The holiday season is now well under way, and where people go for their holidays tells us rather a lot about them.
Our new Prime Minister, Mrs May, is off hiking in the Swiss Alps, something she has done for thirty years. This is important. By going off to the Alps Mrs May is doing what she has always done, not adopting some sort of new pose to grab our attention and get over a subliminal message. But even so, the message is there.
First of all, this choice of holiday is Biblically inspired, as you would expect of a vicar’s daughter. Isaiah 40:9 counsels us to get ourselves up a high mountain – it has been beautifully put to music in Handel’s Messiah.
Perhaps this resonant Biblical verse explains why we instinctively think of mountain holidays as good for the soul. But it is a matter of record that several saints spent their leisure time amidst mountain scenery, two such being St John Paul II and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.
We are told of the latter: “Mountain climbing was one of his favourite sports. Outings in the mountains, which he organised with his friends, also served as opportunities for his apostolic work. He never lost the chance to lead his friends to Mass, to the reading of Scripture, and to praying the rosary.” Mrs May’s choice of the mountains for her holidays reflects her moral seriousness.
There are quite a few pictures of Blessed Pier Giorgio in the mountains, and several of St John Paul II too. However, the one published by the Daily Telegraph, showing Mrs May in full hiking gear, shows us someone dedicated to her walking, and who clearly does not worry about looking glamorous all the time.
This too is rather reassuring. We have long lived in a political culture where appearances have counted for far too much. This tendency started with Mrs Thatcher, a morally serious and hardworking woman, who was nevertheless forced to have a variety of makeovers to voice, hair and clothes, and who was the first to listen to the advice of media consultants such as the late Sir Gordon Reece.
While I imagine that Mrs May must have her spin doctors too, she nevertheless seems much less a varnished figure than her immediate predecessors.
If Mrs May is able to be what she see seems to be on first appearances – an ordinary and hardworking public servant, rather on the lines of the less than charismatic Frau Merkel – this will be a relief to the nation, akin to a breath of fresh Alpine air.