BU’s Dr Darren Lilleker on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze

BU Senior Lecturer in Political Communication Dr Darren Lilleker contributed to BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze programme, looking at the way politicians present themselves to the public.

Dr Lilleker took part in the programme’s debate around politics, personality and principles, which focused on how the way politicians look and act influences public opinion – and how important such characteristics appear to be.

Dr Lilleker told presenter Michael Burke that he believed politics had changed – with people now wanting to see politicians offer solutions and answers to the problems they face.

“What we’ve ended up with really is a choice of managers,” Dr Lilleker said.

“Party leaders and party teams present themselves as managers, people who can solve problems – which really goes into a whole range of qualities that are outside politics.

“It’s about the person, it’s about their ability to get things done and often they use their private life and a whole range of other parts of their character to signify how they will be in politics.

“I think that’s a fundamental change.”

Dr Lilleker said that he believed that the differences between the main political parties were shrinking and so the way they were presented by the media could make a big difference.

“I think the media make a big deal out of these small actions that make someone look a little bit foolish.”

He added that he thought negative political campaigning in terms of personal attacks on character concerned him as it made it difficult for people to know what a politician is really like – leading to public cynicism and apathy.

“Politicians package themselves to emphasise the best bits, their opponents try and attack them and undermine them and emphasise the worst bits – and I think what it leads to is a cynicism, to people not being able to make a choice because they are unsure who is the best.

“They’re trying to work out often who is the least worst – and becoming very apathetic.”

Listen to the Moral Maze – Politics, personality and principles debate in full