An age old problem

April 23, 2008

I was at a Frontline event last night which featured Menzies Campbell, discussing amongst other things, his demise as leader of the Liberal Democrats. As a ‘fellow yellow’ such close access to a former top Liberal was un-missable. Sadly, but strangely relevant to theme of the theme of this blog post, the room was only half full.

Are we obsessed with age in the UK?

With John McCain looking increasingly comfortable as a successor to George Bush at the youthful age of 73, do we consign our elder statesman in the UK to the back benches prematurely? Ming certainly thinks so and he holds the journalists of our national newspapers wholly accountable.

I disagree with him

I think there is attitude of unspoken meritocracy when it comes to age that extends beyond Politics to every walk of life in this country. When looking for chinks in your armour the British press will explore every dent, and if age is found wanting, than age will be your downfall. I don’t think there is any premeditated bias against elder politicians.

Consider Vince Cable, Rupert Murdoch, Bruce Forsyth (ok – I am stretching it now) – no one minds if you’re old as long as you can do the job you are paid to do. What Ming failed to do was convince the electorate and his own party was that he was the leader to take the Liberal Democrats forward and inspire the country. The same fate was served to William Hague and Iain Duncan-Smith but no one suggested it was because they were bald. They just simply weren’t good enough.

Politicians should be careful before they play the ‘ageist’ card as it undermines those politicians of senior years who are quite competently getting on with serving their constituencies.

Campbell will be forever remembered for his ‘temporary Leader’ gaffe in the House of Commons and did nothing to improve his authority last night by referring to Blair and Clinton as:

“you know, those two on TV… you know who I mean… you know those two old boys in the 70’s ( Morecambe and Wise someone suggested from the crowd) yes that’s right Morecambe and Wise. Actually Blair and Clinton aren’t like them at all….”

Ming’s failure was more to do with his own performance, that’s my opinion anway. Maybe I am ageist?

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