Monday, 21 November 2011

If Chuka's the future, God help us

The Times on Saturday featured Labour MP Chuka Umunna for their Saturday interview. It left me frustrated that Mr Umunna is deemed to be some great new hope for this country but fear this is symptomatic of the increasing professionalisation of British politics.

I'm a Conservative so his views may well not have chimed with mine, but the problem with Umunna is he has the fantastically infuriating knack of talking without speaking. Few views were articulated for me to disagree with. In this he shares something with President Obama but this skill shouldn't be something to aspire to. Perhaps being described as the British Obama wasn't a compliment after all? 

There is a difference between using the 'satisfy and steer' technique in an interview when you satisfy the question and then steer the conversation onto your key message or point of substance. Umunna has no substance. His television performances are the same, he is a competent performer who talks fluidly without saying anything of note.

A further point of annoyance is the way modern professional politicians develop a verbal tick. Ed Miliband's has "Look..." Umunna has "Frankly...." e.g. "If we look to the future, frankly we're not going to have the same money available to us" which is his way of saying something really obvious but trying to make it sound edgy.

The language he uses is like nothing you would hear on the streets of south London, the streets of the City of London or any other city in the UK. It is meaningless politician speak. Here are three examples:

- "There was a sense of fairness and equality that was an inherent part of him." (About his Dad who sadly died when Umunna was only 13);
-"If, like me, you don't believe people are inherently bad and evil..." (About the summer riots);
-"We've got to be humble enough to admit that we didn't get everything right...(About Labour's record).

The deal with giving interviews is that they are a great way to trail a story, a useful tool to get coverage for a new policy or product and allow the reader to get to know the subject of the interview a bit better. None of this was achieved in this interview. At the end of the piece by Rachel Sylvester I knew little more about Umunna than at the beginning.

Described by Sylvester as "urbane and ambitious" this seems to be journalist speak for uninspiring and on-message. If politics continues to become ever more a profession people go into via the well trodden route of press officer/special adviser/think-tank wonk then we will have much more of this and we'll all be worse off for it.


  1. There are so many aspects of British politics which are failing, but I'd personally change the rules two ways. As I see it, our problems lie with the divorce from real life that our MPs can enjoy. They are in with their parties, so they feel cossetted by the club atmosphere. This is enhanced by the cheap drinks they can enjoy in the Houses of Parliament.

    They are supposed to be constituency MPs. If they truly were, incoherent and inane fools would fall off the map fairly quickly. Parliament is not supposed to be a career, but a public service, like Jury service.

    First, 'whipping' should be illegal. forcing a constituency MP to vote against the interests of the constituency itself is what makes the parties so powerful and what makes so many people feel let down. However second I'd enforce a residency qualification. The idea would be that MPs would have to live in the constituency for some years prior to putting their names forward. That way they would understand and be grounded in their constituencies.

  2. Chuka..the man who sets up offshore trusts in tax havens to pay for property in the UK!

    Hardly a man of the people...hardly one of the 99%

    A man/boy of the privileged 1%

    Out of touch socialist thinking the people of the UK are stupid.

    Typical labour MP then really!

  3. Hang on, Chuka doesn't believe that people are inherently bad, yet is a Labour Politician? Did he never learn basic philosophy? Rousseau came up with the idea that mankind is basically good, and therefore requires few controls or discipline, essentially a conservative doctrine. Plato believed that mankind was essentially bad and so required many controls, discipline and laws.

    Labour are big state socialists who believe that the state must have laws to counter all the failings of humanity. Essentially Platonic. Chuka can't therefore stand up and says he believes people to be essentially good as that goes against every policy and every ethic underlying Labour. For example, Labour don't believe that people will be charitable and helpful of their own accord, so they hike up taxes to hand out welfare.

    So, Chuka either doesn't have a bloody clue what he's on about, or he doesn't have a bloody clue what he's on about. Or he's a raving hypocrite, or he's lying or he thinks the public are fools.

    Or all of the above?

  4. You only have to look at the photograph of Umunna used in the article to see the "inherent" arrogance of the man. Umunna REALLY does believe his own hype, a worrying characteristic in a politician.

  5. The last two words of your second paragraph are spelt incorrectly.

    In any case, I don't really understand the thrust of this - Chuka was never a press officer/special adviser/think tank wonk...


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