A couple of weeks ago at the Philosophy society we discussed ‘The Prince’ by Niccolo Machiavelli which is really an instruction manual for a leader. The whole the book seems to be littered with hypothetical imperatives in which Machiavelli believed a leader should act. In this way he seemed to imitate Immanuel Kant but the focus on morality was less severe. Obviously these circumstances are subjective to the philosopher’s own ideas and time period in which the book was written. As the only PR student at the society I could see a lot of crossovers in which philosophy, dubbed as the “broad church”, also infiltrates aspects of PR.
In particular, conversation swerved onto the recent American presidentially elections and Barack Hussein Obama’s win. This then diverted to politics in my own country, Britain and the image of Gordon Brown. A couple in the group believed that Margret Thatcher was making a positive comeback even though when she was Prime Minister people seemed to hate her ideas. I could see how Tony Blair’s popularity fell in office but now he would most likely be preferred over Gordon Brown. It seems that a leader has his character judged rather than the ideas he stands for. When the next political elections transpire in this country the newspapers are likely to have headlines such as Brown vs Cameron and imitate the elections as some sort of battle. Political parties only really receive focus during local elections but even so the leaders of particular parties are still taken into account.
It is no wonder then that Public Relations serves such an important role. If it is possible to observe an audience and find their ideal leader and character traits then a political leader could be shaped to this ideal. In a strange way this is similar to Plato’s theory of the forms. A leader is given a form which coincides with a higher form in the audience’s minds. The idea of a colloquially spoken Margret Thatcher would have maybe dissuaded people to vote for her. The connotations of received pronunciations may have made her victory more possible. I say “more possible” since there was a lot more at stake which got her into power. Needless to say Public Relations always serves an important role in politics. With this come questions of unelected members becoming a large influence behind those who are in power.
So are the characters of political leaders genuine? David Cameron has the horrible ‘Cameron Cam’ which seems to be a failed attempt to communicate with my generation. The first videos released seemed to be a comedy sketch rather than a serious keynote speech. What I am certain of is that the PR behind Gordon Brown must be useless. If any leader needed assistance with image then it is him. Although perhaps the raw nature of Gordon Brown will be preferred over the suspiciously pleasing David Cameron? In all likelihood the next parliament will be a conservative one but part of me thinks that Nick Clegg deserves a chance.