The Sunday Times Magazine column: Stop hashtagging around, Dave and Nick. I want to take you seriously



I don’t want David Cameron to take part in the TV debates. As much fun as it’s been watching him squirm, I still don’t want him on my screen. Not Cameron, nor Ukip, nor the Greens, nor Respect, nor the Monster Raving Loony party.

Amusing as it would be to watch this political Britain’s Got Talent unfold, especially if they got Simon Cowell to judge it, I’d rather can the televised debates. And not just because I haven’t got a TV.

I’m sick of infotainment. I’m done with politics reduced to fashionable hashtags. It’s been Disneyfied. Some things are meant to be dull. So this is a call for politics to return to when it was incredibly boring. I want grey-flannel issues to come back in.In 2014 politics reached peak trendiness. The comedian Russell Brand nominated himself yoof spokesperson. The former pop star Myleene Klass debated the mansion tax. Feminism was dressed up for the cover of Elle magazine and sashayed down the catwalk for Karl Lagerfeld with placards proclaiming “make fashion not war”. Social issues became so hipsterised, the term Ukipster was coined.

You weren’t a serious movement unless you earned a hashtag. Celebs, including Michelle Obama and Cara Delevingne, clamoured to campaign for causes like #bringbackourgirls. Yet approximately 230 of the 273 girls Boko Haram militants captured remain missing. Meanwhile, as stories emerge of the hostages subjected to rape, abuse, physical torture and forced marriage, the red carpets have already forgotten them. At the Golden Globes the signs celebrities once held for #ourgirls were replaced by this season’s cause celeb: floor-length dresses accessorised with signs reading #JeSuisCharlie.

This isn’t to write off all hashtag activism as vanity, but rather to acknowledge that sometimes “raising awareness” — through social media, fashion and celebrity spokespeople — is not enough. Legislation is also required. Money. And policies. And it is this boring yet decisive action that gets lost when politics goes on TV.


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