Every nation needs leadership. Leadership is not about charisma or personality. In my mind, true leadership needs these seven qualities – Vision, passion, clarity, judgement, courage, integrity and humility.
How did the main characters in the EU referendum pantomime measure up to these seven? This is how I scored them. Cameron 3, Corbyn 3, Farage 2, Osborne 2, Johnson 2, Gove 1.
Cameron showed a catastrophic failure of judgement in gambling the future of our country to settle an internal part squabble. And he lost. He misjudged the mood on immigration and austerity – and the people most affected hit back in the polling booths. He made another big mistake in setting up a referendum with a simple majority, binding decision. Having set these referendum, immigration and austerity time-bombs on a collision course, he did at least defend his own conviction with some passion. Under pressure, he did his best to save his own skin and the skin of the country. But he was already on the back foot and all he could do is cross his fingers whilst it all horribly unraveled.
Johnson and Gove look like two guys who thought they were dreaming, only to wake up and find they really have murdered their families. Did they really believe Brexit was the best outcome for he UK? It doesn’t look like it now. Where was their integrity and courage? Osborne hid behind Cameron and kept his powder mainly dry for a future leadership challenge.
Corbyn appears to be a man with a decent dose of integrity and humility. He thought he could survive by keeping his head down and saying very little – which was his misjudgment. When his supporters needed leadership, he was in hiding. Where was his courage? He behaved in a way in complete contrast to his bold leadership campaign. Where was his previously seen vision, passion and clarity when it came to the EU debate?
Farage had Corbyn’s missing three in abundance. But an absence of the others. He was noisy and passionate as he misled us on the EU subsidy and ran xenophobic immigration adverts. He was clear and duplicitous about diverting EU subsidy money to the NHS. His whole argument was based on rhetoric and fear-mongering. No humility, no courage, no integrity. His judgement on the issues was flawed – and he didn’t even believe he would win the referendum.
But beware the man with a vision and a passion and can get his message across. History shows us the appalling and tragic consequence.
Our political leaders are there to serve us, not to further their own ends.
If we were to have a referendum, we needed to have some safety nets around it. We are a parliamentary democracy, not a democracy. Handing over the controls of the plane to the passengers is not democratic, it’s rather idiotic. By all means ask us what we think, but don’t have us make the decision. Would a business ask its staff to vote on its next big investment decision? Brexit was always too complex and too critical decision to toss to the electorate in an abdication of leadership responsibility.
But having ask us the most difficult exam question – they singularly failed to help us with a balanced set of arguments and information. We were bewildered by conflicting rhetoric, statistics, opinions and prophesies of doom. Words like “sovereignty”, and “control” were used and abused carelessly. And we were alternatively seduced and terrified by arguments about immigration and economic prosperity.
No wonder so many now feel hoodwinked, hijacked or cheated. We have been let down by so-called leaders – few of whom we actually elected – all of whom were driven or distracted by their own political survival or ambition.
Where are the women and men of humility, integrity, vision, clarity, courage, judgement and passion to get us through Brexit and all its consequences? To reunite a fractured country and to lead us and serve us through the economic, social, political and humanitarian challenges of the new – off-road – journey ahead?
Nobody with any self-interest or political ambition would probably want to. Only someone who genuinely wants to serve the country and its bewildered inhabitants. And therein, maybe, is a small glimmer of hope.