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Our politicians yearn to be charismatic. Yet Angela Merkel is popular and charisma free. What might they take from her example?

By Anne McElvoy   October 2009

Party conferences these days aren’t really conferences at all. They are spectacles: displays of mass solidarity on the way to triumph—or disaster. And, of course, orchestrated charisma-fests. See how David Cameron juts out a leadership-jaw, cajoling, bossing, joking with the audience and (more importantly) the cameras. A shadow cabinet member told me that watching his boss at conference was like “watching someone having sex with the delegates.” Figuratively, I take it.

No one has accused Gordon Brown of flirting with his audiences. The PM suffers from a weird anti-charisma. The qualities cited as his strengths by those who know him…

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