An appetite for politics

First published in Opinion The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

Britain’s Prime Minister scrambling through mud and water on his hands and knees while taking part in the Chadlington Great Brook Run in the Cotswolds, last week, was not a very dignified sight.

Watching David Cameron staggering to the finish on TV got me thinking why national leaders feel it’s necessary to publicly show off their sporting prowess and physical fitness as if it somehow correlates with fitness for office.

Vladimir Putin is an example of this macho approach with his stage-managed shooting and fishing outings in the wilds of Russia.

US presidents used to also love hunting, while in modern times they’ve jogged and played golf, though not always with great success.

There is, for example, that memorable footage of an unfit Jimmy Carter collapsing exhausted into his bodyguard’s arms part way through a run.

You can’t blame leaders for wanting to appear macho. Perhaps it’s part of a genetic requirement that gets them to the top in the first place.

Being attractive to women seems to also be an important driver. Bill Clinton and Silvio Berlusconi are cases in point. What’s amazing is that rather than leading to disgrace, revelations about their private lives appear to help sustain their popularity.

These days, a much greater political sin for a leader would probably be smoking and eating too much or getting drunk every day.

But if that had been the case 70-odd years ago we wouldn’t have ended up with our greatest Prime Minister at the helm when we most needed inspirational leadership.

Winston Churchill might have eaten gargantuan meals, enjoyed copious quantities of alcohol and incessantly smoked his trademark cigars, but it didn’t stop him leading us to victory in the Second World War. Although a politically incorrect view, I believe Churchill’s unhealthy appetite for life remains something to be admired.

However, it should probably not be emulated.

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