Tales Of The City: Darling, you'd be a marvellous PM...

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Watching Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigning for the governorship of California, one has been struck by three things. One, how little any of it has to do with politics (the only unpredictable thing about Arnie's Republicanism is his moderate stance on women's issues, which is ironic given his Tourette's-syndrome wandering hands). The second is how naïvely Arnold tried to be both honest and self-exculpatory at the same time, as in this exchange:

Arnold (on NBC Television): "A lot of these are made-up stories. I never grabbed anyone and then pulled up their shirt and grabbed their breasts and stuff like that. This is not me."

NBC TV: "So you deny all those stories about grabbing?"

Arnold: "No, not at all."

(So, let me get this straight, Arnie. What you're denying is the sequence of events, the grab-pull-fondle tripartite attack? Oh, I get it. You didn't do it in that order.)

The third thing is: why can't British actors stand for political appointments in the same clueless way? Danny Glover, who co-starred in the Lethal Weapon movies, is campaigning on behalf of Gray Davis, the sitting Governor. Both Glover and Arnie can point to Clint Eastwood's mayorship of Carmel, without starting on the honourable precedent of Ronald Reagan. Haven't we got any power-crazed thespians to go down the same route?

It's depressing to think Glenda Jackson is the only British actor who has successfully switched to politics (you can't count Lord Attenborough and the other darlings in the Lords, because they never campaigned for election). What we need right now is the sudden appearance of a maverick leading man in his fifties, making a shameless bid for popular support - to wrest mayoral power from Ken Livingstone, to sweep into office through a by-election in Tower Hamlets, or to stand for a specially-created Governorship of Cornwall. God knows there's a power vacuum at the top of the Conservative party and while we're waiting to see if Oliver Letwin or Theresa May fills it, why not consider some alternative candidates?

I'm thinking Alan Rickman here. I can easily see him, in a ticker-tape cascade in Whitehall, waving to cheering crowds with that cold sneer he wore to such effect playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I can hear him addressing the faithful on election night, giving the words "Ladies and gentle-mennnn" the metallic intonation that made him such a charismatic baddie in Die Hard. Admit it: you'd vote for him tomorrow, wouldn't you? You just know he'd take no crap from Mr Chirac, Mr Berlusconi, and, more to the point, Mr Bush. Somehow you couldn't say the same for Simon Callow or Stephen Fry; both would make charismatic political speakers, but only provided the former wore one of his beards, and the latter deployed his pipe and went on about spanked bottoms.

Sir Ian McKellen would supply the gravitas that's lacking in, say, Liam Fox, but he may be a bit glum and Old Testament-ish to lift the nation's spirits. Hugh Grant could ride into power tomorrow at the head of a breakaway faction called the Hopelessly British Party, but his murky past would be sure to catch up with him. ("He grabbed me and said, 'Look here, I wonder if you'd mind awfully if I... that is to say, were I to, you know, kiss you, would you, so to speak... yes I suppose you probably would.' Well, I think it was sexual harassment...") Ralph Fiennes, I don't think so (too pained-looking), ditto Ian Holm (too short, too indecisive-looking), likewise Billy Connolly (remember how rudely he treated politicians, and royals, in Mrs Brown?).

That leaves just one British leading man who eclipses all others in possessing the charisma that makes people vote for people, and that's Sean Connery; but he's fatally tied up with the Scots Nationalists, and he's lived abroad for too long, so he's blown his chance there. No, it has to be Mr Rickman who makes a Schwarzenegger-like bid for political stardom very soon. He has nothing to fear, unless his enemies dig out a clip of him trying to sing "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More" in Truly, Madly, Deeply.

Is it too late to join the children's party?

Last night, I went to the launch of my friend Louisa Young's Lion Boy, co-written with her daughter, Isabel. The book is an absolute trousers-down smasheroonie judging by the early reviews, the colossal multi-book advance and the film-option rights. It was a great party, complete with circus entertainers and that indefinable pong of headlong success-in-the-making. Louisa, I should point out, is a serious novelist turned Author of Children's Books. I went along with my pal Philip Kerr, who new book The Akhnaten Adventure, has been bought by Spielberg's DreamWorks company for a tidy seven-figure sum. Phil has a second novel in the pipeline called The Blue Djinn of Babylon, because, as he explains, he is working his way, title-wise, through the alphabet... Did I mention that he's a thriller writer turned Author of Children's Books? At work next day, I see that Barry Cunningham, who "discovered" JK Rowling, has now "discovered" a German dame called Cornelia Funke whose book Inkheart is having millions flung at it by the producers of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. And Ms Funke is a...? Why yes, a social worker turned Author of Children's Books. Later I twisted the dial to Capital Radio. They were playing "Ray of Light" by Madonna, who, as you probably know, is a singer turned...

Aaarrrggghh! Is it too late to join in? Missing a trend is one thing. Missing a bandwagon is worse. But missing a whole "golden age of children's writing" is the giddy limit.