Our political leaders seem to be paralysed by crises

Thursday, August 11, 2011
By Paul Martin

A breakdown of social norms and a potential meltdown of the global financial system have exposed a shocking absence of meaningful leadership.

By John McTernan

A crisis reveals. It challenges leaders, and exposes whether or not they have the right stuff. As we face a breakdown of social norms in the UK and a potential meltdown of the global financial system, what can we tell about our current generation of political leaders?
The most obvious answer is this: these crises have exposed a shocking absence of meaningful leadership. This is not a comment on the absurd soap opera of whether the Mayor of London and the Prime Minister were going to break off their holidays.

That was always going to happen, although Boris Johnson and David Cameron did ignore a basic political law, which is that if you are going to have to do something anyway, you should do it of your own free will rather than being forced to. No, that’s just froth. What worries me is that we are seeing something more fundamental revealed about the frailty, the fragility and the failings of our institutions.
Put simply, our political leaders, whether of Left or Right, just don’t seem up to the job. Were the riots really motivated simply by criminality, as Cameron claimed, or by a failure of parenting, as Ed Miliband thought? Was that the best the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition could do?
Platitudes are no substitute for analysis any more than condemnation is for a sense of moral purpose. This, I think, is the nub of it: we have a politics which has replaced ideology with pragmatism, and as a result is unable to interpret events, let alone shape them. All we get is commentary.

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