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David Stewart: Flying high on trip to see the trappings of President Reagan the ex-actor known as a 'great communicator' while visiting family in California


By David Stewart


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David Stewart columnist.
David Stewart columnist.

I am just back from sunny California following a three-week break to see my son and his girlfriend. A wee break from politics, you might think – but not a chance!

We made a six-hour drive from Sacramento (the state capital) to Los Angeles in a hired electric Tesla – well, it was California after all!

I was keen to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, high in the hills above LA. As a fan of US politics, I am firmly on the Democratic side of the aisle, but I have a great interest in President Reagan – the ex-actor who was known as a “great communicator”.

In previous US visits many years ago we visited the JFK Library in Boston and the Carter equivalent in Georgia, so I had a vague impression of what to expect – a scale and magnitude that Americans do so well.

When we eventually arrived, after a tortuous journey along twisty hillside roads, I was astounded at the quality of the Presidential Library and the range of things to see and explore.

For example, in a large hangar they had the actual Air Force One flown in by President Reagan.

The plane was a giant Boeing 707 and was only the second US Air Force aircraft to be specifically designed and maintained for the use of the President.

Today, there are actually two Air Force One planes in use – Air Force One is the call sign when the president travels.

When we travelled back to LA after our visit of several hours it struck me that there are several comparisons between Reagan and UK prime ministers such as Thatcher and Blair: all had the ability to appeal to voters who had not traditionally supported their party in the past.

Reagan did that with the Democrats to win the governorship of California and the presidency, Thatcher did that with Labour supporters to win 1979 general election, and Blair with Tory supporters to win the 1997 general election.

Is there a lesson here for the next Scottish Parliament and general elections?

I was reading a quirky political story in The Times on Saturday about the recent local authority elections.

The elections are run on a proportional system under, as die-hards will know, the single transferable vote (STV) system.

An SNP candidate in Edinburgh, Rob Munn, complained that his re-election was not based on his performance as a councillor but could depend on his surname!

However, academics have confirmed this is not so daft as it sounds – experts call this “alphabet bias”.

If a party puts up more than one candidate in a ward, their names are arranged alphabetically and it appears there is data to show that voters are indeed biased towards names further up the alphabet.

Is this good news for all candidates with the surname Allan?!

Delighted to hear that Caley Thistle veteran Aaron Doran has signed a new contract and I wish him every success in his testimonial event at the Caledonian Stadium tomorrow.

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