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Hugo Rifkind

Politicians can’t dance, probably because they’re aliens

18 August 2012

6:00 AM

18 August 2012

6:00 AM

Let us talk about politicians dancing. Specifically, let us talk about Boris Johnson and David Cameron dancing to the Spice Girls at the Olympic closing ceremony. Graceful, elegant, debonair, all of these things it was not. Cameron clapped, strangled by his tie, like a man whose sober country church has been taken over for a week by some bastard with a guitar. Boris was more relaxed, swinging his belly to the beat as a bountiful chick might swing her boobs. Digging it, like Daddy Pig might dig the DJ at Peppa’s wedding. Did you see? The cameraman held them both for 20 seconds and then moved abruptly on. ‘This isn’t funny,’ a producer might have told him. ‘This is like watching them on the loo.’ And my response came in stages.

Stage 1: The comparative stage. Is there a politician in Britain who would have looked better up there? No. Osborne would have been still as a petrified tree. Hague, moving inadvisably. And I have a strong mental image, for some reason, of Ed Miliband dancing like a robot from 1984. Ed Balls would be Boris in a different head. His wife would not dance. Harriet Harman would convey a strong impression of the handbag she was almost dancing around, although not quite as strong as that conveyed by, say, Caroline Flint. I cannot imagine how Vince Cable would dance to the Spice Girls. I try, and the spots gather before my eyes.

Stage 2: Resentment. This sucks. It bloody sucks. What is it with these people? Why do they all have to be so weird? Who wears a suit and tie to a pop concert, anyway? I know it’s a trivial point but, Christ, people are alienated from politics enough already. How are you supposed to convince an electorate that you’re on the same planet as they are when you’re so glaringly the dork at the disco? British politics has a long-running problem in this regard, and Conservative politics most of all. Did you see Young, Bright and on the Right the other day? It was a BBC documentary about a pair of young Tories at Oxford and Cambridge, and it was just tragic. They were smart guys. Indeed, they even seemed nice guys. But they seemed hellbent on making themselves peculiar, because being peculiar seemed, in their minds, integral to the political future they so craved.


Dreadful. Worse than dreadful. Cruel. Really, it’s about more than politics. It’s about the alienation of power; the remove of the boss class. Remember all that horrible Blairite posturing? Why didn’t it stick? Why aren’t the people in charge anything like the people who aren’t yet?

Stage 3: Reconciliation. Think about global leaders who can dance, though. Obama aside, I mean. All those neckless African dictators and portly Latin types in uniforms can probably bust a move. I bet Silvio Berlusconi could dance, albeit like a goon at a mafia wedding. And Putin wouldn’t, but if he wanted to… hmmm. Plus, there’s that whole genre of Northern European leftish politician who wouldn’t dream of wearing a suit, ever, and something about them always makes me terribly uncomfortable. You know, like the teachers’ unions have staged a coup. So maybe it’s better this way, after all. In fact, yes, I’ve just decided. It is. Swing that belly, BoJo. Zigazigah.

Speaking to the Radio Times the other day, Benedict Cumberbatch declared that he was sick of being ‘castigated as a moaning, rich, public-school b*****d, complaining about only getting posh roles’. There was so much posh-bashing in Britain, he went on, that he was thinking of moving to America.

He should. I’m a fan of Cumberbatch (after Sherlock, who isn’t?) but professionally, if he wants to do anything other than posh or period roles, he should get the hell out. Look at Damian Lewis and Dominic West, both old Etonians, and both who have hit their career peaks playing blue-collar Americans. Look, indeed, at Hugh Laurie, over here so typecast as a Bertie Wooster-style buffoon (I think it was playing Bertie Wooster that clinched it) that it was impossible to imagine him doing anything else; over there the highest paid actor on American television.

I do not expect you to be particularly moved by the travails of highborn actors. But, ignoring their own concerns for a moment, what does it say about Britain that our suspension of disbelief is so pathetically limited? In the US, they’re busy debating whether a gay actor (Matt Bomer. No idea) could play Christian Grey, the voraciously hetero pervert from that bondage book everybody is pretending not to read on the tube. In Britain, meanwhile, we’re not quite ready for a posh bloke to play a less posh bloke. Sure, in the greater scheme of things, anti-posh bigotry doesn’t matter much. But still, it makes us look small.

Do it, Benedict. Anything can happen in Hollywood. Take your inspiration, maybe, from Hugh Grant. I’ve a distinct memory of him playing a character so low-rent and sleazy that the police picked him up with a hooker on Sunset Boulevard. Although I forget the film.


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