Politics is Hollywood for ugly people. Unless the candidate came into the world with a womb. In which event, she had better equip herself with a pair of traffic-stopping breasts to match. Or at least a wide, party-girl smile and a skimpy frock. For how in hell else is she going to get a chance to save the world?
From the lamp-posts of the Champs Elysée to the Piazza Navone and downtown Trim, Europe's political patriarchy is bending his creaking old knee to electoral gender-balance. But keep your (L'Oreal 'grey chic') hair on, missus. Only women d'un certain visage need apply. Qualifying females are of the variety whom no man would dream of calling 'women'. They are perennial 'girls'.
Poor put-upon Mrs Berlusconi knows all about it. She's filing for divorce after her oily septuagenarian husband snared one Lolita too many for his Euro elections candidate chorus line. A former model who, at 52, has the glossy-mag looks of a thirtysomething, Veronica Lario has done Europe no small service. Give that woman a medal – or a wardrobe of Jimmy Choos – for pulling the rug from under dirty old Silvio's casting couch.
Across the way, in Paris, another bella Latin firebrand, Carla Bruni, is credited with busting up hubby Nicolas Sarkozy's incarnation of the Blair Babes. Her prize scalp is Rachida Dati, the minister for justice who returned to work last January, five days after being delivered of a baby by Caesarean section; father undeclared. Her crime was making her return to the office in a figure-hugging skirt suit and vertiginous stiletto heels. Quelle horreur! Politics is like marriage. Once you've got your feet under the table your duty is to become middle-agedly and matronly invisible. For her mortaller, Mme Dati (43) has been banished to the hustings, to secure a seat in Strasbourg for the centre-right UMP party.
Which brings us seamlessly to Co Offaly, native place of the world's most handsome political leader. But, before we get to Barack Obama, let's discuss Brian Cowen. Now, some might suggest our great leader is quite an oil painting, but, as we speak, those people are being hotly pursued by gardaí for breaking and entering at the National Gallery. It is not inaccurate to describe Biffo as less than pulchritudinous. There is no obligation on male politicians to imitate supermodels. (By the way, didn't anybody tell Bertie when he was splurging the nation's nest egg on Mac Studio Fix?) Traditionally, beauty was not a criterion either for the stray Irish woman who found herself in Leinster House, though – because of some strange quirk in the Irish proportional representation system – it helped if her name was Mary. A Liz, mind you, had to be a real looker and do Morning Ireland interviews in her lingerie.
Time was when dynastic entitlements and a grim climb through the ranks of local cumainn and urban district councils were the only essentials. Neither has gone away. But a third route opened up last year when Cowen became Taoiseach and appointed Mary Coughlan as his Tánaiste. Now we have the Lovely Girl Contest, Ireland's version of Silvio's Pirelli Calendar Girls. If you had a euro for every time a man said of the new Tánaiste this time last year, 'Sure, she's a great girl', you could buy AIB today.
And what a year the Tánaiste has had. Since letting slip that she didn't know how many Euro commissioners there were and announcing that the government had the economy under control, she has been portrayed as the Dumb Blonde on Kildare Street. Which is not altogether fair. Where were the Ken-'n'-Barbie analogies when B-movie actor Ronald Reagan revealed: "I have orders to be awakened at any time in case of a national emergency, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting"?
Last week, Enda Kenny met with his Meath candidates. It was a stop-off on his dizzying leader's tour, designed to promote Fine Gael's local election hopefuls in the Royal County. Such was the exposure given to one of the candidates, Catherine Yore, she would be elected to the áras in the morning. Needless to say, she was young and pretty with spectacular legs, a short dress and positioned beside a grinning fiftysomething Mayo man who, one paper noted, lingered interminably to allow photographers get as many shots as they wanted. Hip, hip, hooray. Yet another career opportunity has opened up to allow women reach the glass ceiling. It's called being a prop for the leader.
Before you mention George Lee and how the women voters are mad for him, let me just say three things – economist, spectacles, middle-aged. George's attraction is his brain. Male voters, do yourselves a favour. Allow yourselves to be seduced by a woman who can apply make-up to two faces at once. Only then can both sexes be truly liberated.