Ugly leaders cant win - Clarkson again


Book Reviewer
Couldn't see this anywhere
He could have a point this time

Soweto was my generation’s Baghdad. Every night, we saw pictures of it on the news, scenes of burly policemen cruising the streets in Chevrolets, shooting children for fun. Of mobs setting fire to buses and blocking the roads with burning tyres.

Now, though, just 20 years later, it’s a bit like Surrey. There are well-kept lawns and lots of four-wheel-drive cars. There’s a shopping centre and a forest of cranes building a stadium for the upcoming World Cup. Sure, there’s Winnie Mandela’s mansion, which sits like a bulletproofed blister in the middle of it all, and the “Education is good for you” graffiti doesn’t quite ring true.

But I spent a day there last week and at no point did anyone put a tyre round my neck and set fire to it. I even had a jolly nice lunch under a jolly nice bougainvillea bush.

So what was it that brought about this transformation? Was it the legion of pop stars who sang about the iniquities of apartheid? Or was it the sanctions? Or could it be that pressure groups back then concentrated on real problems rather than the environment?

You do wonder, don’t you? If the firebrands and the beardies would stop worrying about polar bears, could a similar transformation be achieved in Darfur and Zimbabwe and the mayoral office of London?

I’m afraid not. The main reason the war against apartheid was won is that Nelson Mandela looks good on a T-shirt.

I mean it. Look at all the successful freedom fighters and you’ll note they all had one thing in common: a chiselled, romantic figurehead. Che Guevara, for instance, worked well as a screen print, and as a result the rebels still hold power in Cuba. And because Yasser Arafat looked like he’d just stepped out of that bar in Star Wars, Palestine is still a prison rather than a country.

Why do you suppose Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom? Simple. The IRA was never going to win, because with Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams they were represented on the world stage by a ginger and a minger.
The Basques have a similar problem. I met Eta’s political leader a couple of years ago and he was about as charismatic as a root vegetable.

Potty Pol had a great name but because his face didn’t work on a badge his efforts in Cambodia were always going to come to naught. And it’s the same story with Shining Path, the Tamil Tigers and Nazi Germany, for that matter. If Hitler had looked like Jim Morrison who knows what shape the world might be in today

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