MP or Time Lord – the key criterion should be talent

Age matters acutely for politicians as they struggle to appeal to the entire population

Share

At what age does one go from gimmick to promising newcomer? And from newcomer to old hand? And from old hand to past it? It’s a perennial puzzle, especially for politicians, who, once elected by some of the people, must endeavour to appeal to or at least understand the ideals and interests of all of the people, whether 18 or 80 years old.

You would think that if any politician could navigate these tricky straits, it would be William Hague, a man blessed with both the face of a Dutch Renaissance baby and the voice of an octogenarian extra on Emmerdale. But even he has fallen foul of the age trap. It emerges in newly released Downing Street files that Margaret Thatcher vetoed Hague’s appointment as special adviser to the Treasury when he was 21, because he was too young. “NO!!!” she scrawled. “This is a gimmick and would be deeply resented by many who have financial and economic experience.”

How times have changed. In a world run by tech billionaires still in college hoodies, youth is no longer a gimmick. In David Cameron, the country has its youngest PM in almost 200 years – and yet his years, or lack of, rarely come up.

Did Thatcher have an optimal age in mind when she vetoed Hague’s move into politics? It’s hard to work out what that might be. Too young, and they may never win the confidence of older voters. Too old, and they risk alienating the next generation. Perhaps it’s 49 – bang in the middle of 18 and 80, the moment at which unsullied passion and jaded experience are held in perfect counterbalance. Or perhaps there is no magic number and politicians should realise that, like parents at a child’s party, they can’t win, and trying too hard only makes it worse.

The same No 10 files reveal Thatcher took a softer line on one Oliver Letwin, put forward for a Department of Education post, aged 26. “Oliver, after a brilliant career at Cambridge has just come back from Princeton,” ran the memo. “You know his parents Shirley and Bill...” It’s not politicians’ youth that’s the worry. It’s their old-school connections.

Peter Capaldi, best known to television viewers as The Thick of It's swivel-eyed, sweary Malcolm Tucker, is the new favourite to play Doctor Who. This week bookmakers slashed the odds on the Scottish actor succeeding Matt Smith in the role to 2-1.

Capaldi's rumoured move from spin doctor to Doctor conjures delicious visions of the Time Lord effing and blinding his way through Saturday teatime, withering Daleks with a single bulge of his eyeballs and a spittly bon mot. But that's the not the main reason to get excited about Capaldi clambering inside the Tardis. The main reason is that he is one of the UK's finest actors. Moreover, he is 55 years old, the same age that William Hartnell was when he became the first Doctor in 1963. Since then the character has grown more babyfaced with each regeneration – Christopher Eccleston was 41 when he took on the role, David Tennant, 34, Matt Smith, 27. A more mature, grizzled Doctor would be a welcome sea change, a fitting nod to the programme's past and, while we're at it, an opportunity for the BBC to demonstrate its new stance against ageism.

On top of all of that, having seen Capaldi's gloriously eccentric turn as Professor Marcus in The Ladykillers in the West End last year, I recall that he also carries off a long, woolly scarf with style. So, yes, Tucker for Time Lord – I'd watch that.

Twitter.com: @alicevjones

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there