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Sunday, 22 February 2009

Where is the leadership in all this?

To a city-dweller looking at a herd of cows in a field they will all look the same. A cowman will pick out the leader, the matriarch; where she leads, the herd will follow. You don't need to define a relationship with the whole herd, just with one cow. When the matriarch comes when you call, you can walk a mile down a country lane without once looking over your shoulder, absolutely confident that every single member of the herd will be strolling behind you, udders swinging. No cattle-prods, no brute force, no 'nudge', no coercion - just leadership.

Rawnsley writing in today's Observer says:
Many of the voters are in an aggressively anti-establishment, anti-political mood, distrusting anything promised to them by anyone. And no wonder. This helps to explain the recent lift in support for the Lib Dems and may foreshadow successes in the June elections for the likes of Ukip and the BNP. The current polls are a referendum on the recession. They express vast dissatisfaction with Labour more than they indicate any swell of enthusiasm for being governed by the Conservatives. "They are losing more than we are winning," Mr Cameron has been heard to confide to colleagues.
And ain't this the truth. But it's not just disillusionment with the political class that's driving 'wild voting' but the palpable absence of any leader figure on the horizon that the nation would follow. Brown is almost universally loathed, but not quite as much as Harman. Cameron is utterly convincing and sincere in the same room, but once he's on TV something is lost; the gravitas turns to helium, the sincerity to disingenuousness. There is a deep longing amongst Tories for Mrs Thatcher, which is really a longing for leadership; old YouTube clips of her more memorable moments appear regularly now on Conservative blogs with a sort of sighing nostalgia.

The Sundays are full of advice for Cameron to be more explicit on policy, as if this will somehow boost his leadership-quotient, but why should he?

Now I'm fully alive to the dangers of wishing for strong leadership so I should qualify this by saying there's a world of difference between moral authority and authoritarian Statism. Moral authority is the herd following you; Statism is the cattle-prod.

Take the matriach out of the herd and they immediately become unmanageable. Offer voters electoral choices with no clear leaders and wild voting results. Panic in the herd is contagious. Injured cows and broken fences. And that, I fear this Sunday morning, is where we're heading.

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