No matter how smart they are, or how innovative their policies, our most elevated politicians must be able to answer simple everyday questions to win elections.
As well as demonstrating competence, compassion and seriousness, they need to appear, at least, down to earth and ‘one of us’, the kind of person you would trust and happily have a drink with.
The thing is, too often they are caught out by appearing not to be ‘like us’ at all. In the leaders’ debate on Tuesday night the final question on Christmas presents was thrown in to allow Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn to reveal their ‘normal guy’ credentials.
Susanna Reid discussed politicians struggle with demonstrating that they are down to earth and ‘one of us’, after Boris Johnson (pictured) failed to explain what makes him relatable in an interview with Naga Munchetty on BBC Breakfast
While Corbyn suggested Dickens’s A Christmas Carol ‘so Boris could understand how nasty Scrooge was’, Johnson wanted to wrap his Brexit deal (cue groans from the audience) before settling for a pot of damson jam. I don’t suppose those will be appearing on too many of our gift lists.
The ‘relatability’ question flummoxed Johnson during an interview with my friend Naga Munchetty on BBC Breakfast. She asked the apparently simple: ‘Why are you relatable?’
He couldn’t answer. He thought it was about his family life, couldn’t find an example and finally told her it was the most psychologically difficult question ever asked.
Some viewers may have thought Naga was impertinent, but I recognise her skill in asking Boris a question every voter wants the answer to: Are you a politician out of touch with the real world, living in an ivory tower at No 10 — or do you really understand voters’ concerns?
An answer along the lines of ‘like everyone, I pay bills, I’m concerned about education and the NHS’ would have sufficed.
Instead we were left wondering if questions about his mopping skills in flood-hit Derbyshire might turn an election. Tellingly, it wasn’t a Newsnight grilling that made headlines for the Prime Minister the next day.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) revealed he’s anti-sugar on health grounds and rarely eats biscuits, when asked what is his favourite type
The most famous ‘mundane’ election question has to be Mumsnet’s: ‘What’s your favourite biscuit?’ It is always asked when MPs are interviewed on the popular website and has perplexed more than one PM.
Ever since Gordon Brown couldn’t name a single type of biscuit and took a full 24 hours of dithering to reveal he liked anything with chocolate on it, politicians have been well-briefed on their teatime preferences. They’ve still got it spectacularly wrong, though. Who could warm to a man who reveals oatcakes with butter and cheese are his favourite (David Cameron) or says: ‘I’m totally anti-sugar on health grounds so eat very few biscuits,’ like Corbyn?
When Jennifer Arcuri came into the studio, she was wearing a badge with intertwining UK and U.s. flags. But I pointed out: ‘Your special relationship badge is upside down.’ ‘Actually it’s getting better by the day,’ she purred before we went on air. I’ll let you decide if that’s good news for Boris or not!
Politicians have entourages of advisers behind the scenes to support them — and it baffles me when they’re not briefed on the basics.
In 2014, when Ed Miliband was campaigning in local elections as Labour leader, he appeared on our GMB sofa.
His campaign focused on the rising cost of living for ordinary families, so our programme was the perfect place to get his message across. Ed got stuck into the country’s leadership.
It was disconnected, he said, from ordinary people who felt Britain was run ‘for a few people at the top and not for them’.
And yet, when I asked how much, for instance, was the weekly shop for him, his wife and two children, he hesitated, then seemed to hazard a guess that he spent £70 to £80.
When I pointed out the average bill for a family of four at the time was more than £100, he spent the rest of that day trying to clarify his figures.
Susanna (pictured) revealed the main political leaders in the UK haven’t agreed to appear on GMB to speak to she and Piers
David Cameron in a breakfast radio interview in 2013 thought a loaf of supermarket white bread was ‘well north of a pound’. When told by LBC’s Nick Ferrari it was less than 50p, he explained his ignorance by saying he owned a bread maker. Cost? £100. Less value loaf, more upper crust.
Perhaps it’s the time of day that catches them out.
When a politician goes on Newsnight or Peston you expect them to be up to speed on the detailed policy issues. The problem with the more relaxed nature of the breakfast interview is that, as well as policies, they need to have the common touch.
Maybe that’s why the main leaders haven’t agreed to appear on GMB. You can’t help wondering if they can’t face Piers and me for a few minutes, then how will they fare running the country?
Despite multiple invitations to the PM, he hasn’t been brave enough yet, so we’ve ordered a waxwork of him for the studio. He made an on-air promise last month that he’d join us. Hopefully he’s preparing by finding out the price of a loaf of bread . . .
Kate paid a high price for sharing her worst fear
Susanna questions if Kate Garraway (pictured) regretted telling producers of I’m A Celebrity that heights are her biggest phobia
Like me, Kate Garraway has no head for heights, so watching her walk the plank at the top of the 334ft Focus Building on the first night of I’m A Celebrity took my breath away.
She must have regretted telling producers this was her big phobia.
Once, when out swimming with her children Darcey and Bill, they merrily dived off the top board leaving mum shivering like a jelly at the top.
That time, she turned back, to be lovingly consoled by her ten- year-old son, who said: ‘Don’t worry, Mum, it’s harder when you’re heavier because you fall more quickly.’
As I discovered, nothing beats getting a perfect 10 in Blackpool
Susanna says she fell out of her chair when Emma Barton (pictured) received a 10 on Strictly
At last! Gorgeous Emma Barton — who seems to have been unfairly under marked so far — has reached the highest accolade, a 10! And not just one. Bruno Tonioli was effusive, but I fell out of my chair when head judge Shirley Ballas also got out her 10 paddle, because she’s come under severe criticism for being too tough on Emma so far.
Emma’s partner Anton, a Strictly professional for 17 years, got his first 10s ever and threw himself on the floor in shock. Having been paired with Ann Widdecombe and Judy Murray in the past, you couldn’t help enjoying his moment of glory.
Kevin and I got our first 10s at The Tower Ballroom in Blackpool when we did our Paso Doble.
As Emma said: ‘I never ever thought I would be getting a 10.’ There’s no better feeling than being top of the class.
Calendar is shear idiocy
Susanna argues Royal Veterinary College students should leave sheep alone, they were forced to remove a picture of themselves posing nude with the animals for a calendar
When the Yorkshire WI women posed naked to raise money for charity, it sparked a ‘Calendar Girls’ fundraising phenomenon. But Royal Veterinary College students had to remove a picture of themselves posing nude because they used live sheep to cover themselves up. Be naked if you have to. But leave the poor sheep alone.
Full disclosure: I have been a calendar girl. For 2013 I was Miss December. But it was for the Strictly Come Dancing annual calendar and I’m pleased to report I was fully clothed.