A conversation with my dad’s partner the other day got me thinking. This was something I didn’t realise, but apparently there was a difference of opinion between General Charles De Gaulle and his allies prior to the D-Day Landings of Operation Overlord in France. Basically, De Gaulle decided that he and his Free French Forces were going to what they liked when they landed as it was their country and they wanted to take all the glory. Naturally, Allied Command (especially the Americans) were a little bit worried about this as it could seriously undermine the effectiveness of the entire operation – as having a ‘loose cannon’ on board always can.
This was communicated to Churchill, who made his position quite clear. He basically threatened De Gaulle with arrest and imprisonment if he didn’t tow the line. Consequently, De Gaulle did as he was told!
I’m not sure if this story is apocryphal or not. If it is, no wonder De Gaulle wanted to keep us Brits out the Common Market in the early ’60s (sour grapes maybe?) However, it does illustrate one important point for me – the importance of strong leadership and calling your opponent’s (and sometimes, seemingly, your own ‘ally’s’ bluff. This was one thing Margaret Thatcher was known for as well, like or loathe her! (Remember the miner’s strike? She sure as heck called Arthur Scargill’s, even if the whole thing did decimate many of the communities in the north of England and South Wales!)
Leaders have to make tough decisions sometimes, and this might include putting a few noses out of joint. However, what quality of leadership do we have today that can match this? Take David Cameron and his ‘partner’ Nick Clegg. Cameron has recently made some ‘brave’ statements over the likes of the Human Rights Act, immigration and the EU. This is because he knows that these are issues important to the public. But will he follow-up on them with anything of substance? Probably not, mainly because of the current Coalition Government status. As a few commentators have also said that if he wants to make progress on these matters in line with Conservative Party Policy (something which could actually boost his electoral standing), then he should stand firm with Clegg and call his bluff over such things as reform of Human Rights Act. He could do this by threatening to ‘Go to the Country’ (in other words, call a General Election for the benefit of any overseas readers.)
But he won’t! He opts for the status quo on the basis of holding out for the possibility of increasing his popularity and gaining an overall majority in the next election in 2015. But if a week is a long time in politics, then the time between then and now is going to seem like an eternity! This is not strong leadership, it is in fact very weak.
Why are we plagued with leaders like this? I feel somewhat deflated that the political establishment depicted in the Prologue to Dragon Line are very much in power. I’ve said it before. Who will save us?
Rant over! (Until the next time…)