The writing yesterday forced me to examine the the selection process of a Prime Minister; but until the 40s, Royalty were really Sovereigns. We mostly saw them on News Reel footage at the cinema, being very royal and everyone else bowing and scraping, in some part of the Empire. We were proud to be British, because life was ordered, simple and we knew our place, and we accepted government in all its forms. There were rumbles like the Miners’ Strike, but generally things were OK. The glue which kept us all together as a nation was firm. From the 60s all has changed and the glue has become weaker, year on year, as our Britishness has been eroded. The Royals are no longer elevated above us, we’ve discovered they’re actually human. We have arrived now, at a point where we have a law determining Racial Discrimination, which means we are a polyglot, not a nation, with a large membership that holds its prime loyalty, its culture and its first language all to the nation of its antecedents. The glue has almost vanished and running a country in these circumstances needs a vary steady hand.
An Ideal Concept of a PM is that he is a father figure and the 60 million of his charges are his family, and therefore he must encourage the gifted, guard the majority and care for the unfortunate and sick. He should place his country first in all things, negotiate on that premise, understand management in all spheres and favour no person or group above others. A tall order!
Breaking it down more practically, it equates to being the head of a huge company, a role which requires understanding in man management, finance, diplomacy, welfare and in this case foreign policy. Man management is not something one can learn from a book, it takes the experience of controlling people from all levels of society, with discretion, understanding and discipline and is not acquired overnight. The numbers he will have to manage, from the Cabinet, the civil service, and the country will test him. Foreign policy and diplomacy demand a knowledge of history, and the traditions of other cultures, to avoid gaffs and misunderstanding, whether real or feigned and so used as an excuse. Every boss has to have a knowledge of all the functions related to his firm, so he can monitor performance, however crudely. Above all he must have an insight into the minds of people, understand signals which interpret if they are what they wish to be seen as. Absolute trust is implicit in a working relationship, and disruptive actions and factions must be recognised and eliminated.
What do we seek in a PM? He must obviously be intelligent, not afraid of long hours and hard work, have been educated in those subjects needed for a political career. He should have served on the backbenches long enough for the parliamentary system to become a reflex response, long enough to assess the characters of most of the major players in Parliament and especially in his own party. He must understand the working of the Treasury, the Foreign Office, the Home office and the tax system, in sufficient detail to be able to evaluate advice at times of crisis, and have the confidence to act decisively, immediately but with care, having taken all the parameters into account – not shoot from the hip! He must have sufficient self belief, and sufficient charisma not to require constant photo opportunities to bolster his ego and ensure his popularity. His place is in No 10, when times are tricky, not sitting in a classroom for a sound-bite. He has to have sufficient men of similar standard within his party, whom he can rely upon and trust implicitly, in order to function as a true Government, not an oligarchy, or worse still as a President. I know there have been young Prime Ministers in the past, but I believe the current speed of communication, the pressure of the media, and the apathy of the electorate, demand a very special person at the helm, to be able to counter these and other influences and steer a straight course. Perhaps he should be very careful also of how much credence to give to his spin doctor, if indeed he needs one. The question I ask, now politics is not generally the first choice of the extremely gifted, is, ‘Is there such a man with such a backing available and willing?’