A Leader Is A Dealer In Hope

We are in the political silly season now, a time where the media can claim all sorts of things our political leaders should be doing in the knowledge they cannot respond as they are on holiday. But they aren’t. We have a new Cabinet, brimming with ideas and chained to their departments by a new leadership that has hit the ground sprinting since the election result of a few weeks ago.

So what can we expect now? This article attempts to examine what type of political leader we now have, here and elsewhere, what kinds of policies we can expect, and finally what it might mean for you, whoever has taken the time to read this.

There is no new order, or old order, there just isn’t any order

Unlike the quote from Napoleon Bonaparte (yes, him, the somewhat semi-successful French leader of the past) which heads this piece, the above quote in italics is my assessment of where our political classes are right now.  In my experience of engaging with politicians over the years, I cannot recall a period where I had a combination of more despair, and less trust, than I have right now.  So this piece is written through that prism: if you like, a combination of the Guadianista smug ‘I told you it would all go wrong’ type with a ‘I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING, SORT IT OUT’ type of Daily Mail-ish ranting one may be familiar with.  Apologies to both types, by the way, but stereotypes are important here.

Let’s start with despair.  The number one issue right now has been the same since that referendum in 2016. Debates, promises, votes, machinations, and ultimately failure to do anything has characterised the period since then.  Whole forests have been cleared to produce the copy that should provide a clear outcome, leaving only well-intentioned words we have become weary to read.  There are so many characters to blame, few to believe.

Which leads me to trust.  I don’t need to replicate any polls here as we all can probably conclude we’ve ‘lost a little’ or in most cases ‘they’ve completely lost my trust’.  This is even more worrying as we expect ‘them’ to ‘sort it out’.

Leadership

‘Lions led by donkeys’ was the description commentators gave to First World War soldiers following the orders of their Generals.  This has stuck since where one audience is disdainful of leadership of different varieties.  In the UK, and the US, we now have a new type of political leadership who are strangely similar: famous for not being a politician, allegedly infamous for relationship indiscretions, and low on detail but high on rhetoric.  In short these are both populists.  It seems the public likes this type of politician, who they can more readily identify with and this is seen elsewhere in Europe too. Populism is the new mantra.  Unfortunately, it also can mean that sometimes nothing can be achieved as the tendency is to promise but not always be able to deliver.  Especially in the case of the UK where a majority of one in Parliament leaves no room for comfortable manoeuvre; and in the US, where Congress and the White House co-exist to deny each other, waiting for an election it seems to clear the air.

Which leads to policy.

It is very easy to say yes

Tony Blair said, ‘the art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes’.  In a world where some most often will crave consensual outcomes, the reality is that policy decisions are now very hard and produce conflict not consensus. Brexit is the classic example.  Twenty eight decision makers are playing a never ending game of ‘pass the political parcel’ but where every time someone unwraps a layer, a more complex one emerges for the next person.  The music does stop on October 31 we are told, no ifs or buts, but that depends on a consensus emerging that has been lacking for some time.  Everyone is saying no, for a host of different reasons, proving Blair at least right but when the opposite in this case is the hardest thing to do.

Normally where there is a lack of agreement one can look to key audiences to help and arbitrate on a way forward.  One such audience is business.  Unfortunately the entrenched and shrill views of the UK political classes means that no one can be trusted, let alone ones who represent business or even independent bodies like the Bank of England.   This is beyond sad, or even belief, as those political classes are effectively declaring, ‘we cannot see or hear such arguments we can only speak our truth’.  Even satirists would struggle to ridicule such views, though Private Eye tries.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

So, any guidance you ask?  Yes is my optimistic answer.  Irrespective of the outlook indicated above we are living in a world where a difference is being made by people who you wouldn’t have known could.  You know who some of them are: the Swedish schoolgirl; climate change campaigners generally; consumerists in financial services, the list goes on. Just type ‘radical difference’ into Google to see how seriously people are talking about how change is manifest from non-established sources.

Yes we are even more judgemental and intolerant of sources of advice that we don’t trust, and perversely there will be people who take exception to this sentence even before they’ve consumed it.  But it’s true.  We are so driven by instant gratification that only our immediate truths are relevant to us, not those peddled by people – politicians, others – we have come to distrust.

And yet we must try. Engagement is the key as those aforementioned activists illustrate. It is the form of engagement that is different, but the means can achieve appropriate ends.  So, whether Brexit or just political weary then join something, have a voice, do something in person not on a social platform, show those with responsibility how you’d like them to take more on issues you care about.  It might make a difference.