Politicians should not be normal

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The Independent Online

No politician likes to be thought of as a weirdo. Last year Conservative Central Office was so tired of getting the response "weird" to the question "What do you think of William Hague?" that it stopped asking it. Now William himself has decided to shrug off the geeky image. In a magazine interview, he brags about his 14-pints-a-day days, hoping that we'll forget the Hansard-under-the-bedcovers teenager we used to know. Some commentators - and former colleagues of the teenage Hague - have reacted with incredulity to the claim, comparing it with Tony Blair's fond reminiscences of outings to watch Jackie Milburn score for Newcastle, a club Milburn left when Blair was four.

No politician likes to be thought of as a weirdo. Last year Conservative Central Office was so tired of getting the response "weird" to the question "What do you think of William Hague?" that it stopped asking it. Now William himself has decided to shrug off the geeky image. In a magazine interview, he brags about his 14-pints-a-day days, hoping that we'll forget the Hansard-under-the-bedcovers teenager we used to know. Some commentators - and former colleagues of the teenage Hague - have reacted with incredulity to the claim, comparing it with Tony Blair's fond reminiscences of outings to watch Jackie Milburn score for Newcastle, a club Milburn left when Blair was four.

By reinventing their pasts, politicians are trying to tell us that they are just ordinary Joe Blokes, still in touch with the common voter. Blame John Major for it. Ever since his appeal for a "classless society", politicians have been scrambling for the common touch. Remember poor Douglas Hurd who, in trying to match Major's appeal during the 1990 leadership contest, played down his Etonian background.

But the plain fact is that politicians are not "just like us". To grow up with convictions, to feel the vocation to put these into policy, is a noble calling even if you disagree with every word they say. We shouldn't want our politicians to be "normal", we should want them to be competent. So, no more unbelievable tales from bragging politicians, please. Westminster welcomes weirdos, William.

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