In a Time of Colossal..
My alter ego has been having a twitter conversation with a friend over the fallout from that press briefing and the one that followed yesterday.
Eventually conversation turned to a discussion of leadership and elections. Wanting to avoid the usual suspects – Lloyd George and Churchill – I proffered Gladstone and Disraeli; Attlee and Salisbury, as examples of leaders capable of striding the political world like a colossus rather than the derided colossal currently in charge.
My friend put forward the possibility that Gladstone Disraeli, Salisbury et al, existed in a time when politics didn’t stifle ability.
I considered the matter. Since 1990 I would argue the Tories lacked a colossus. Since 2007 Labour has suffered a similar fate. (For this article I will ignore Corbyn, he – like Smith will be forever a we will never know entity.) None of the leaders following Thatcher and Blair commanded the international stage. None after Brown and Major appeared to be in it for the long haul. Leaders of all parties lost referendum and elections and left office, leaving a scramble of hopefuls with an eye for the main chance, yet without the political acumen to achieve colossus status. Thatcher and Blair were so busy creating an unassailable position that they failed to nurture talent capable of replacing them. A situation very much in evidence today.
Those who posture for and achieve greatness “art not without ambition”, they reach the top of the greasy pole not because they are the best of the best but because they are the best of the rest.
I felt that whilst some would wish to be Lady M in terms of their ruthlessness, they were too flawed, too caring of their media reputation to set themselves truly above the herd. Which set me off on a tangent.
Of course the Gladstone’s, Disraeli’s, Salisbury’s and Attlee’s of this world – just like the Lloyd George’s and Churchill’s – lived in a time of a less adversarial press dogging their every footstep. They never had to deal with a hashtag.
How Gladstone’s forays into the East End would fare in a time of paparazzi and twitter, I shudder to think. Lloyd George would have been finished within the week. (Or possibly not, if the current PM is anything to go by.)
Disraeli, were he PM now, would have to contend with constant replays of his disastrous maiden speech.
Of all of them, Attlee and Salisbury would possibly fare the best. In Attlee’s case: with a world fixated upon the larger than life Churchill, pouring over his every move and utterance, Attlee would have maintained his quiet dignity. Done his job.
For Salisbury, succeeding Disraeli and going toe to toe with Gordon’s Only Murderer, he would have been lauded for his ability with foreign affairs. His neurotic, controlling nature ignored because like all my choices, he could make a decision.