Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Holiday season

It's that time of year again, when politicians' holidays are subject to a level of scrutiny usually reserved for – ooh, I don't know – the customer list of a Lincolnshire moat cleaner. And Daniel Finkenstein has a fine game on Comment Central this week:

- Match the Politician to the Summer Holiday -

1 - Nicholas Sarkozy
2 - Nick Clegg
3 - Gordon Brown
4 - David Cameron
5 - Barack Obama
6 - Vladimir Putin

a - Visiting the in-laws in Spain, doing a spot of light cycling
b - Topless horse riding through rugged, Siberian terrain
c - Rental home with own orchard, pool, golf and basketball court (est $50,000 a week)
d - Fife and Cumbria, with a worthy spell of volunteer work
e - 10 day holiday in France with “a really trashy novel”
f - Three week break in Cap Negre, with no-fly zone imposed

(Answers: 1 f, 2 a, 3 d, 4 e, 5 c, 6 b)

How many did you get right? I got the Obama and Sarkozy ones mixed up. (Of course, the basketball court was a giveaway.)

Obviously, none of this matters. It's trivia. But the papers are full of it because, as DF points out, it's very calculated trivia: "it's the anticipation of analysis that leads to those choices being micro-managed."

Take Putin, manfully stripped to the waist as he patrols mountainous terrain 'pon his powerful steed (in the same region of Serbia, incidentally, in which he was snapped shirtless while fishing and horse riding in 2007).

The intention can be summed up thus: Russians heart macho. Ex-President acts macho in photograph. Russians see photograph. Russians heart ex-President, want to make President again. Ex-President smiles, feels macho, tells rest of world to shut up while he does JUST VHAT HE VANTS VIT THE GAS SUPPLY, DA? That, in a slightly racist nutshell, is it.

And what about "call me Dave" Cameron? For a start, it's pretty rare to hear a boy announces with relish that he intends to read "a really trashy novel". Something easy to read, yes; pulp fiction, yes; ooh a bit of Maeve Binchy and a pina colada, no.

And second of all, that phrase is used exclusively to show that you know it's rubbish, but you're indulging in a guilty little pleasure. But hold on a minute... I have engaged in guilty pleasures before! Is Dave My Kind Of Guy? Because if he is, I'm bloody voting for him.

So what is the point of this self-fulfilling bit of stage management? World leaders know the public is watching, so they put on an act; we see them act, and correctly surmise that it's for show. I suppose there is no point.

But it seems to work. Plus it fills column inches and - crucially - it gave us an opportunity to laugh at Tony Blair in his trunks. Surely that counts for something.

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