Britain

Political Lightweights

May 05, 2017

The consequences of Ed Miliband’s feeble and unprofessional resignation have been dire for Labour and arguably for Britain. Thanks to the cockeyed rules for the election of a Labour leader—rules for which Miliband was responsible—the Labour Party has found itself landed with a useless leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and is facing electoral disaster next month. Corbyn has been a dismally ineffective leader of the opposition, and even his own MPs can’t imagine him as prime minister. Moreover, if Miliband had had sufficient respect for the profession of politics and held on to the party leadership, Labour’s campaign for Remaining in the European Union would have been much more vigorous than the feeble one Corbyn presided over.

I repeat: The trouble with politicians today is that they are dilettantes, insufficiently devoted to the profession of politics. Look at David Cameron and George Osborne. It is understandable that Cameron should have resigned as prime minister after losing the E.U. referendum. It is understandable that his successor, Theresa May, should have sacked Osborne. But there was no need for the pair of them to choose to leave Parliament. On the contrary, there were good reasons for them to remain in the House of Commons. Politicians of earlier, more robust, and more professional times would have held on. There are many examples besides Churchill. Lloyd George, the political architect of victory in the 1914–18 war, never held office after he was dislodged in 1922, but he remained in Parliament for more than twenty years afterwards. The Conservative prime minister Stanley Baldwin suffered a heavy electoral defeat in 1929 but survived a press campaign against himself and led the party till he returned in 1937, having again been prime minister in 1935.

The point is that politicians in the past took politics and their duty more seriously than politicians do today. They were true professionals. They didn’t run away after a defeat. They were prepared to learn from the experience and come back stronger. They were pros. In contrast, politicians today are amateurs, not truly serious about politics. Sad, really.

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