personality and premiership

3 05 2010

The final week. Whoever you chose at the beginning of the race, soon you will know if you were right. The nation waits, with baited breath.

The 4-horse race that became a 3-horse that became a 2-horse race. Liverpool’s campaign disastrous; Arsenal’s another ‘almost’; United and Chelsea another display of the power of the substitutes bench. The question is, was it a battle between Ancelotti, Ferguson, Wenger and Benitez, or was it something bigger than that?

The 2-horse race that became a 3-horse race. Labour’s campaign disastrous, Conservatives’ another ‘almost’, Lib Dem’s a display of the power of disenfranchised voters..? The question is, is it a battle between Brown, Cameron and Clegg, or is it something bigger than that?

The power of personality can sometimes dominate. The football season is often characterised as individual battles between the managers competing for the Premier League, rather than whole teams. These personalities can have huge influence, but if they are not backed up by results, the personalities must be irrelevant. Flamboyant managers are interesting, but not popular with everyone. Just ask Mourinho. At the end of the day, good results under an unpopular manager are better than bad results under a popular one. Rafa is a case in point (I speak as a Liverpool fan…).

The power of personality can sometimes dominate. The General Election is often characterised as individual battles between the party leaders campaigning for the Premiership. These personalities can have huge influence, but if they are not backed up by policies, the personalities must be irrelevant. Flamboyant politicians are interesting, but not popular with everyone. Just ask Blair. At the end of the day, good policies under an unpopular Prime Minister are better than bad policies under a popular one. Which of them is a case in point I am not at liberty to say…

Jesus chose an unexceptional group of personalities to be the leaders of his movement. They were not all eloquent or intelligent; some had dodgy skeletons in their closet. How they would get on in a leaders debate or a post-match interview who can say. What they did have was genuine passion and commitment to their cause; they were prepared to be mocked and beaten for Jesus’ message of revolution and resurrection, liberation and redemption, of good news for the poor and freedom for the oppressed. They were not out to win votes, a popularity contest or an annual competition. And they were in for the long haul.

The Premier League will not be won on the personality of the manager, but the quality of the squad over the 38 games. The Premiership should not be won on the personality of the party leaders, but the quality of the policies over the parliamentary term. As we prepare to vote, we would do well to bear that in mind.

And may next year be Liverpool’s year. Maybe with the flamboyant Mourinho at the helm…?

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in different ideology

14 04 2010

I was lucky. I first voted in 1997. I was part of the revolution that finally demolished the 18 years (almost my entire lifetime) of Tory rule. I even went to a Blair rally! I didn’t sing along to Things Can Only Get Better but I held the coats of those who did. And I have a signed copy. Democracy felt good, felt real, felt necessary. There was fear in the Tory eyes, mine was the only Labour poster in a uni hall of residence full of Tory public school boys… And we won! My poster stayed up for ages. And will we ever forget the face of Portillo?

style or substance?

It’s never been quite the same since. Tony Blair stole the Tory policies and New Labour never looked back. Without a real difference in ethos or ideology between the parties, it was all on the charisma of the leaders and the art of communication. For all his faults, Blair won that battle hands down. He still would. And now…?

Finally it seems there is a difference. First Labour launched their manifesto. I think it was about economics and deficits but I was bored. Brown does not have charisma. Then the Tories launched theirs, and something happened. I heard something different. It’s not about charisma, Cameron is about as vacuous as the power station he launched the manifesto at. It is about ideology.

a little presumptuous?

They want to ‘empower communities’, they want us ‘the people’ to be more responsible for our own government. It’s the classic party division. It’s an ideological difference, an ethos. Remember those? Blair sacrificed ideology to gain power, and Labour have managed to hold on since, claiming to be for the ‘working people’ but really hoovering up the all-important middle-class votes. Now, in the absence of policies that are much different, the Tories have rediscovered ideology.

Ideology is what makes politics interesting. Ideology is what should drive policies, not the other way around. At least with an ideology you and I can argue until the cows come home about how things should or shouldn’t be done in general, because we can do that. What most of us can’t do is argue about whether Capital Gains Tax should go up or down. Because most of us don’t know what it is.

I think the Lib Dems have an ideology too...

So, finally, we can talk about the election. Winston Churchill said that democracy is a terrible system of governance, but the best one there is. So, do you think local people should have more say in local policies? That means you, by the way – do you actually want more say, will you actually volunteer to help run things or get involved, or is it a good thing for ‘other’ people? I certainly know there aren’t people queuing up to be school governors, Scout leaders, local councillors… Call me cynical, but just as an aside, isn’t this ‘community’ that Cameron trusts to be empowered the same ‘broken Britain’ full of scroungers, illegal immigrants and yoofs on ASBO’s that he always goes on about?

I think the 6 weeks of election indifference just got a little more interesting. We should not be indifferent to ideologies. We should have different ideologies. We should believe in different ideologies. We should believe in ideologies that benefit the poorest people in society, which may not be us. Societies should be judged on how they treat their poorest members. So, which ideology is it?

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Postscript: see St Aiden to Abbey Manor blog for what the three main leaders have to say to Christian voters…

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