s still rather fun. But the humour is wearing thin.
And of course there was Old Rivers of Blood with his thin crocodile mouth. And the bellowing Reverend No Popery of Northern Ireland. They were deeply – even spine-chillingly – loathsome too.
I reserve my loathing exclusively for British politicians. I very seldom loathe foreign politicians. More or less every French or German politician seemed like a statesman by comparison with the slime in the UK parliament. Charles de Gaulle. Helmut Kohl. Bettino Craxi. Towering figures. Even Soviet leaders had a grim charm about them. Nikita Krushchev, Leonid Brezhnev. And of course the very affable Mikhail Gorbachev. And now the razor sharp Vladimir Putin.
And US Presidents are, as I wrote last night, pretty much Roman emperors. You can’t ignore them. But I haven’t loathed many of them either. John F Kennedy was a superstar, although I think that may have been because he was married to the infinitely refined and beautiful Jacqueline. JFK minus Jackie might well have been just another boring US president, like Gerald Ford. The only US president I got to loathe was Richard Nixon, but that was only during the Watergate affair. And right now I can’t say I even loathe Hillary Clinton. I feel a bit sorry for her, if anything. Although if she ever sets foot on British soil in one of her dumpy pantsuits, as President of the United States, my loathing will be intense.
In this respect I think that Donald Trump’s secret weapon is his wife, Melania Trump. She’s another Jacqueline Kennedy. I think she can knock men dead at a range of two miles with those laser eyes of hers. I think she could stop an army with those eyes.
I was listening to Michael Savage complaining yesterday that the Trump family were all so good-looking. Didn’t they have a drooling aunt Norma somewhere, he asked. But actually I don’t think Donald Trump is at all good-looking. He’s ugly like Pompey the Great. And his sons are too. He’s got the face of a bar-room bruiser who’s been in too many fights. It’s really only Melania who is absolutely stunning. Or at least those killer eyes are stunning. If Michael Savage thinks they’re all good-looking, it’s really only because she’s so good-looking that she’d make any doofus she stands next to seem like Cary Grant. Melania Trump is probably the single best reason there is for voting for The Donald: to put a goddess in the White House.
Anyway I think that it’s probably just over-familiarity that makes politicians loathsome. After you’ve seen a face enough times you can see all the flaws in it. And in the end you can only see the flaws. You can see the greed and conceit and mendacity oozing out of every pore of it. And you can also catch it in every inflection of their voice.
If politicians want to stay popular, they should stay out of the public eye. Once they’ve become familiar faces, loathing is sure to follow, like an army of ants. If you want to remain interesting, you must remain unfamiliar. Once they catch up with you, you’re dead meat.
The only reason that artists like David Bowie remained popular for their entire lives is probably because they kept changing their public persona, kept re-inventing themselves, so that nobody ever caught up with them. They remained enigmas. Nobody got the measure of them. The pursuing wolf pack never caught up.
In some ways, a public persona is always changing. If nothing else, it changes as people age. After a while, everyone gets a new persona, automatically. When the obese Chancellor Nigel Lawson went on a diet, and wrote a diet book, he slimmed down into a different man. And with the lost pounds, my loathing for him also evaporated. Even loathing departs after a while.
A.J. Ayer finally lights up after 17:30 minutes.