Style matters

Matt Forde identifies one advantage of the rise of Ukip

If you’d said to people two years ago that politics was exciting and enthralling they’d have completely disagreed. Most people probably still think it’s boring but the last year has definitely been far more exciting than we could have predicted. In an age when we’re told that our politicians and our politics have never been blander the fireworks display of the European elections, Scottish referendum and defections to the United Kingdom Independence party have lit up the year. Politics seems to be an unpredictable and at times even unstable environment and I’m not ashamed to admit that I absolutely love it.

Putting aside any party allegiance (which you almost have to do as a Progress member these days anyway), it’s brilliant that politics has become box office. In Scotland, the referendum campaign had a massive turnout and mobilised people in a way I’ve never seen before and doubt I’ll see again. That vote proved that when you give people a meaningful decision to take, and they realise that the power lies in their hands, they will come out and vote. This is far more inspirational than trying to get people to vote by downloading apps and presuming that all young people will only vote through iTunes. If people really care, they’re prepared to walk round the corner. I’ve always thought it patronising to say that young people will be inspired to vote if it’s available online. In other words, our nation’s youth are a bunch of square-eyed online grunters whose only hope of reaching democracy is if it’s reduced to a bunch of pop-ups that flash up during World of Warcraft. Or whatever else it is these youngsters watch online. The less said the better, apparently. Not that I’d know, I just use the internet for grocery shopping; it was a mate that told me.

Ukip’s steady rise is something that gets me into a lot of trouble because I’m really enjoying it. Not its policies of course, but its style, and there’s something to be learned. People are tired with the way politicians behave. I interviewed Tessa Jowell recently and she said something fascinating. She would catch herself mid-interview sometimes talking like a politician and think ‘Why am I talking like this?’ and wished she could conduct the interview in her natural persona. Far from what some people believe, I don’t think most politicians are taught to behave in a certain way, I think they just start to behave like those around them. These cultures develop in every workplace. Something Nigel Farage has stumbled on, either by accident or by design, is that the style of politics matters. Your message gets across if you don’t sound like everyone else.

In life I’ve never understood why people would want to sound alike anyway. We’ve all met people who’ve appropriated that Ricky Gervais-style of office banter. ‘Ooh, here he is … awkward, so … in a way.’ Too many politicians have done it, but the pervasive style seems to be that of an A-level student delivering their first public speech. It’s a delivery that aggravates people. Talkinglike this, to make surethat people listen. Because we needto ensure that no people are left behind. The words don’t even soak in. You could say anything like that. Talkingfor the sake of it because shoes are for outside and slippers are for inside. You’d probably get a round of applause for that at the Labour conference. Especially this year. In fact, you’d probably have been hailed as political visionary if you’d have announced that.

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Matt Forde is a stand-up comedian and talkSPORT presenter. He used to work for the Labour party www.mattforde.com

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 Photo: European Parliament

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