Maybe there is hope for New Zealand’s favourite grandmother

I bet Maggie Barry, NZ’s favourite grandmother, has already read this article at the Telegraph.

You might not think it, but TV presenters have just the right qualities to be successful politicians.

I was reminded of my former career as a television reporter when I saw the sniping about David Cameron and Ed Miliband both promoting former breakfast TV journalists in their new cabinets, and whether they had sacrificed hardworking grit for glamour.

Cameron has promoted former GMTV host Esther McVey to become Iain Duncan Smith’s number two at the Department for Work and Pensions, while the ex-This Morning presenter Anna Soubry became the first ever female MP to work as a defence minister. Meanwhile, on the other side of the political divide, Ed Miliband propelled GMTV’s former political editor Gloria De Piero into the shadow cabinet as spokeswoman for women and equalities.

For many, the question was: what on earth were Messrs Cameron and Miliband thinking in propelling breakfast TV stars to the higher echelons of power? But, as a breed, these are people who are used to working long hours, can communicate to ordinary people and are hardened to personal abuse.

The view of humorist HL Mencken, that the relationship of journalist to politician is that of dog to lamppost, has long been taken as gospel. In fact, the relationship has always been much closer, with politicians and journalists swapping jobs since TV news was invented.  

We have had many journalists turn politician,but not so many go the other way.

But a reporter may at least have one advantage. “A reporter-turned-politician will know what questions are coming – they will have asked them,” says Maria Gearing, who has worked as a newsreader for ITV Granada and interviewed McVey, the local MP for Wirral West. “And they will also know how to evade questions, having seen it done. Reporters also have to stay calm under pressure, look good on a little sleep – we expect this from our politicians, too.”

Ah, yes. “Being telegenic is a requirement of the job [of an MP] these days,” says Cathy Newman, presenter of Channel 4 News. “The public have very little time for MPs, so if you’re lucky enough to look OK, have a warm and friendly manner, that might just help.”

Unfair? “The backbench MP makes much more impact appearing on TV than he or she does in the Commons,” says Brandreth.

And any television reporter – particularly women – will tell you that appearance is just as important for them. I still wince when I think of how both the public – and well‑meaning colleagues – would think it fair game to criticise my looks on screen. I was advised to straighten my naturally curly hair to look more “authoritative”; another boss regretted the fact my eyes looked “too big”.

Equally, both reporters and politicians have to realise that they can’t take themselves too seriously. John Prescott will always be remembered for throwing that punch. Perhaps the memory I take away most from my TV career is the time when a nurse, clearly fed up of filming all day at her hospital, rammed a trolley into the back of my legs so that I disappeared from view with a shriek.

Finally, as Enoch Powell put it, all political careers end in failure. That is something that most journalists have at least had experience of. As Reay-Smith says: “If you’ve driven from London to Suffolk for a 10-second soundbite – that’s a three-hour drive there and three hours back – only to see the item dropped, you’re more than prepared for the disappointments of a political career.”

Many a minister or former minister has forgotten Enoch Powell’s advice…people who serve in parliament for longer than 20 years generally do too…when they finally leave, forcibly or voluntarily the find out real quick how actually unimportant they really are…and how they never really were.

 


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