Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, I'm still rather shocked that politicians find it so difficult to learn from their predecessors' mistakes. Honestly, don't they read the papers? They start off as though blasted from a rocket, full of beans and brio, stepping out of their homes in the morning as though the country's very existence was somehow the result of them putting on and polishing their shoes. And then, when it all goes horribly wrong, as it nearly always does, they express surprise and bitterness, crawling back to those very same homes, pulling the curtains and embarking on a special relationship with their spirit of choice.

Many of these politicians change from people who have been pathologically opposed to presenting themselves in any way other than the way they think they are, to – rather more rapidly than they might have imagined – people who are bewildered by the fact that they simply can't get the public to like them. But a glance at The Political Brain, Drew Westen's book about the role that emotion plays in the way we vote, might explain one of the many reasons that politicians just can't connect with people.

In Westen's book, four questions are identified as being crucial: "How do I feel about the candidate's party and its principles?"; "How does this candidate make me feel?"; "How do I feel about this candidate's personal characteristics, particularly his or her integrity, leadership and compassion?"; and "How do I feel about this candidate's stands on issues that matter to me?"

Candidates who focus their campaigns towards the top of this hierarchy and work their way down generally win. And those who start at the bottom and work their way up generally lose.

Now imagine your favourite politician as the candidate (and all of you must have a politician you dislike the least), someone who has worked their way up from the bottom (holding a crumpled laundry list of targets) and one begins to see where they might be going wrong.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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