There’s a tiny little election going on where I live at the moment. It’s so ludicrously unimportant that I can barely bring myself to think about it. Basically, two guys are running for the leadership of the party which comprises the main part of what passes for our government at the moment.
Establishment media in my country describes the two guys as young, forward looking and dynamic. In the language of actual people, this means they’re a couple of very well off fortysomething conservatives ruthlessly welded to far right economic ideology. To actual people, each of them is as exciting as an evening in listening to Aunt Matilda’s anecdotes about all the medals she’s won for flower arranging.
The party they seek to lead is also deeply conservative with occasional lustful leanings towards the far right. This means that the ever deferential traditional media in my country refers to it as ‘centrist.’ Funny that: nobody who talks about ‘the centre’ ever mentions just how far right that centre has been shifted since the early 1980’s.
Traditional media continues to try and get very excited about the contest between Tweedledee and Tweedlediddle. They seem to feel that it’s important to know whether Tweedledee or Tweedlediddle will be tougher on poor people and the causes of poor people, i.e. the laziness of poor people.
To the rest of us, struggling through that economic recovery Tweedledee and Tweedlediddle – and their Daddy, Grandad Gobshite – keep talking about, it’s all about as relevant as those ancient theological debates about how many angels could really dance on a pinhead. Life seems unlikely to change much, not for the better anyway.
So it’s been very hard to summon up any interest. So much so that I’ve even been unable to indulge in my usual practice of predicting who will win. I have an impressive track record at this type of thing; I’ve been right almost 50% of the time.
But the following conversation with the ‘Most Wise One’ changed my perspective. She has a way of cutting to the chase, so to speak, of seeing past all that nonsense about policy and polls and focus groups and all that other shite the party of Tweedledee and Tweedlediddle waste so much time on.
“So,” she says one evening, “who’s going to win? Tweedledee or Tweedlediddle?”
I pull reflectively at my nostril hair. “Jaysus. I haven’t a clue. Why?”
“I know who’ll win.”
“You do? Who?”
“Tweedledee of course.”
“Tweedlediddle hasn’t any hair. Tweedledee has a full head, simple as that.”
And fry me in ground nut oil if she hadn’t a point. It’s not quite fair to say that Tweedlediddle has no hair, but the poor guy is certainly fighting a losing battle. Tweedledee’s full head has looked suspiciously unchanged for the last six years or so, but at least it’s there, suggesting at least the potential to grow into dreadlocks or a Mohican.
And I started casting around in my head for other countries, other elections. Male pattern baldness is estimated to affect anything between two thirds and 85% of men, but you’d be hard pressed to find a single bald leader in the West. If you want high office, it seems you’ve got to have hair. Look at the lengths Donald Trump is prepared to go to pretend he has some.
As far as I can remember, the last US President who was visibly thinning was George Bush Senior. He won the first Iraq War and presided over final American victory in the Cold War, yet he still lost the 1992 election to Bill Clinton, whose main achievements up to then involved affairs with nightclub singers and the possession of a full head of hair. Coincidence?
The last true baldy before George was Gerald Ford, who lost in 1976 to the unknown Jimmy Carter. Before him was Lyndon B Johnson, who only became President upon the death of the impressively hirsute JFK. Lyndon didn’t contest the election of 1968, officially because of the Vietnam War, but possibly because he’d heard about the hair thing.
The last real baldy to serve as Prime Minister of the UK was the impressively patrician Alec Douglas Home, and no, he never won an election. Many years later, largely because they knew they hadn’t a chance, the Tories fielded the very young and very bald William Hague against Tony Blair in 2001.
Once they knew there was a real chance of getting back, it was back to a proper hairy with David Cameron. Like Tweedledee, Dave’s hair always looked a bit too good to be true, but there it was, an undeniable, election winning fact.
The last bald President of France was Jacques Chirac, and before him Francois Mitterand, but the special nature of French politics at the time meant they generally had to face off against other baldies. a case of Tweedlebald versus Tweedlebalder. More recently, the almost bald Francois Hollande has gone down as the least popular French President of all time, while Macron is likely to keep a full head of hair, at least until he passes puberty.
In Germany, merry old Helmut Kohl managed to rock on for quite a long time as a balding, impressively overweight Chancellor, but his successor, Gerhard Schroder, found it necessary to maintain a weirdly coloured and suspiciously shaped pate which in many ways foreshadowed the coming of Trump.
Politicians have felt the need to make light of the hair thing. Ronald Reagan was once challenged by a woman about the colour of his hair, which remained dark well into his 70’s. “No Ma’am,” he replied, “it was that colour when I bought it.”
They might joke about it, but they won’t be seen naked in public without it.
It makes you wonder about Bible stories, and whether – as the likes of William Blake and evangelists have claimed – the good book actually contains real, honest to goodness prophecy.
Consider the story of Samson. The superhero reveals to Delilah that the secret of his incredible strength is all in his hair. She contrives to cut off his tresses while he sleeps, Samson loses all his strength, and is easily captured by his enemies. The moral has apparently not been lost on politicians, or at least not on voters: “who does that bald man think he is? Trying to tell me stuff.”
It often seems that our politics are divorced from reality, but maybe they’re just following a code written millennia ago in the Bible.