As trust in Westminster continues to fall, the nation is finding other heroes. What does that tell us about where power really lies?by Joanna George / June 23, 2020 / Leave a comment
Most of us know what the role and purpose of a politician is. In case you didn’t know, or maybe you just forgot their role amidst the unsatisfying frenzy of Brexit, a global pandemic and the Cummings and goings of certain people (excuse the pun) within the political order, let me remind you. A politician is elected by their constituents to a position of political power. They then propose and create laws, raise constituent concerns, debate issues and put forward questions on issues affecting their constituency, the nation and world in parliament. They also attend functions, visit schools, engage with businesses and try to meet people from as many walks of life so that they can understand and contextualise the issues they discuss in parliament. Politicians also advocate on behalf of their political party, if they have one, and toe the party line. Their ability to do all of this well will improve their chances of gaining a seat in cabinet and walk within the high realms of Number 10 which, of course, is where real political power and influence lies. Right? Well no. Not anymore. Not in 2020.
The news that Marcus Rashford, a 22-year old footballer at Manchester United, was able to successfully campaign and influence the UK government to extend free school meals through the summer break is remarkable. His campaign will help feed over one million children in England at a cost of £120 million—a serious and significant political achievement for someone inexperienced at political campaigning and who isn’t a politician.
Yet Rashford’s triumph provides serious food for thought about how famous figures can gain significant influence within the political arena. For Boris Johnson to acknowledge that Rashford was “right to draw attention” to the debate about food poverty is in itself astonishing. As the prime minister, it is Johnson who should have had his finger on the pulse of such an important political issue and prevent it from becoming an issue in the first place. For a footballer to exercise such powerful political clout over the PM is very telling of the nature and power of celebrity in the times we live in. It would have been…