The strange appeal of Arnold Schwarzenegger

Blair will be desperate to copy this strategy - he's probably already been on the phone to David Jason
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And America is the country that stomps around the world demanding other countries adopt the same political system as its own? No wonder it is taking so long to set up elections in Iraq.

They are probably having trouble explaining why the most important elements are a) that the ideal candidate to run your largest province should know how to hang off the back of a moving truck in a car chase, and b) the President is chosen by seeing who comes second in votes cast. Then all you need is a couple of million balloons and you've got a democracy.

One of the astounding sides to Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign in California is that the more his seedy behaviour was revealed, the more his vote went up. A photographer could have found a Nazi tank on his lawn. He'd have said: "But dat is aall in my past. I haven't ridden it since last Tuesday" and he'd have gone up another three points. If someone had found film of him leading a Ku Klux Klan rally he'd have said: "This was just a stunt to promote bodybuilding, and if anyone I lynched was offended den I'm sorry" and it would never have been mentioned again.

Iain Duncan Smith must have followed this closely, noting that outrageous behaviour appears to have kept Arnie in the headlines without damaging his vote.

He has promised a major policy announcement in his speech so maybe he'll say: "And once elected we will provide crack to every child under seven", then fondle Theresa May's breasts and wait for his ovation. Then Oliver Letwin might try to trump him on Question Time by saying: "Before I answer that very good point about tuition fees, David, can I say how much I admire Tessa Jowell's cleavage".

And Tony Blair will be desperate, as ever, to copy any strategy of his Republican friends. He has probably already been on the phone to see if David Jason will stand as New Labour candidate for Humberside District Council - with the slogan "you're plonkers, you Tories". And somewhere an MP who voted against the war will find themselves deselected and replaced by Dennis Waterman.

This is why Arnie can seem strangely appealing; our politicians are so pompously devoid of any life or passion. For example, I don't think I've ever disagreed with anything Alistair Darling has ever said, because halfway through his first sentence I find myself slipping into a trance.

So it's a shame that the interviewers respond to his answers at all. Instead, when he's finished Jeremy Paxman should say: "What? Oh I'm sorry, do you know I completely drifted off."

At least you imagine that when Arnie is in a meeting and someone questions how to balance the education budget, he'll say: "Maybe we need an explosion. I find out who has spent the money and blow up his office. Then a fireball sends me through a plate-glass window, and as I run off I say 'Looks like this time I've cooked de books'."

In some ways we're worse than the Americans, because if we try to do showbiz glitz we look pathetic, especially with our actors. It's like the story that Errol Flynn was sailing around Cuba when he heard about the revolution. So he sailed in, marched to the front and stood on a balcony with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

And this seems to fit: Cuban revolution - Errol Flynn turns up. Whereas the best we'd manage would be the bloke who played Blakey in On the Buses arriving and saying "I hate you, Eisenhower" through a squeaky megaphone.

The trouble is, Arnie told one lie that is easier to disprove than his excuses for groping newsreaders. It was his repeated claim that he will "govern for all the people of California". Whereas it's extremely unlikely he'll take much notice of the 10,000 immigrants who sleep rough every night in San Diego. Or the 4,000 who live in huts on a sewage farm, from where they travel to be maids and servants for the wealthy in the town of Duroville.

It's the wealthy ones that all sides of the political establishment in America depend on, so the argument in the election revolved around what's best for business, rather than for the one-third of Los Angeles's population that has no medical care.

This may be why, although people whose first language is English are now a minority in California, they still make up over 70 per cent of those entitled to vote. And while the latest polls show that a majority believes that the war against Iraq was wrong, no major candidate dared to support that view.

The true nature of the Republic Party in California becomes evident through the character of Pete Wilson, the former governor who remains in control of the organisation and, like Arnie, wants to make English the state's exclusive official language.

At one point he had a debate with Cruz Bustamante, Arnie's Democrat opponent, in which he declared that he would happily change the law to allow for the execution of 14-year-olds. So Bustamante answered by saying "with a tear in my eye, I could cast a vote to execute criminals at thirteen". Then presumably the pair of them stood opposite each other yelling "Twelve" - "Eleven" - "Ten".

Until one of them said "Right. I'm going to commission a robot that goes back in time and executes children before they've even done the crime. I know it's possible, I saw it on a film somewhere."

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