LDP facelift turns spotlight on young image-makers: Japan's political dinosaur hopes a youthful look will save it from extinction, says Terry McCarthy in Tokyo

SEVERAL months ago, Noboru Takeshita, the former prime minister of Japan who was forced to resign in 1989 because of the Recruit scandal, was in parliament to testify about his role in yet another scandal, the Sagawa bribery and gangster affair. With grey hair slicked back and face showing no expression, the 69-year-old Mr Takeshita calmly denied he had anything to do with Sagawa, and in fact did not even remember meeting any of the people involved.

'Even a child would not believe that,' said Japan's best- known anchorman, Hiroshi Kume, with withering disdain, as the incident was rerun on his late-night news programme. The contrast could not have been starker: the ageing, grey-haired politician obstinately stonewalling his questioners and giving nothing away, and the young, irreverent television newscaster from a different age speaking his mind on air. It was a harbinger of things to come.

The Sagawa scandal eventually led to the vote of no confidence on 18 June which felled the government and for the first time threatened the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) 38- year monopoly on power. But along the way it showed that the LDP was not just going through another routine scandal to be followed by the token apologies and temporary resignations. The LDP had an image problem.

Set up to combat Communism in 1955, the party was increasingly looking like the gerontocratic politburos of the regimes it claimed to oppose. It was seen to be run by a herd of political dinosaurs who long ago had abandoned any sense of representing voters, and were instead trapped in a world of bribery, influence-peddling and obscure factional infighting. Its only virtue was to guarantee stability.

But now that stability is out of the door and the party is being challenged by an array of young, media-friendly opposition politicians, the LDP elders have realised their party needs a facelift - fast. With arch-enemy Tsutomu Hata, the 57-year-old leader of the LDP revolt, becoming a permanent fixture on television chatshows, the LDP has launched its publicity counter-attack: three younger politicians have been given the task of rejuvenating the party's public image. They call themselves 'the three arrows'.

The 'arrows' are all, in fact, heavyweight politicians: Ryutaro Hashimoto, 55, was finance minister from 1989-91; Shintaro Ishihara, 60, is the author of the controversial book The Japan That Can Say No; Yohei Kono, 56, is the chief Cabinet Secretary in the government. But they are relatively young and are seen more as contemporaries of Mr Hata and his co-conspirator, the 51-year-old Ichiro Ozawa, than of the prime minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, 73.

The three young blades will be making television appearances to put across the message that this time the LDP is serious about political reform. The most influential is Mr Hashimoto: he was forced to step down as finance minister in 1991 to take responsibility for a stock market scandal, but is seen as a possible prime minister: having a good scandal on one's curriculum vitae is far from a disqualification.

As a sign of how desperate the LDP is, they will be joined by Toshiki Kaifu, the former prime minister remembered most in Japan for his polka-dot tie collection. The LDP had used him as a prime minister of convenience after the Recruit scandal because they could not find anyone else untainted by corruption. He was quickly ditched when he began to talk seriously about political reform in 1991, but has recently been resurrected because the LDP realises it again needs to purge itself in public.

Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum Mr Takeshita has been dropped from the LDP slate, and will be running in the elections as an independent.

(Photographs omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Javascript Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried