Okay, so I think I might have to admit I was wrong. I wrote a while back that I didn’t think we had any strong leaders left – and that was including David Cameron. Maybe I might have to amend that perspective. Possibly…
Some of you may know the 15th Century text called ‘The Prince’ by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Renaissance advisor to Cesare Borgia (yeah, him!) Machiavelli is seen as being one of the greatest authorities on ‘Power Politics’. Indeed, he was castigated by the Church because of his alleged ‘moral repugnance’, but at the end of the day he was just a realist who told it like it is. Politics is, and always has been, a dirty business. One thing I always remember about Machiavelli is his declaration that The Prince (i.e. the ruler) should make himself loved by his people. If he can’t be loved, then he should be feared. There is no in-between.
This is true even in modern democracies. Someone was writing in a paper a few weeks back (and I can’t remember who, apologies) that leaders of British political parties need to be ruthless in order to stamp their authority.
Take David Cameron. Up till now, I haven’t been that impressed. I might be willing change that perspective, however. Before Christmas, he wielded Britain’s veto during the EU conference over the so-called ‘Rescue Plan’ for the Euro (or whatever it was they were planning – seemed to be saying what they’d do in future to stop another crisis rather than what they were doing now! Shutting the door after the horse has bolted sprung to mind!) He didn’t like it, said it wasn’t in our interests and vetoed it, supposedly isolating the UK (which it didn’t, really.) No British PM has done this before, not even Margaret Thatcher for all her talk. And even though he annoyed the French and others, it was a very popular move back here. It also proved he was prepared to stand up for what he believed to be important, despite what his deputy Nick Clegg might believe. So at least he proved he can be ‘loved’ by his people.
Cameron has shown the need to be ruthless as well, when he needs to. For instance, his recent sacking of Aidan Burley MP as PPS to a government minister over a Nazi stag-do incident. And I reckon that an even better example has arisen.
In the London Evening Standard, Sebastian Shakespeare wrote an article questioning why Sir Fred Goodwin (the former RBS CEO) should be stripped of his knighthood. ‘Fred the Shred’ is alleged to have almost destroyed the bank with a catastrophic deal that exposed it to the ‘toxic’ liabilities that emerged during the credit crunch in 2008. RBS had to be bailed out with taxpayer’s money and since then Sir Fred has become a national ‘hate’ figure who has come to personify – rightly or wrongly depending on your point of view – the discredited banking class.
Yesterday, David Cameron announced that he strongly believed that Sir Fred should be referred to the Forfeiture Committee to consider having his knighthood removed, an award he’d received as a result of his ‘services to banking’ bestowed by the previous government. Mr Cameron seems to think there is a case to answer, given the recent report into the near-collapse of RBS which could be admissible evidence.
Shakespeare questions the need for this, arguing that the honours system in the country is already discredited anyway. So what difference would it make? Most awards seem to be given to the wrong sort of people anyway. And why pick on Sir Fred, isn’t that just victimisation that’ll open the flood gates to ‘witch-hunts’ as he puts it?
I think he misses the point here. To me, this isn’t really about Sir Fred and his alleged misdemeanors. It’s more about Cameron asserting his political authority and proving his ruthlessness by using some-one who is already despised a scapegoat. All this was made against the background of speech stating what he was going to do about regulating the behaviour of bankers and the capitalist economy in future to try to prevent a repeat of what happened re-occurring four years ago. And it certainly isn’t just about making a few hollow, clever speeches. He knows that actions speak louder than words, hence the reason for claiming Sir Fred’s scalp. Its about being ‘feared’. This is my humble opinion, anyway. So it makes perfect sense to do this, if you follow Machiavelli that is.
Now contrast this with the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ (and I use the term ‘leader’ in the loosest sense.) Ed Miliband is making similar noises about the unacceptable face of capitalism. That is probably all they will be, though to be fair he’s not in government of course! However, as another commentator pointed out recently (again, sorry I can’t remember who it was although it might have someone like Quentin Letts or Simon Heffer), he hasn’t shown much ruthlessness. If he wants to stamp his authority on his party, he needs to claim a few scalps. Unfortunately, he missed his opportunity a few weeks back when Diane Abbot made that ill-advised Twitter comment (which I’m not going to repeat!) She should have been sacked immediately, but she kept her job. Oh dear! Null points, Ed!
Yesterday, I saw him speaking after Cameron about the morality in capitalism issue. Guess who I thought was more convincing? Like I said, actions speak louder than words.
Maybe we do have one strong leader after all, but I’m sure as heck not talking about Miliband or Nick Clegg for that matter.
One thing that does concern me is that there is an ‘Achilles Heal’ that Cameron agreed to in his coalition with the Lib Dems. One which has been passed quietly without many people noticing (and this one was pointed out by Simon Heffer in the Mail!) Apparently, due to a piece of legislation that recently became law, parliamentary terms are now fixed at five years meaning that the Prime Minister no longer has the discretion to request the Queen to dissolve Parliament and ‘go to the country.’ That power has now been removed from her, in effect. From now on, the next general election will be held exactly five years after the last one. Also, should there be a vote of ‘no-confidence’ in the government and it collapses (as could be the case with the current Coalition), then the new law states that there should be a fifteen week ‘cooling-off’ period for negotiations to take place for a new administration before an election is called.
So, if the Lib Dems fall out with the Tories and the government collapses, they will be able to approach Labour and negotiate the terms of a new administration. So Miliband could become Prime Minister by default. Heffer speculated that this could cause us to be subjected to frequent and unstable coalitions in future. Now that does sound like the beginning of my novel, ‘Dragon Line.’
I don’t want to be proved right – its only fiction!