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If Labour Want to Be Re-elected They Need a Young, Charismatic and - I Am Loathe to Say It - a Good-looking Leader

11/05/2015 10:02 BST | Updated 10/05/2016 10:59 BST

In this digital, shallow age where the people who command the most twitter followers and headlines are the likes of the Kardashians, the Beckhams and One Direction (their total twitter followers constitutes a small nation), Labour has to wake up, examine our times, learn from their past successes and failures and move forward.

They will also have to be canny and strategic in their choice of leader.

Blair won three consecutive elections, despite dubious and controversial foreign policy choices, and intermittent waning popularity with an unfairly loathed, although formidable wife, Cherie Blair in tow. Why did he keep on winning? Was it because of his centre left polices? Or Labour's track record - they did do much that was good, but some policy decisions were an unmitigated disaster? Or because the Tories were weak, divided, shambolic and not a credible alternative? That certainly helped. Or down to his image? Love him or loath him Blair's political credibility was inextricably linked with the way he presented himself to the world. David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary, was predicted as Blair's successor because, essentially, he looked like a leader and a future Prime Minister.

Similarly Thatcher's image was crucial to her success and appeal. By deepening her voice, overhauling her style she created a brand, which became Thatcherism and a global phenomenon. Blair did the same; he was consistently slick, polished and determined. Before Blair Labour languished under leaders like Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock, both decent, good men, but that's simply not enough in British politics. After John Smith died and Blair replaced him he quickly packaged himself as a moderate Tory donning Labour's clothes - it was a palatable mix that got him through the door.

Gordon Brown's insistence on taking over was the first nail in the coffin for Labour. Gordon resembled a Chancellor - sturdy and dependable - but never a PM. Labour's demise has been a long time in the making and perhaps this is what had to happen; the party had to be brought to its knees in order to start afresh.

With the Tories, it took eons before they found a viable successor to Thatcher; John Major was opportunistic and got lucky. Ian Duncan Smith and William Hague were never serious candidates, wrong voice, wrong image - dull (although clearly both very capable, bright and successful as Ministers). Cameron comes along, and even though I find him insipid, he has a an accomplished, stylish wife (the ultimate PM accessory), the right tone of voice, Eton/Cambridge educated, a family man coupled with the Sam/Cam image that makes them easy on the eye. When he appeared, as if from nowhere, we all knew he was a potential contender without even listening to what he had to say. And if you scrutinise his cabinet, Theresa May's shoes make more headlines than her views and now George Osbourne is suddenly funky because of his haircut.

This is all shallow stuff, nothing to do with politics in the slightest, but sadly it matters. Recently David Beckham joined Instagram, he's amassed 5.6 million followers (and rising) in a matter of days. His son Brooklyn Beckham has 2 million followers. Is it because they have anything of intrinsic value to say, not really, it's the seductiveness and power of the Beckham brand? People like to look at them, aspire to be them and are interested in every detail of their lives.

Interestingly when I have posted paintings of my carefully painted and constructed glamorous alter ego Mia, she gets more attention then the tortured, psychologically naked self-portraits of Sanchita, the artist. It's been a revealing experiment, but it's not rocket science - image matters. Which image do you prefer?

2015-05-10-1431271018-4078387-22IMAGEmiaBIG2forbook.jpg

Painting of Mia number 3 (oil on canvas 2009)

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Self portrait of an artist number 9 (pencil on paper 1999)

The Conservatives rebranded under Cameron and it made all the difference.

Labour has an opportunity to do a cull, although the electorate has done it for them, and have a major face-lift. They must paint a new dynamic face of labour imminently. There's even been the suggestion of changing the name of the party, perhaps that's a step too far. But they need re-branding and re-packaging in order to rise from the ashes of this election transformed.

If you look to France and Scandinavia, there is a plethora of young, good looking and stylish MPs and ministers in the mix - case in point the Swedish minister of health Gabriel Wikstrom, aged 29. Looks and brains evidently do exist. It's shallow, but Labour they could learn a thing or two about a new wave of dynamic, youthful European politicians and seek to emulate. Blair began the process and then it stalled a bit. Ed was in the process of restarting it.

Do you think John F Kennedy's enduring appeal and popularity was down to his politics, brains or looks, it was the whole package?

To simply be brilliant is not enough in our Facebook, instagram, selfie, twitter, and narcissistic age. To oust the Tories Labour has to be visually aesthetically arresting, as well as politically astute, diverse and erudite.

The political landscape has also changed beyond recognition, the Liberal Democrats have been wiped out, the Woman's Equality party is about to emerge on the scene, UKip isn't going to go away; they will certainly undergo a similar rebranding process. This is no time for complacency, Labour is in a hole, but they can dig themselves out.

Their success critically depends on their next choice of leader and their recruitment of the next generation of MPS. They have to get it right, or they are screwed. Out of the six potential Labour candidates there is one stand out figure - Chuka Umunna described as a rising star of the party with a vastly increased vote of 14,000 for his Streatham constituency. He already looks like the UK's equivalent of Obama, but potentially better, he's young too at 36, a trailblazer apparently - bring it on.

New blood, fresh voices, new vision - that's what Labour needs and if they take heed they could be back in. Image (coupled with a bit of substance) really is - everything.

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