The upcoming referendum on the UK’s European Union membership fills me with a certain sort of trepidation, and I don't mind telling you that I get well excited about this sort of thing. The thing is, if the US primary season is anything to go by, conventional politics is truly out of the window.
Donald Trump is running a bizarre, excruciating, undeniably successful campaign to be nominated to run for president, but it will be fascinating to see if he can actually run for the job when he’s up against an experienced candidate of substance.
His success has come through his ready-to-roll pastry status of being well-known by the electorate thanks to his extensive television appearances and gossip magazine coverage of his many marriages. Of course, back then it was all harmless fun – folks would enjoy his shows and once the cameras stopped rolling his could scuttle back to his New York penthouse and enjoy being rich.
These days, his television persona is running amok, like a wispy-haired Godzilla. This monster that has been fed on ratings has suddenly developed a taste for blood. The scarier version is that he’s really like that, but politics allows – no, encourages – you to be cynical.
Perhaps we’ll see more celebrities running for office – Kanye West has already signalled his interest in the 2020 presidential election. In the UK our celebrity experience has only ever been limited to Robert Kilroy-Silk and Glenda Jackson, although maybe Trump has been inspired by his Apprentice forebear Sirallun Sugar being elevated to the house of peers.
Of our current crop of celebrity politicians in the UK, Nigel Farage and George Galloway are the frontrunners. Pre-packaged populists who appeal to a certain sort of crowd. They’ve teamed up together for the Out campaign in the referendum, in theirs clearly forming some sort of super-Transformer. Neither are Trump-style ratings munchers, but both have shown in the past a certain willingness for attention at any cost. I'm not sure even Donald would be caught dead in a lycra catsuit.
What this signals about the upcoming debate is that it has instantly slumped into the emotive and ideological, Farage and Galloway gunning for those who will accept what they’re saying for any other reason than they actually agree with the substance.
We used to speak of battles for hearts and minds, only the minds don’t seem to matter anymore. I shall cross my fingers in the vain hope that we might be about to embark on a genuinely edifying national debate, one that will be informed and insightful and perhaps even enjoyable. Ha.