As the airwaves fill with shrill – and admittedly well deserved – denunciations of Boris Johnson for his inept handling of what might be called the Covid-19 pan(ic)demic, and the US media froths itself into another lather in its ongoing anti-Trump hate-fest, it may be instructive to examine the sad decline in political leadership, not only in the UK and US, but across the whole Western world.
Up to the end of the twentieth century, leadership in the West may not always have been inspiring, but it was generally competent. Figures such as Ronald Reagan, George Bush senior, Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl were the last representatives of the generation that had endured the supreme crisis of the Second World War – alongside which Covid-19 is akin to an irritating pimple compared to a malignant tumour.
Not only did such politicians have a hinterland – lives and interests outside the fishbowls of pure politics – but they were used to taking decisions rightly or wrongly on merit, based on their own judgements rather than at the behest of special vested interests or at the urging of civil servants, focus groups, opinion polls, special advisors and spin doctors. In a word, these leaders actually led.
During the 1990s the zeitgeist suddenly shifted
Then, during the 1990s, something happened. In one of those mysterious global gear changes, the causes of which will keep future historians occupied for centuries, the zeitgeist suddenly shifted. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher was dethroned; the ruling parties of Italy dissolved in corruption; moribund Soviet Communism collapsed across Eastern Europe and finally in the Soviet Union itself; Germany reunited, and the tectonic plates of the old post-war order buckled under the weight of its own contradictions.
The giants of yesteryear were succeeded by a new generation of pygmy politicians – the Clintons, the Majors, and the Blairs. Vision and purpose were replaced by cynical short-term opportunism; principles and ideals gave way to shallow greed; and Europe and the US turned in on themselves. Banks became Ponzi schemes lending and spending money that they did not have, plunging the planet into financial meltdown; and the West spewed blood and treasure in futile wars to impose its declining values on resentful parts of the world with no interest in adopting them.
At around the same time, observing that Marxism had so demonstrably failed in its Soviet incarnation, western Marxists embarked on a new tack – at first termed “political correctness”, now called “woke”. This “long march through the institutions” has succeeded beyond its practitioners’ wildest dreams in capturing the cultural citadels of Western civilisation. The abject failure of the West’s leaders to defend its core beliefs has resulted in the law, academia, the arts, most of the media, the police, charities, the Church, quangos and multi-national corporations falling into hostile hands like so many rotten apples.
Covid-19 has laid bare the hopeless inadequacy of stumbling political leaders
We are now misruled by a nomenclature professional political class with next to no experience of life outside the stifling hothouse of petty politics. Lacking a spiritual dimension with the decay of organised religion, this new ruling class is bent on the selfish pursuit of power, privilege and pleasure for its own sake. Its worship has been re-directed to the false gods of an all-powerful state and the cults of environmental alarmism, racial identity and gender confusion. Traditions, patriotism and pride in our history have been thrown into the skip like discarded mattresses and replaced by a collective spasm of guilt and shame about our past.
As mobs ran riot in the streets of the US and UK this summer, local leaders in America and national ones in Britain not only failed to denounce the violence and law breaking, but actively encouraged the mob. They took the knee to criminals and prevented the PC-run police from even going through the motions of what is supposed to be their job: protecting people and property and arresting those guilty of crime.
Western leaders are taking their tunes from Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement playbook
Our leaders in Britain preferred to use the police to enforce the increasingly ludicrous state of siege that they had inflicted on the public and the economy in the name of suppressing a generally non-fatal disease that – like all viruses – is impossible to eliminate entirely. Covid-19 laid bare the hopeless inadequacy of stumbling political leaders led by the nose by “experts” who could not even agree among themselves on which course of action to take. The result was a dismal litany of confusion, U-turns and increasingly authoritarian measures which may well be responsible for taking more lives than they saved.
A tour d’horizon of the world beyond Britain offers a similarly bleak picture of lame or lacklustre leadership. Instead of the universal rollout of liberal democracy so airily predicted by sunny optimists when communism collapsed two decades ago, the world has entered another age of dictators. The stage is dominated by China’s Xi, Russia’s Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan and the Mullahs of Iran, not to mention the shiny bottomed bureaucrats of the EU who are leading Europe in the same dictatorial direction.
Instead of resisting and denouncing such atrocities as the extermination of China’s Uighurs and the extinguishing of democracy in Hong Kong; Putin’s poisoning of his opponents; and the aggressive expansion of Turkey into Syria, Azerbaijan, and Greek territorial waters; western leaders have remained mute. Taking their tunes from Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement playbook, they are refusing to pay for their defence, running down their armed forces to powerless rumps, and sucking up to regimes who mock the values that the West allegedly embodies.
We look in vain for direction or hope from the leaders of tomorrow. The US is consumed by a tussle between two geriatrics preoccupied with internal problems; while here in Britain the misnamed Conservative Party has transformed itself into a state socialist authoritarian entity slavishly following the Left’s hate-filled and whiny agenda. As we enter what promises to be a very dark winter indeed, we sorely need a ray of light.
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