Electability – what does it actually mean? 


whole picture – guardian advert 1986.

Cook cook cook cookability , that’s the beauty of Gas.

To some reading this the above  will mean nothing whilst some will have sung it.

I love watching old adverts.  They bring back memories and they give you an insight into the social values of the time as well having created some.  They  can be brash and cheap or iconic and award winning.  They also give us images and words that stick in our mind for years.

That is why I quoted that jingle.  It’s stuck along with a lot of other stupid stuff. Perhaps I spent too much time watching television when I was young  or perhaps it is indicative of the power of advertising.  Whatever it is these trivial memories are normally awakened but a phrase or a tune or sometimes a similar word. So what has triggered this trip down memory lane for me?

The advertising agency that came up with cookability meant for it to convey the way you can control gas when cooking ,  ease of use , it’s reliability.  Looking deeper perhaps it was trying to put across an idea that those who use gas are better cooks or it is more traditional.  Looking again at the same word it could be that they basically just hummed a tune and it was the only word that rhymed.

The word was created for a purpose and it was used to sell a product.  And I thought of it because I heard a similar word. Electability.

Electability is also a word that can be interpreted in many ways.  The general consensus of the media  and those who use it is that is indicates the chances of winning an election are based on a persons electability. It indicates if they match what they believe are the most important factors to have to win over the voters.  It is a key factor they look in a person who they want to lead them into power.  A key factor in electability is generally accepted as image.

We  all know appearances matter.  Deportment and poise, style and grace , image is seen as everything.    An example of this was the famous debate between JFK and Nixon in 1962.   The youth and glow of  Kennedy against  the sweaty and drawn looking Nixon.  Those listening on the radio believed Nixon won, but the television audience felt very differently.  We now know  the chubby face and tan were due to the medication Kennedy took for his Addison’s disease and the sweat down to Nixon not wanting to wear make up and it made a difference as to who won the election.  History  has shown which was the greater statesman, but it was the start of the image politician.  The suit and tie, the smile and haircut and even the stylish wife all help in electability.  In the Mad Men age policies and principals started to become secondary to the image.  Electability in these terms is really pandering to the dumbing down of politics.  To say that a person can only hold office if they are of a certain type or look, background or character.  It should be something taken out of politics rather than reinforced. It indicates the power of media in creating and destroying those in public life.

Electability  can however be about the policies and aims.  In this case a persons electability is affected when it’s assumed the British Public will not vote for the policies of the candidate. Now this is a little more complicated.  Recent  events have shown that the mind of the British public is not that easily read. Making sweeping assumptions as to what the electorate want is really quite dangerous.   Yes for many a choice is made on image, but this is exacerbated  by the lack of attention paid to policy and substance due to the factors mentioned above and without this information how can they make that choice.  For those who look beyond image it is basically insulting to presume you know what they want.     When there is evidence the British Public may well support some of those policies and ideas then to use this term in order to undermine the candidate is really tantamount to dictatorship. In this case the term electability is dangerous , divisive and undemocratic. Surely it is the result of the election, after a campaign which focussed on the aims of the candidate , which shows if a person is electable or not.   Claiming otherwise is arrogant , elitist   and insults the electorate.
Electability can also be seen as conveying a completely different meaning altogether.  Electability can be seen as a term which sums up all of the ideas and concepts that people have about politicians. That a person is very aware of image, having stylists and even taking  lessons on how to look good, trustworthy , authoritarian .  That a person is aware of the things the public likes to hear and will say them even if they really do not mean them.  It can indicate a person who has a background which distances them from the everyday public , such as wealth or privileged education, but is still portrayed as  understanding the worker, the poor, the unemployed.  It can embody all that is seen as wrong with politics and Westminster.  MP’s who are professional performers  who spin and lie and twist and turn with seemingly Teflon coating whilst treating the electorate as fodder. Power used a tool for their own self advancement.  Here again the media is involved in the  creation and sustaining of this kind of electability.   In this sense it is a word to be avoided if we want people to engage in politics, to become involved.  It helps to keep the halls of power as somewhere only suitable for a certain type, background, gender or ethnicity. Electability alienates and divides and discourages people from believing things can change.

I see electability as a word which has been developed, just in the same way as cookability.   Electability is an advertising term because in recent years politicians  been seen as nothing more than individuals trying to sell us something , trying to get us to buy , trying to sell us a way of life.  And all the time they are basically just looking for the profit at the cost of the consumer .

I see the term electability as encompassing all that is wrong with the government and with politics. A word  which says MP’s are not thinking of what is best for the country but what is best them.   It indicates a complete selling out of democracy and fairness.  It is a word which conveys contempt and arrogance.  It’s jargon having no substance or true meaning, used as a blanket to cover the truth and the real intentions of those who use it.

Therefore I am not surprised that this word has been used to describe Jeremy Corbyn.  However, it reflects more on those who use it than the one it is used against.  It reflects that they see the public as image hungry simpletons with no concept of the workings of government or the power and agenda of the media.  The word shows the workings of their minds not ours.  It shows contempt and fear that the world in which we went along with all they say is changing and that people have been caught out too many times by advertising to fall for it again.

Next time someone mentions the electability of Jeremy Corbyn  just explain what that word means.  That is stands for shallow, self serving , power hungry, arrogant, undemocratic, elitist , un inclusive people .  People who will always work for the rich and not the poor.  Who will line their own pockets and make deals rather than help the electorate. Will stand in the way of anyone who challenges their way of life and who has principles they stick with and a desire to actually make a difference.  When they  understood this then maybe they will also  understand exactly why they have used that against Jeremy.  They may understand that is actually not a bad thing to be called.


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