Tuesday, 27 June 2017

History to May's Rescue

We learn that May told her MPs: "I got us into this mess, and I'm going to get us out of it".  I even take a tiny crumb of comfort from her use of this phrase because it's appropriate, modestly-couched fighting talk - a line that (I assume) was fed to her by someone with half a brain.  If there's one thing she can do, it is pulling herself together, head-girl style, with an evident sense of duty, a straight back and a clear delivery of a prepared line.

The right wing commentariat has been replete with five-point plans for her (we've already cited Lilico's), not many of which go beyond statement of the obvious, nor count as much of a contribution towards a proper strategy.  The much-lauded Gavin Barwell might prove to be a fair choice as May's Chief of Staff: he's not a bad mini-strategist.  (Equally, he might be out on his ear soon if the tower-block fire-risk fiasco is laid at his door.)

The essence of her strategy (or, the Tory's, as you prefer) must be: play for time.  Playing for time always seems lame, almost sordid in an intellectual sense: where's the creativity in that?  But it has its place in the armoury of off-the-peg tactics and strategies - and isn't always trivial to execute.  (Let's see them get through the summer without serious riots ...)

Meanwhile, some more exalted strategising can take place, to which end it's worth considering some real-life cases of leaders / regimes / etc who seemed down-and-out, but made it through - if not triumphantly, then at least in a functional sort of way - to win out in the end.

I propose to start a collection of interesting historical precedents, and invite readers to add their own in the comments: the more diverse, the better.  Obviously any 'precedent' needs to be examined carefully for false analogies: history doesn't repeat itself, it only rhymes. 

But some rhymes are very compelling.  To start the ball rolling, here are three I made earlier, in chron order.

1.  The Jacobite Rebellion of '45

In pursuit of full-scale regime-change, Bonnie Prince Charlie made it as far as Derby with his Scottish army, a far deeper incursion than anyone had foreseen.  Despite clear numerical superiority, many in England were wetting themselves - an outright panic.  Still, it all came to a halt, then a retreat, then a massacre - the 'predictable' outcome to such a romantic, ill-conceived venture, despite how it looked for a brief moment.

2.  Stalin in 1941

Operation Barbarossa took Stalin utterly by surprise.  For days, nothing was heard from him, and rumours abounded he'd fled Moscow in ignominy.  He had been taken for a fool, proved to be strategically inept, and was in genuine, serious peril.  So it seems likely he had some very bad nights.  But after a bit he got a grip, stayed at the helm ... and we all know the rest.  

3.  Saddam in 1991

The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had gone like a dream, and Saddam commanded one of the two largest battle-tested armies in the world (the only other one being Iran's).  But he hadn't reckoned on the American response, and by January 1991 was looking down the barrels of quite a few guns.  Even then, he had a few tricks up his sleeve: for example, on the first day of the air war (Desert Storm) he shipped his air force to Iranian airfields.  (Sitting in an Allied HQ at the time, let me tell you, no-one saw that coming ...)  But in due course his army was swept from the field, and things can't have looked great by the time the last grain of Kuwaiti sand had been prised from his grasp.

But he was still in power 12 years later ...

= = = = = = = = = =

History is replete with stories of these kinds.  One of our Anon's has already suggested Alfred the Great.  So - your further suggestions below, please.



Anonymous said...

The Sino-Vietnamese war of 1979 is one that springs to mind. The large Chinese standing army versus the battle hardened VietCong.

So avowedly Soviet communists with inferior numbers win against the larger operation.

Nigel Sedgwick said...

Depending on whether you insist this is done for individuals, or accept groups too, you might like to consider the UK after the disastrous WW2 battle defeat preceding the evacuation from Dunkirk in May/June 1940. Also Winston Churchill's return to government after the 'Wilderness Years', and his subsequent reputation.

Best regards

Bill Quango MP said...

Gordon Brown was effectively out of office by early 2008.
He clung on until 2010. And despite losing 'Bigly' he did far better than any had predicted.

Douglas said...

The EU.
Banking crisis.
Euro crisis.
Greek/Spanish debt crisis.
Migrant crisis.
Brexit crisis.
Italian banking crisis.

All unresolved.
All ignored forever in the hope 'something turns up.'

The EU is still there.

dearieme said...


James Higham said...

I've but one suggestion - Jacob Rees-Mogg so we can get Brexit without giving away the shop.

andrew said...

Dispiriting that it may come down to wether

I meant the weather

People don't tend to kick off in the rain or extreme heat / cold

Anonymous said...

Richard II and other English Kings who saw off various peasant revolts.
(Execute the ringleader, it works every time!)

Must be some Old Testament examples.

Anonymous said...

"People don't tend to kick off in the rain or extreme heat / cold"

The Native Brits don't tend to kick off much at all (bar a few underclass copycats), but if they did the rain wouldn't stop them. I think you have in mind "the usual suspects" and nominal followers of a peaceful religion.

May has a tough old job on. Pleased to see Cameron (publicly, at any rate) get behind her, but she'll have George Osborne, the oligarch's friend, sniping via the Standard. My only hope is that he oversteps the mark and makes a comeback in the Conservative Party impossible.

She's a general facing great odds. Is she a lucky general? That fire would seem to say no, although other leaders have faced similar disasters and come through. Is there an iron core, like the sun's and the earth's, to Theresa May? Is there a "there" there?

Alas the rules of modern politics are such that Corbyn's front bench will, while paying lip-service to the idea of Brexit, do all they can to undermine her negotiations - already telling her that her (IMHO) over-generous offer on EU workers should have been earlier, even more generous and unilateral.

It's easy to be wise in hindsight, but the Tories have squandered one huge open goal ever since 2010 - boundary changes, still not addressed at a time when they give Labour a 50-odd seat advantage on a tied vote share.

Nick Drew said...

anon @ 7:38 - we have fumed over the Boundary changes long and oft on C@W

e.g. this http://www.cityunslicker.co.uk/2012/09/they-may-not-mean-to-but-they-do.html

the story of how Labour have dragged this process out for over 20 years (sic - the current 'round' goes back to the early 90's) is a masterpiece of political determination and fixation on what's really important.

talk about time-wasting as a strategy ...

Electro-Kevin said...

This is not some genius waiting for her time in history.

Corbyn is where he is because of her mistake of which she has made so many and shows no sign of stopping.

Electro-Kevin said...

There's means testing of state pension to be dealt with yet.

Anonymous said...

ND - was there anything to stop Cameron in 2015 telling the Boundary Commission to sort it out in 6 months and then voting the changes through?

I suppose he thought he'd get on with it after he won the Brexit vote. I'm sure losing it never entered his head.

(To be completely fair, it strikes me that the revolt of the young and the rush to Corbyn is a parallel to the revolt of the white working class over Brexit - we'd all like to be 21 again, but ideally not with 40-60k of student debt, declining wages amd insane house prices - you can see why they might go that way. The difference between the two votes was that the poor Brexiteers correctly identified the open-borders EU as the cause of their immiseration, the poor Corbyn youth, half of whom had been left-indoctrinated for three years of higher ed, had no clue and voted for the free-stuff guy.)

Electro-Kevin said...

High competition for jobs and housing has NOTHING to do with their immiseration, Anon.

It's all down to lack of planning and archaic rules on green belt - old fogeys. *sarcasm*

(I think the litter and waste at Glastonbury speaks volumes)

Nick Drew said...

was there anything to stop Cameron in 2015 telling the Boundary Commission to sort it out in 6 months and then voting the changes through? I suppose he thought he'd get on with it after he won the Brexit vote. I'm sure losing it never entered his head

I think you've nailed it. With an absolute majoirity, he could have

but it would have seemed an odd use of Parliamentary time when the next B-changes are set to take effect in 2018 anyway: and giving the hurry-up to a 'neutral' body like the BC, with its lengthy & painstaking 'due process', might be seen as pretty 'undemocratic', and a dreadful precedent

What will be lethal is if the DUP can somehow be persuaded (by Lab / SNP etc) to vote for an Opposition Bill to scrap the 2018 changes ...

BlokeInBrum said...

The alt-right in America has a name for Conservatives who don't conserve anything and who refuse to stand up to those who espouse Socialism and socialist policies.

They call them Cuckservatives.

They deride them for being nothing more than Establishment placeholders, there to enrich themselves and their families whilst failing to stand up for the beliefs and policies that they nominally stand for.

We have a similar situation here with the Conservative Party, promising all sorts of conservative policies (if we're lucky!) but with excuse after excuse as to why they can't implement them yet.

Any Conservative who REALLY wanted to win and to implement conservative policies would have rammed through Boundary Changes as priority number one. The people who would whinge and complain don't vote Tory anyway.

This is why the Brexit vote caused such consternation within the Tories. The majority are centrist Remainers and they're used to hiding behind the fig leaf that they can't implement right wing, free market policies ,because Europe.

America at least has Trump,with a substantial and growing number of followers who are waking up to the fact that the Republicans are as much the enemy as the Left.

Since Saint Nigel abdicated, nobody in Britain is stepping up to the plate.

Except May, and she's crap.

We're doomed I tell ya!