Ian Jack asked a question, in yesterday’s Guardian, which has puzzled me for some time: Why are Scottish politicians so much better than English ones?
By better, I mean more persuasive and more likable, and by the plural, I mean more than the obvious example, Nicola Sturgeon. Her predecessor Alex Salmond may have been less universally admired, but he too has made the Westminster leaders look awkward and false. Patrick Harvie, who leads the Scots Greens, is undeniably an improvement on his English equivalent Natalie Bennett, while the Scots Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, has become the most engaging Tory woman in Britain (a title previously held by the woman she replaced, the hard-to-dislike Annabel Goldie). Cameron and Miliband clearly feel they need to advertise their combative personas in case you haven’t noticed them – they tell us, hell yes they do, that they’re “pumped up” and “bloody lively”…
He does not come up with a really convincing reason but the question is is valid. I had been pondering a similar question – Why are English politicians feart of their Scottish counterparts?
I think it is that they relate to people, go amongst them and have visions of the future which they share with their people. By contrast Cameron and Miliband are both protected from contact with the people they are trying to convince, avoid answering difficult questions and go on about the failures of others rather their dream of the future.
The nearest we have seen to contact with the people was when David Miliband was mobbed by a hen party and posed, looking embarrassed, for a selfie. Nicola Sturgeon would have gone amongst them, dispensing hugs, touching arms and shoulders; looking as if she regretted she could not be with them later when the male stripper arrived.
In the first, short, video, from the Press Association Sturgeon gives her message briefly, concisely and clearly, but also watch the body language.
The second, longer video, is shaky, shot with a hand-held camera by the YouTube user chunkymark, but is instructive because we hear the whole speech, unlike highly edited TV news items.
There is an old-fashioned political rhetoric, a masterly working of the crowd, simplicity and if there are contrived sound-bites they fit in with the flow of the speech. Above all she looks comfortable to have the people around her. Watch at the end when rather than escaping at the back of the crowd but walks into its midst.
One thing which has just struck me: where are the minders. They must be there but they are not obvious as they are whenever Cameron or Miliband go anywhere.