So, there’s been a great deal said about the recent general election. Some of it well informed, some of it not so. The problem with entering the murky yet spirited pool of political debate is that there is a very real possibility of offending somebody. In my experience Political opinion stimulates the same part of the brain that is triggered during a road rage incident- the part that takes things far too seriously.
For example, when I accidentally cut somebody up, it would seem my car inadvertently activates one of those signs that Police traffic cars have in the rear window. The ones that say “Police – stay back” – in red flashing lights. Except my sign says – “I’ve just fucked your wife”- at least I’m assuming that’s what it must say to warrant the reaction some people have to a minor accidental infraction on my part. Apologising by a cheery wave, I’ve learned, just aggravates the situation: either that or the sign just adds “- and your mother as well.” My point is that after reading on Facebook, several of my friends’ rather vicious attacks on the main party leaders I was quite surprised. I had no idea they knew these people so well. After all, how else are you able to offer such a well-qualified opinion of an individuals personal traits.
Before I begin and lose the majority of what readers I have, let me say this. I am not advocating National Hug a Politician Day. Criticism and public flogging go hand in hand with the job, a downside I’m sure most have come to terms with. I do feel however some recognition should be given. As my other blogs detail I have a now 10-month-old son who has got me wondering what qualities to best instil in him as he grows. Which public figures, past and present best represent an example of what type of person he might aspire to be? This is tricky because I believe the best role models are not always the most obvious.
For example you might scoff at the possibility of any party political leaders fitting the bill but I disagree. For a start the clues in the title:- ‘Leader of…’. Not ‘Follower’, not ‘Agree’er’, not ‘Go with the flow’er’. Regardless of what your political beliefs are or whether their individual manifestos meet your personal needs, regardless of whether their vision is yours or not, these select few are definitely people who lead. As human beings we are not programmed to deal well with rejection, public humiliation, personal attack or failure, four factors that often prevent people from daring to make a change for the better in their lives and which leading politicians must be able to shrug off daily if they are to succeed. This is of course what most refer to as having a thick skin. I personally think of it as the ‘fuck it’ factor and is, as I will be teaching my son, an essential piece of mental equipment employed by the most successful people in the world who are undoubtedly so, not because they are the best at what they do, but because they refused to give up where others did.
Of course some will say Nigel Farage is not a good example for my son to follow but we should tread carefully there as well. Since my sons mother- and my wife of course- is Australian and therefore an immigrant herself I have more right than most to have issue with UKIP’s policies but it is not those I am highlighting. Since the parties inception in 1993 its profile has risen quite dramatically. Nigel Farage has not been entirely responsible for that, having only taken over at the head in 2006, but his leadership certainly hasn’t done them any harm, securing his party the third biggest percentage of the vote share in this year’s general election in spite of a hostile media campaign. Say what you will about UKIP, like Nigel Farage or loathe him, that sort of result takes planning, hard work and a dedicated strategy, all essential components for strong leadership.
But then leadership is a tricky thing because it is not always bestowed on the most righteous of individuals. I don’t think anyone could argue that Adolf Hitler was a terrifically wholesome individual and let me state for the record I will definitely not be proposing him as a role model for my son, but as any number of military forums still debate, his leadership style was something to be considered. Hitler was a determined commander, often making decisions throughout the war from one of several field headquarters near the front, as opposed to several hundred miles behind it as favoured by many other heads of state in wars since. He was determined to be involved at every level of military intervention and was famous for frequently overruling his much more experienced Generals for decisions he saw as strategically best. On an individual campaign basis, much more qualified people than myself can debate whether this was stupidity or balls to the wall leadership. In the end of course his downfall was initiating a simultaneous attack on the British Empire, the United States and the Soviet Union, but right up until that point this was a man who never shied from making the tough decisions. In a better person, would that such determination and belief in preservation of cause be instilled in some of our politicians.
Fast forward seventy years and I find it disappointing that in this day and age Evelyn Beatrice Halls famous quote- ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ often sited to display the principle of free speech, seems to have been eroded to a quote on Facebook stating ‘David Cameron is a Cunt.’ It’s quite possible there are some people who actually know him, think he is one, indeed some people who know me might think I am, but then by knowing me they’ve earned the right to say that. In other words, by all means criticise policy, criticise a party’s political agenda but unless you want to come across as ignorant and misinformed might I suggest you post something a little more educated than a personal and vitriolic attack on a person’s character.
At the end of the day when running for election the leader of a political party is simply there to stand up and say ‘this is my idea, what do you think?’ and then stand and be judged at the ballot boxes. For that reason I have no problem with holding any of these people up as a role model for my son. Even if he grows up to join and advocate the principles of a political party I cannot stand, my objections would be dwarfed by my pride in his drive to see them achieved. In a day and age when reality TV pushes the kind of self-absorbed celebrity that believes fame is its own reward, I would much rather point at Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Sturgeon and yes even Farage and say leadership is not always popular, not always successful but is always from the front.