Opinions allowed

by Stephen Tall on December 17, 2006

Fan though I am of Girls Aloud – Sound of the Underground was a throbbingly good Christmas No. 1 four years ago, while Racy Lacey (the bonus track on Chemistry) is 3 minutes of perfectly pure pop pap – I detected some signs of double-standards in their interview in this week’s New Statesman.

… the Girls have a complaint: none of their high-powered admirers has actually bothered to ask them what they think about politics…. says [Sarah] Harding: “It just isn’t talked about in normal magazines and newspapers. We never get asked who we would vote for. It could be a general question to ask us in an interview, but it isn’t.”

Cheryl, Nicola, Nadine, Kimberley and Sarah are, you see, party political animals. Well, fair enough. I’ve nothing against popstar polymaths. However, they seem less willing to concede such latitude to politicians:

“Politicians know that we get listened to by more young fans than they do [says Cheryl]. That’s why David Cameron said he fancied me. He was just trying to be cool. I bet he couldn’t name a single song of ours. Do I fancy him? No! Politicians should stop trying to be cool and get on with running the country.”

To which I’m tempted to rejoin: pop stars should stop trying to be serious and get on with entertaining their fans.

Of course, in a sense, GA are right. Mr Cameron’s view of the aesthetics of members of popular beat-combos is perhaps not the most crucial piece of information we require in order to determine whether he should be handed the keys to Number 10. And yet popular opinion asserts that there is something ‘other’ about politicians, a stereotype some are attempting to debunk by showing how down wiv da kidz they truly are.

This conundrum illustrates a wider point – society’s disinclination to trust politicians unless they can identify with them. Fair enough, you might say.

But why? Why must we conflate the personal and the political? Is it the case that we do not have enough confidence to make up our minds for ourselves based on our own analysis of the facts as presented? And therefore must place our confidence in another’s hands? In which case we must be able to identify with them – culturally as well as politically – in order to know their decisions are in fact ours?

If so, this is an intellectually bankrupt argument.

Of course we must trust our politicians enough to feel sure they are presenting us with accurate and relevant information. But then it is up to us, as citizens, to form our own clear, cool judgments as to which policies are best able to solve society’s problems, and to vote for the party that best advocates our assessment. We should not abdicate this democratic right and duty to our politicians simply because it makes our lives easier.

Even if we do agree with Dave that Cheryl is fit.