Thursday, 2 December 2010

Predicting our next political athlete

Yesterday I wrote of a brilliant American term used to describe once in a generation politicians. See full post here.
Political athletes are the ultimate politicians of their day. People who are great communicators, thinkers (or facilitators of new thinking) and are able to transcend traditional boundaries. Examples of true political athletes include Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or JFK in the US. Here in Britain it would be Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

Applying these rough guidelines to the latest crop of MPs who entered the Commons in 2010, here are my initial list of those currently most likely to emerge as political athletes. As some fall away and others emerge over time, this list will be revised.

Sam Gyimah - Potential athlete rating 4/5
Young, talented with a bit of a life story. Gyimah could almost be an American politician rather then MP for East Surrey. Representing this safe seat will give him time and space to develop as a politician. Has actually done something prior to arriving in the Commons which should work to his benefit in connecting to diverse audiences.

Chuka Umunna - Potential athlete rating 4/5
'Ones to watch' often burn brightly then burn themselves out. Probably needs to manage expectations for a couple of years and keep his head down. Umunna is a good communicator and seems to want to develop a distinct brand of Labour politics which could mark him out from the herd.

Matthew Hancock - 3/5
A student of politics who learnt his trade under the tutelage of George Osborne - possibly the finest political tactician of the current generation. Very bright but, like his former boss, lacks the finesse of a Blair or a Clinton so may find it difficult to connect beyond the Tory heartlands.

Jesse Norman - 3/5
If brains were the essential component of a political athlete Jesse Norman would be way out in front. A stellar and diverse career before politics backed up by a rare depth of written work marks him out. Sadly, in the rough and tumble of modern politics, thinking too much provides rich ammunition for opponents. This is likely to trip him up at some point.

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