THE BLOG

Trust the Leader

19/05/2017 11:39
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

I had the pleasure today of attending a meeting with Richmond Park candidate for MP Zac Goldsmith, at my local pub in Barnes. This meeting, conveniently placed at 9.15 in the morning, (which ensured that the 30 or so people in attendance were mostly pensioners) was quite sympathetic to Mr Goldsmith, who is admittedly a pleasant and well-presented young man.

Why do you care how I get to spend my morning? Rather unexpectedly, something quite important came out of this early meeting. I finally understood what 'strong and stable', Theresa May's election slogan, means. I also figured out how 'creative ambiguity', to use Yanis Varoufakis favourite phrase, is being employed to deliver May's projected landslide.

To date, no-one knows exactly what Theresa May wants out of Brexit. We all know she is obsessed with immigration, her record at the Home Office attests to that. Whether it is out of personal conviction or political calculation is anyone's guess. We also all know that she is an enemy of human rights and the rule of law, if that involves adjudication processes beyond her reach, such as the European Court of Human Rights, or the European Court of Justice. But, what does this mean for Brexit? Is a person who (sort of) campaigned for Remain, but then argued for the hardest of Brexits, a Remainer or a Leaver? Give me a massive majority she says, and you will find out. Zac, this morning helped shed some light into exactly this issue.

He told the assembled group of (mostly) fawning supporters that a strong and stable 'leader' appeals to Ukip supporters who want Brexit to ride-in alongside the horsemen of the apocalypse, and to disappointed Remainers who want a softer Brexit. Theresa May with a massive majority will not need to compromise with factions either within her party, or with the opposition (whatever is left of it) we were told. Zac trusts in the 'leader' and her judgment.

When confronted with evidence of the Leader's record of extremist views, like for instance including overseas students in immigration quotas (a policy no-one supports), Zac declared that this policy is not in his opinion the PM's personal view. A policy therefore that she stood by since her days in the Home Office, against universal opposition, (a policy she continues to stand by) is not consistent with her personal view. Perhaps Zac is wrong about this, or in his effort to fudge his response said something he did not mean to. This exchange however does tell us something about the PM's mindset and this election campaign.

The Conservative message is: Vote for a strong leader, trust in the strong leader to do something you will approve of. You need no evidence to back this up. There is no reason to ask for details, either from Zac, or the PM herself (assuming you can get close to her). Is this what it has come to? Policy eclipsed by 'leadership', planning replaced by 'trust'? If we believe May's war-like rhetoric, are we to place our hope in her, allow her to guide us in this fight against Europe, in these 'negotiations', while she keeps her hand secret? Is this the type of 'leadership' that a major western power like Britain in 2017 needs?

The world has seen leaders in the past who focused on enemies within and without, who were obsessed with foreigners. A strong and stable Theresa May, with a large majority and a single objective will be a Leader indeed. In the words of Mein Kampf's infamous author: "The art of leadership... consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention." Strong and stable leadership sometimes leads to horrible outcomes.

Oh no, he has made a Hitler analogy, you must be thinking. Fine, forget about me. I am a Remainer, I am opposed to Brexit for ideological and personal reasons. I never voted Conservative and will not do so in the future. But, think about it. Regardless of whether you are a Remainer or a Leaver (the new schism in British politics), are you happy to place your faith in the hands of a Leader in the terms described above? If you are happy and if you do vote Conservative and it turns out that the 'Leader's plan violates your expectations, what will you do then? There is no coming back from a hard or (worse) a no-deal Brexit. This is not a normal election.

As you are heading to the ballot box on June 8th, think whether subcontracting the fate of the nation to the undisclosed thoughts of a single person is what you want to do. A landslide for May will be a triumph of the will indeed, but probably not your own.

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