As Glinda the Good Witch famously sang, “think of celebrated heads of state, or ‘specially greater communicators, did they have brains or knowledge? Don’t make me laugh! They were popular.”
And so, we come to the great prime ministerial competition of 2019. A race completely devoid of politics within the ‘public sense’ because 99.8% of people in the UK have absolutely no say on who becomes their next PM. Instead, it is a popularity contest between the senior members of the Conservative Party.
It’s a debate of who is friends with whom, who owes favours to whom, and who the public will be receptive to. Someone who might make a half decent deal for Brexit, or really make any kind of movement with Brexit… And maybe, just maybe, someone who will do a good job?
So, with the popularity contest underway we have to ask ourselves who are the 10 in running to be the UK’s next prime minister? But even more importantly, what are they like? Because policy be damned, this is all about personality!
Or at least, public personality. I (sadly) don’t know anyone personally, so I really cannot vouch for how vicious or patient Michael Gove is in a game of monopoly.
Let us begin with my favourite. Rory Stewart will probably never be PM, which as far as Conservative leaders go is a great shame, but unsurprising. Rory would probably be better suited to the BBC2 nature documentary slot on Tuesday evenings. He has the right lovable, unfazed boffin demeanour for it, that slightly quirky English appearance, and affable manner. He also knows everything there is to know about hedgehogs, and in 2015 gave a 13-minute speech in parliament which proved it.
Indeed, the Speaker of the House called it, ‘One of the best speeches I have ever heard.’ Rory grinned with schoolboy pride in the way you can only expect a man called Rory to grin. He loves the UK but will never lead it.
Matt Hancock isn’t afraid to smile properly. His Twitter profile features him squinting into the camera as his smile consumes his whole face. Has he watched the YouTube video Why Emilia Clarke’s Smile is so Charming, or has he always smiled that way? He also leapt from his car to give French digital minister Mounir Mahjoubi a hug. A full, proper bear hug. He may speak like an emotionally-repressed Englishman when he tells anecdotes, but emotionally stunted he is not. He even happily admits to crying on Twitter.
Mark Harper photographs like an American presidential candidate. He is also incredibly boring. He has no spark of personality, no charisma, even his haircut loses charm when he speaks. When asked the very serious question at his campaign launch, “Who would you be in a fight, a bear or a lion?” he made it about politics and responded the lion, because, you know, Britain… Rory Stewart would know the real answer and make it political. No wonder bookies have his odds at 200/1.
Andrea Leadsom also knows how to smile properly on her Twitter and has that spark of political charisma that we like in our leaders. Plus, she has a great speaking voice, close your eyes and it’s Keeley Hawes campaigning to be prime minister. (Apologies to any Bodyguard fans reading along.) She has the right sort of umph to make stirring speeches, and just completely screams out; voteable politician. Perhaps it’s her posture, or her smart smile, but I would quite like to see Leadsom lead a British version of the West Wing – on BBC1 this time.
If Dominic Raab learned to speak more slowly, he could narrate sleep stories. Move over Stephen Fry, Raab’s going to tell us about the lavender fields of Provence. He began his launch talking about his life in a manner that can only be compared to a gifted, (posh but also affable) 10-year-old. One, who has been picked out to read his creative writing story at the end of year assembly. “Me, a Union Jack sewed into my shorts…” It’s a good short story too, a nice bit of prose.
Esther McVey has incredible hair. It’s just amazing, I could spend this whole paragraph talking about how jealous I am of McVey’s hair, but I won’t. She also has the unique skill of being able to roll her ‘b’s in the same you might roll your ‘r’s. Just listen to her say the word billion. It’s incredible. Unfortunately, though, she has appalling video editors, unless it was her choice to put the Nashville filter over everything. However, she’s chatty in the way that only a good, old Liverpudlian, can be, which is endearing. But at 100/1 odds, because bookies secretly run this country, she’s not the one.
Sajid Javid began his launch video with a dog. That might actually win him the campaign, and it won me over. He also has a Gif of him dramatically talking with his hands to Commonwealth soldiers. I have never seen a Gif used this way. He can talk quietly, or loudly and passionately. But mostly he had his dogs and his family in his launch video – as well as what I am pretty sure was a squeezy bottle of marmite, which I have some questions about.
Michael Gove is a politician. He just is, I am attempting to humanise him here, but I am struggling, give me a moment. Still looking… He didn’t even feature in his own launch video! And it then happens… I fall into the Michael Gove rabbit hole I didn’t know existed: Gove has a history in comedy, doing sketches like Fry and Laurie. And now I have found a video of him rapping. Apparently, he has a deep desire to be interesting. Oh, he did cocaine a few times. Let me climb out of this rabbit hole.
And that one who looks like the British Donald Trump, he’s Boris Johnson! (Fake tan not included, and better hair too.) He does, however, have a far more eloquent employment of the English language. With that rather bumbling nature, he is sort of traditionally English, isn’t he? You know – roly-poly, Eton mess, ‘I say, old man, I can tell you.’ And he is always looking up at you through his non-existent eyebrows.
And finally, Jeremy Hunt. He also has people who aren’t him talking about him in his launch video. The whole thing is a little like a memorial video. Who died? Not Jeremy. But he has very sincere eyes, you have to give him that. They pierce through the screens, laptops or TV. It’s like he’s staring right at you. Just watch him explaining Brexit to a classroom of Japanese school children, so much gentle enthusiasm, and if eyes could listen his eyes can.