Great talents in politics

The three most talented politicians in the last couple of decades that I know of have all been left of centre pollies though really vigorous centrists – Clinton, Hawke and Blair. Other politicians like Reagan and Thatcher achieved as much or more, but these guys seemed to have it all. Political judgement, charm, intelligence, guts (well I’m not too sure about Clinton – though he stuck it out when I thought he should have resigned having lied straigt to the camera.)

Anyway, they all came unstuck in their various ways – though Clinton hung on till the end. Blair is the most mercurial of all. I was a fan until he hitched his star to George W (talk about taking a risk), marched into Iraq and thus organised a slow train wreck for himself. Iraq was in Bush’s and Howard’s interest at the time, but for Blair it would have made so much more sense to have a low key invovement like Hawke arranged for us in the first gulf war. Anyway, I was reminded of my bemusement about Blair reading this blog post at the Guardian by Bernard Crick.

Remember the fall of Thatcher; her loyal colleagues just couldn’t stomach being bossed about, spoken for and bypassed any longer. They snapped. To paraphrase EE Cummings, there was “some shit they could not eat”. There was no conspiracy, just a breakdown. There was no leader in waiting; they actually held a genuine and unpredictable election.

And there is Parliament. A prime minister will fall who can no longer control the House. Of course a growing number will vote against almost any government measure in order to bring him down. So now they should. He has wilfully raised the stakes too high.

I, like many, sadly wonder why MPs in Parliament or the Cabinet have not rid themselves of Blair long ago.

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Kieran Bennett
15 years ago

I can’t say that I was ever a fan of Blair, my politics were always a far bit further left of centre than Blairs, so I experienced no great dissolutionment when Blair hitched his star to George W’s.

Then again, I don’t think of either Hawke or Clinton as coming from the left of centre, or as being particuarly admirable.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

I don’t understand your exclusion of Reagan. Are you so young as to not remember him (unlikely since you apparently remember Hawke), or so left as to be antipathetic to him just because he was right?

Charming – tick; intelligence – tick; guts – tick!

As for Blair, he is really on track to ruin his reputation and go out with a clack.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
15 years ago

Blair had to reform the British Labour Party whereas Hawke merely ignored the Party’s platform.
Unfortunately for those who had hoped Blair would take the BLP back to its roots Blair’s understanding of biblical doctrine is particularly weak as one might expect from a liberal high Anglican.
Like Howard he has gained from the coat-tails of the Thatcher revolution.

Clinton was a genius who lacked a moral compass probably because he had never been caught out before.
He wasn’t impeached because the public, rightly, thought the punishment did not fit the crime.

His ability to keep spending low and increase taxes thus allowing the budget to go into the black will be his legacy which bush decimated.

Ken Parish
Admin
15 years ago

Homer

The relevance of Blair’s understanding or otherwise of biblical doctrine isn’t immediately obvious to me, but otherwise I like your succinct analysis.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
15 years ago

Ken ,
Read the origins of the BLP which was started by Methodists.

There were those who had hoped Blair would return the BLP to those roots which paeople like Tawney ( who would have port that), McDonald, Hardie, Shackleton etc

Jason Soon
15 years ago

Interesting perspective, Homer. So basically the Methodists are the UK Labour party at prayer???

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
15 years ago

Blair gives me the creeps too but I remain perpetually bemused by his supporters (and others) flat out unwillingness to give him any credit for his decisions re Iraq – how he is staining his legacy or made a major tactical mistake. We can and do argue about that but nobody on his side of politics will concede that my be he did what he did out of an act of deep conviction and give a little bit of credit for it.

Inspite of what Iraq has brought him and his legacy he believed and believes his actions were right.

Even though I hate everything else he has done I give him credit for that and find his critics even on my side of politics a bit mealy mouthed.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
15 years ago

were Jason were.

Anglican bosses like to have Methodist foremen because of their work ethic way back then!!

Paul Norton
Paul Norton
15 years ago

One of the curiosities of Australian political culture (especially in and around the ALP) is the low regard in which Hawke is held, especially compared to Whitlam and Keating who were much less successful politicians. Ironically, one of the few people who accords Hawke the respect he deserves is John Howard, who rates him the most capable of all the Labor leaders who have opposed him – justly so, as Hawke is the only one to have bested Howard in an election.

Sooner or later it will be realised that Hawke presided over some good environmental policy, including an Ecologically Sustainable Development process which could have produced some major win-win outcomes for the environment and the economy were it not for the replacement of a supportive PM by a successor who had other priorities, and sabotage by Federal and State bureaucrats. Hawke also presided over an excellent HIV-AIDS containment policy, significant legislative reforms in the field of gender equality, and social policies which spared the least well-off the possible negative consequences of the neoliberal policy direction which Australia would have taken in the 1980s no matter who was PM. And Medicare.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
15 years ago

That is because ALP members are predominantly leftleaning boofheads who like liberal party members have no understanding of economics.

They love big losers!

Phil
15 years ago

As a self-acknowledged leftleaning boofhead I – like a lot of people apparently – am disappointed in the failure of Blair’s ‘Third Way’ on two counts: one, it’s not really left but a kind of moderated Thatcherism and two, the simplistic throwing of money at middle (public service) management against a superstructure of pointless KPIs and all the useless rigmarole of pseudo-managerialism. Failed on both counts.

derrida derider
derrida derider
15 years ago

Homer, historically in Britain the Methodists were the *Liberal* (now Lib-Dem) party at prayer – just read any biography of Lloyd George.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“the neoliberal policy direction which Australia would have taken in the 1980s no matter who was PM.”

Nonsense Paul. Not under Fraser we wouldn’t have. We would have crossed over with Argentina.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“He [Clinton] wasn’t impeached because the public, rightly, thought the punishment did not fit the crime.”

Homer, I thought he was impeached, but after a trial in the Senate the Dems had the numbers to get him off (I think his accusers needed two-thirds majority).

It had nothing to do with the punishment fitting or not fitting the crime. It was pure politics. Personally I think the crime (perjury) warranted a Nixon-like conclusion. But Clinton, who of course is well recognised as a great orator, is a man completely without principles or scruples.