The film below, courtesy of the JFK Library, is that of a TV Debate in the United States which changed Western political history, although people seem to be only vaguely aware of that fact!
It was in Sept 1960 and was the first TV Presidential debate, in this case between the then Vice President, Richard Nixon, and one of the two US Senators from Massachusetts. Most people who watched this believed that Kennedy won the debate!
That said, many who listened on the radio thought Nixon had won. The rationale behind this is believed to be down to Kennedy's good looks and polished manner, and Nixon being insecure about TV makeup, and there is some consensus behind that!
That is not to say however that Kennedy was not lacking in policy and ideals, history shows that is far from the case, or indeed that Nixon was not shifty, as splendid at some aspects of foreign policy as Nixon was, Watergate is clear marked in history as a shadow of his legacy! It does show the start of a disturbing pattern of image over substance in politics!
If media image as it exists today, existed for over two hundred years, would George Washington have survived due to his having bad false teeth, or William Wilberforce with his slight frame, or William Taft with his build, or Clement Attlee with his reputation of having a dull personality. Granted spin existed then, but how would they survive today!
When we look today at our Party leaders, how much does image play! So David Cameron looks Prime Ministerial according to some people! Does that weigh over his relationships with the Murdoch press and his handling of the economy, the NHS, Education etc..? Nick Clegg comes across to some as agreeable. Does that mean we should ignore the way his Party have rolled over and let damaging Tory policies through Parliament time and again! Ed Miliband, according to some "Just looks weird!" So, does that make him a bad person, and should voters and politicos value that above the way he has led the agenda on Energy policy, stood up for the NHS, and took a moral lead over the Murdoch Press and therefore did not stand up for the wrong people!
Two articles today point out the unfairness of the attacks on Ed Miliband. One from the Telegraph's, Peter Oborne, which (especially considering it is from a Tory), should put Dan Hodges to shame, but then Oborne is an opponent with decency who, while misguided, cares about this country. The other article comes from Andrew Grice of The Independent
The next general election has much to play for, and will decide much on where this country is going politically, not just for the next five years, but for the next generation. Yes Ed Miliband has made mistakes, he would be among the first to admit them, but he has also made some sterling successes and has much integrity. It would therefore be a shame, if we made the wrong decision next year, by voting on perceived image, over policy and the wellbeing of many in this country!