Saturday 13 July 2019

Charisma vs Strategy: the Tory Leadership Choice

While the Tory Party agonises over which 'unt is to lead us to glory, time for some weekend musing over the rather extreme choice the two candidates present us with - almost a caricature of the dichotomies of colourful vs grey, big-picture vs detail etc etc.  I haven't read anything particularly interesting on this in the MSM; certainly not this very feeble offering from the Graun on leadership vs management.

In times that call for genuinely serious political leadership - analogies with war don't seem to me in any way overblown - one has been hoping upon hope that the hour will indeed bringeth forward the man.  The twin tasks before the next PM - to prevail against the EU, and in the next GE (though not necessarily in that order) - represent two enormously challenging theatres of political warfare that canot be avoided.  Admittedly, success in whichever epic battle comes first could materially enhance the prospects for the second ... but that didn't help Harold Godwinson, did it?  And the consequences of his ultimate failure weren't just long-lasting, they were kinda fundamental.     

Bringeth forth the man ...  Neither of the two hopefuls is a Churchill, despite Johnson's risible attempts to associate himself with that more propitious piece of our history (much like Gordon Brown writing his 'eight portraits' on Courage. Would he have included Aung San Suu Kyi today, hmmm?)  I struggle to find an encouraging historical parallel of a Boris-type taking the reins in such dire circumstances and plucking triumph from the jaws of defeat - though I could imagine there's an obscure Roman emperor who might fit the bill.  We have of course had some personally ineffectual kings down the years, but the successes under their reigns have been down to powerful players at the next level down - and where do we identify those today?

So here's a short piece I can recommend, on how to understand charisma - which is just about the only potentially positive commodity which Boris clearly offers in spades.  Whether reading that makes you any the more hopeful, I don't know. 

By way of balance, is there anything of substance worth saying about Hunt?  Actually, I think there is.  You have seen me before, tearing my hair over May's complete lack of anything resembling a strategy, in the face of people (Selmayr, Robbins) who clearly knew exactly what they were doing.  But here's Hunt who has actually published something on Brexit that is recognisably strategic.  If you haven't seen his 10-Point Plan before, take a read.

I'm not suggesting this is a work of genius.   And you can argue it's a pretty rum state of affairs when these things need to be published.  But secrecy over strategy isn't necessarily required in all circumstances: in some conflicts, one or other side's strategy (or both) may be so obvious to all parties - indeed, they may flaunt it - that secrecy is out of the question: but that may not weaken them materially.  And whoever produced this document for Hunt can also, presumably, be pressed into service by Johnson - and be invited to contribute to the GE strategy, whenever that's needed.

Your weekend thoughts on the Johnson/Hunt choice?



Will said...

Yes. They should have gone with Gove.

jim said...

If this is what you call a strategy then heaven help us.

Points 1,2 and 3 = more pointless arguing, backstabbing and politiking with no prospect of a useful result.

Point 4 - we get to discuss what colour bin liner (blue, black or green) we get to take our desk contents away in.

Point 5 - useful only if staffed by persons with direct hands on experience reporting to one minister only.

Points 6, 7 and 8 - hand out the money shovels and load up the money helicopters.

Point 9 - message to software provider 'its money freedom day, take all you like'.

Point 10 - save yourself the bother, the answer is sod off or WA or pull the plug, like its always been.

Remember, it was all going to be so easy with money, industry and jobs pouring into the country - not. One would need a heart of stone not to laugh.

Matt said...

Boris for PM and Cunt for Brexit Secretary?

andrew said...

Boris is a liar and a coward and completely untrustworthy
As such he is the better choice as this is no time for the voters to be told truth of any sort.

AndrewZ said...

For Brexit, Hunt or Johnson doesn’t make any difference. The EU won’t re-negotiate the WA and it certainly won’t be moved by threats or Boris bluster. It’s not likely to agree to another pointless extension either. Both candidates would try to re-negotiate and both would fail, leaving the same choice between the WA, No Deal or Revocation.

Revocation would cost the Conservative Party many supporters without winning any new ones and would destroy the new PM’s base of support within the party so neither candidate would do that. No Deal is very high risk and openly choosing it means taking the blame for all the jobs losses that would follow. Finding some way to get the WA ratified has the lowest political risk, and neither candidate has any genuine ideological commitment to any particular form of Brexit.

Therefore, Johnson or Hunt would both pursue the following outcomes in this order of preference:
(a) Renegotiate the WA
(b) Ratify the existing WA
(c) No Deal by default, in which the government gives up on achieving any other outcome but pretends to be seeking a deal so that it can later blame the EU for the consequences

For the GE, Hunt is better for the Conservatives. Johnson vs Corbyn is a race to the bottom between two Marmite politicians where the outcome depends on which one manages to alienate fewer people. Hunt vs Corbyn is dull centrist vs loony extremist.

Don Cox said...

The WA is not Brexit. It is based on staying in the Customs Union, with free movement and under the authority of the ECJ.

I think everyone knows that by now.

Hunt is a weasel. He will try to get the Merkel-May WA passed by the Commons. Like May, he believes Brexit is a bad thing, the effects of which must be ameliorated.

Johnson is far from ideal, but I think he's the least bad option. There is a disastrous shortage of people of ability in the Commons.

Don Cox

Bill Quango MP said...

Not sure why Boris isn’t Churchill?
Winston was full of terrible ideas. Really, really bad ones. He had to be talked out of them every day. He interfered in everything. Made no effort to allow his own hard working generals, operate in own timescales.

Churchill was A politician first. It was his ever focused determination to get the USA into ww2, or at least to get them to pay for it all, that ultimately brought success. But he made a lot of mistakes with that policy too. Greece being just the worst.

What was essential was Churchill’s belief, that the empire would win. Never wavered. Even in the genuine, darkest hours.
And his ability to convey that belief to the nation.

Boris can do that. Hunt cannot.
So Boris is the better choice.

And the others can do the actual work.

Anonymous said...

During the war, wasn't there a coalition government? Is one needed now?

Seems this binary choice is no choice at all. Just the vicious and the vacuous.

Raedwald said...

A wartime coalition that of necessity and for reasons of national survival undertook the most radical centralisation of power this nation has ever seen - building on the first central power grab from the previous war.

The problem is, once Whitehall and SW1 had grabbed all this local power, they never gave it back when peace came. The Cold War was the next excuse to consolidate State power, and after 1989 it's conveniently been nationalist / Islamist terrorism

Both parties were (and are) in close agreement on the desirability of keeping all the power in the centre and take turns at holding the reins.

Which is why a coalition is the worst possible idea for the future good of the nation. Unless they start giving some of those wartime power-grabs back to the regions, localities and communities from whom they were taken, they risk irreparably sundering the nation.

hovis said...

"I struggle to find an encouraging historical parallel of a Boris-type taking the reins in such dire circumstances and plucking triumph from the jaws of defeat - though I could imagine there's an obscure Roman emperor who might fit the bill."

No one of success but I see the Tory Party (and the wider country) have the lacklustre leadership and entrenched elite interests leading to ever increasing cycles of decline similar to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire post Mazinkert.

AndrewZ said...

“Not sure why Boris isn’t Churchill?”

Churchill stuck to his beliefs even when they were unpopular and bad for this career. Johnson is totally self-serving and changes his position whenever it is expedient for his career. Churchill was eloquent and knew how to appeal to the whole nation. Johnson blusters and offends as many people as he inspires. Churchill was an intellectual who won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Johnson writes shallow self-promoting opinion pieces. Most importantly, Churchill took the responsibilities of office seriously while Johnson treats everything as a game arranged for his own amusement.

That’s why Churchill had a combination of personal traits that allowed him to be an effective leader during a time of crisis and Johnson does not. The only Churchillian thing about Boris Johnson is his waistline.