Rick Perry has support of 29 per cent of Republicans

Rick Perry, who hopes to be the GOP's 2012 presidential candidate, has the support of a third of Rep

Rick Perry, US Presidential hopeful and current Governor of Texas, has the support of 29 per cent of Republican primary voters, according to a new Rasmussen poll.

Michele Bachmann, who is also hoping to challenge Obama for the presidency in 2012, has the support of only 13 per cent of the 1,000 Republicans surveyed. 18 per cent said they would vote for Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts. Despite coming close behind Bachmann on Saturday's straw poll, Texas Congressman Ron Paul is trailing on nine per cent. Hermann Cain is at six per cent, Newt Gingrich - former House Speaker - is at five per cent, and Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman are both at one per cent. Thaddeus McCotter polled zero per cent, and 16 per cent were undecided.

Perry is currently campaigning in Iowa, where a straw poll on Saturday indicated that Michele Bachmann had the support of 30 per cent of GOP voters. Perry's support is disproportionately high amongst Tea Party supporters, of whom 39 per cent say they would vote for him. However, amongst non Tea Party supporters, Romney is leading over Perry by a small margin, and his overall rating is higher than that of both Bachmann and Perry, at 77 per cent.

President Obama himself is currently on a three-day tour of Midwestern states, including Iowa, whose votes he will need if he is to remain in office after the 2012 election. The first Republican primary vote will be held in Iowa in February next year.

US political commentator Professor Dan Drezner has said that "Perry vs. Obama would be the largest policy gap between nominees since... Reagan-Mondale?"

Alex Massie, writing for the Spectator, has cast doubt on whether Perry's Federalist outlook "can survive the horrors of a national campaign", due to his reactionary views on issues such as gay rights and the environment. The Huffington Post has also suggested that Perry is disliked in his hometown, where he is seen as glib and superficial, having "turned his back on Haskell" (the county from which he hails).

Although many commentators believe Obama will face stiff competition in 2012, there is disagreement as to whether Perry will prove a formidable opponent. His extreme views alienate many moderates, even if his support from the Tea Party ensures he makes many headlines, adding to a perhaps artificial sense of his popularity. The Rasmussen poll does suggest that Perry is a divisive figure: 38 per cent of voters hold a "very favourable" opinion of him, against 32 per cent for Bachmann and 21 per cent for Romney, but Romney's overall favourable rating is higher.

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What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times