i Editor's Letter: Likeability is important come election time


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The Independent Online


I commend you – not for the first time – to the wise words of our Hamish McRae, who (p23) articulates far better than I could, and have tried to in the past, just what it would take to get us all spending again. This, a week after his tour de force explanation of the actual numbers behind all that tax hot air, proves yet again that you don't need long, high-falutin' words, or thousands of them, not if you have the "smarts".

Perhaps Ed Miliband, not noted for saying in less what he could hint at using more, reads Hamish. Regardless, yesterday, his aides and he showed that they at last understood that the wonkishness which is his stock in trade does not play in opposition, and most certainly not two years or more out from an election. He spoke with emotion and nerve at the Labour conference yesterday, and was all the better for it.

Yes, it was short on policy – but at the moment, policy is not his problem, he is! Our dramatic poll just the day before showed this clearly. But, it is safe to say that more than one in five of the people watching and listening to his speech in Manchester would have been able to imagine him a good PM. Is it enough to move the dial?

Much as it is more palatable to our notion of ourselves to pay lip service to the idea that we elect our leaders based on policies, for so many that is simply not the case. "Likeability", whether we, erm, like it or not, becomes a more important factor with every election. Which is a big part of why the automaton candidate Mitt Romney is struggling, and why the shadow of Boris Johnson looms large over David Cameron.