The Politics Of Envy – The Last Word

tax-avoidanceDavid Cameron cheated on his taxes.  He avoided paying his fair share of them.  He might have done so legally, but guilty of Tax Avoidance he is, and people are justifiably annoyed at him.  The Tories, rather than accept that people have a right to be pissed off at their PM, have responded in their usual cavalier way, and become angry at us for being critical of their leader.  They have put it down to people being jealous of Cameron’s wealth.  Yes, it’s all because we have become victims of the Green Eyed Monster.

Therefore they have started beating out that old chest-nut of The Politics Of Envy again.   In fact they have often told us that that is what Socialism actually is. Let’s break down the true meaning of this phrase.  What does it mean logically?

Firstly, what is envy?  The Oxford English Dictionary reveals that it is:

A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck

So if we apply that to a whole political system based on envy does it really add up to Socialism, or not?  Well, let’s go back to the OED:

A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

When those two statements are applied together I think it becomes apparent that describing Socialism as The Politics Of Envy is rather fatuous and self-serving.

And so what if people are jealous anyway?  I must admit when I’m worried about paying for my gas bill, the thought of being born into inherited wealth, privilege, and power absolutely appeals to me.  Imagine having all that security; one would never have to worry about being out of work, unable to afford a home, or being unable to pay your own way at all.

Who wouldn’t be envious?

The fact that people might feel jealous of David Cameron’s position is beside the point.  It doesn’t change what he, or any of colleagues, do to avoid paying their taxes. Claiming that our complaints about it are due to our Politics Of Envy is actually making matters worse.  How dare they? Isn’t envy one of the Seven Deadly Sins?  So are they claiming we are being sinful by being irritated by Cameron’s Tax Avoidance?

If that is the case then I feel it may be necessary to point that avarice is also one of them too.


The Conservatives’ Thoroughly Bizarre Campaign

david cameronI’m not a fan of the Tories.  I thoroughly hate them if I’m being honest.  I can’t understand why anybody would vote for them, unless they are among the most fabulously wealthy and don’t happen to care about anybody else.

However, I can usually I can understand the thinking behind a Conservative Party General Election Campaign.  They’re usually extremely adept at them; they naturally appeal to people’s greed, need to feel superior to others and the general fear the British people have of everybody else.  They also highly attuned to Little England and its fundamental loathe of change and the unknown.  All of this is because these are kinds of people in the Conservative Party itself and they usually the ones running it, or at least know how to access the right people to run its advertising division.

This current campaign is a weird one and it’s coming unglued very rapidly.  I think this is for numerous reasons:

1) The Conservative Party is extremely spiteful.  I should back up that statement just in case you think I’m saying it purely out of my biased point of view but just check out how the Coalition’s cuts hit Labour-run councils the hardest, resulting in greater job losses. The party’s nasty streak has been even more visible since the Labour Party elected Ed Miliband as its leader; he has been portrayed by the Tories and their media cronies as ‘weird’, ‘red Ed’, not being able to speak properly, looking like a cartoon character, looking awkward and – most bizarrely – as being unable to eat a bacon-sandwich correctly.  Some of the remarks have even come across as vaguely anti-Semitic.  However, this is now resulting in a backlash; as people have got to know Ed Miliband better they have started to realise much of this derision was undeserved and that it was tantamount to bullying.  The Tories made the fateful error of not only underestimating Miliband but also lowering people’s expectations to the point that if he didn’t come across as some sort of alien life-form they’d feel the urge to be impressed.

2) The Leaders’ Debates were something David Cameron made a great deal out of during the General Election of 2010, trumpeting that they had a vital role to play in British democracy.  However, this time he not only seems to have changed his mind but developed a physical aversion to them.  He put his foot down and said that he would only attend one on the condition that all of the party leaders were present and would definitely not be willing to do a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband.  He backed himself into a corner by insisting on this, since if he was persuaded to change his mind he would appear indecisive, but by refusing he would come across as cowardly, stubborn and unable to defend his record.  Cameron did one debate with the other party leaders and found himself outnumbered by all of them accusing his government of going too far with the cuts, too soon.  We have been used to witnessing Cameron’s bully-boy tactics during Prime Minister’s Questions but there was no way that such an approach was going to win him any admiration in this kind of forum, but he resorted to them anyway.

3) Some of the Tories’ campaign has been almost beyond parody.  This week they made an attempt to rebrand themselves as the party of working-class people in the Northern England.  This is the same North that fell prey to Margaret Thatcher’s epic industrial savagery during the 1980s, consequent inter-generational unemployment and been prey to greater cuts and austerity during the current coalition.  Oddly the people of the North proved resistant to this idea. Did the Tories imagine that they could get away with this rebranding? Maybe they thought that it would cause some form of cognitive dissonance and people would get confused by it?  Who knows?  It doesn’t look like it has worked though.

4) Cameron’s refusal to take part in the Leader’s Debates has had another unexpected effect.  The media, who would have benefitted from the PM appearing on them, seems to have become royally pissed off with him.  His interviews ever since the whole debacle have become noticeable tougher and Cameron has been unable to deal with the situation, becoming petulant and childish when asked an awkward question.  This is not really the sort of performance that people want from their Prime Minister – certainly not one who likes to pretend he is an Alpha Male anyway.

5) For some reason the Conservative Party have brought back John Major.  I think we can all agree that isn’t a great idea.  As Labour’s John Smith said back when John Major was PM, Major was so unpopular that if he was an undertaker people would stop dying.

6)  The Conservative appear to have developed an obsession with the SNP.  Their current line is that if one votes Labour, one will get the SNP in charge instead.  It’s difficult to understand the thinking that underpins this; do they imagine that a vote for Labour will result in angry, face-painted Scots invading England to force-feed us all deep-fried Mars Bars, or is it just more of that patented Tory xenophobia we’re all used to hearing?  Either way it all appears very silly, particularly coming from a man with the surname Cameron.

Are You A Belieber Or A Believer?


Few people attract a more ludicrous amount of hatred than teen idols.

This has been particularly noticeable recently during the downfall of Justin Bieber.  Judging by the glee some evidently felt one would have imagined that he had been a Third World dictator rather than a pop singer such were the gleeful comments of some all over social media.  Indeed, some of the comments I remember hearing at the time were pretty outlandish and pretty hateful.  If people feel confused by the amount of adulation Bieber attracts from his fans, surely the volume of spite he receives is equally puzzling.

In fact it is far more odd, since the Bieber-hatred often comes from those who ought to – in theory – know better.  At least his fans have the excuse of being comparatively young and hormonal whereas his detractors have none. 

Moreover, there is one very important factor in fandom that often gets overlooked.  There is exemplified by the fact that Bieber’s fans often describe themselves as ‘Beliebers’ and use the word as a hashtag on Twitter and other social network sites to engage with other fans.  Despite the quasi-religious nature of the word itself, one shouldn’t overlook the fact that by using it individuals are placing themselves within a community that spans throughout the world.  This is the very nature of fandom; those outside of it often mistake the behaviour of fans for being about the object of their idolatry when really it’s about friendship and companionship.  When we see crowds of fans wait outside hotel doors for a glimpse of Bieber they are really there to be with other like-minded people and be part of an occasion.  This is one of the primary functions that religion used to play in society.

This becomes more obvious in the case of boy-bands and it was even the case back in the 1960s with The Beatles.  Fans would identify themselves as favouring one of The Beatles over the others and it would become a topic of friendly discussion.  This is really no different from what we now see with One Direction – the perceived value of the music is almost beyond the point, it is about being involved.  Fans will identify themselves as being a fan of Harry, Liam or another member of the band and thus become a part of the larger group.  It’s about being accepted.

Record labels understand the nature of fandom and that’s why they capitalise on it.  They know that One Direction fans of proud identifying themselves as such and that’s why it’s easy to sell them merchandise.  Nevertheless, it’s a mistake to believe that it is only young women become fans though, how else do we explain the rabid support rock fans have for the idols?  Band T-shirt sales?  Have you ever made the mistake of criticising Roger Waters in the presence of a Pink Floyd fan, for example?  Such a thing will be taken as heresy.  Forty-something men can be just as passionate as any teenage girl about their idols and quite as irrational about it.  The same argument applies to football teams as so forth.

As a regular gig goer, I’ve seen as many adult males become as determined to meet the band, have their merchandise signed as any teenage girl at a One Direction concert but rarely is this commented on.  I don’t recall any documentaries or big news features on it at all.  Who bought all the £1,000 tickets for The Rolling Stones last year?  I doubt that many teenagers can afford it.  Surely that’s as worth as much critical study as One Direction fans buying pencil cases with their idols faces on them.




Mr. Useful

Mr. Useful

Why is it that those who shout the most about the virtue of hard work always seem to be those who don’t seem to do anything remotely useful?  Yes, I’m talking to you Iain Duncan Smith and your cronies.  Why can’t we have a more honest debate out the purpose of work?

This is something that always troubled me.  There seems to be some form of conspiracy to deny the truth about what work is for.  Perhaps this is because over the years the jobs market has shrunk to such a point that we can longer be honest about it.  We are now expected to live for work, all become complete workaholics and love every minute of it.  This is of course less of a problem if you’re doing something that gives you some form of satisfaction and pays well, but what if that isn’t the case?  And what if there really aren’t ANY jobs out there?

Is there really anybody out there who loves working in a call-centre, for example?  Imagine all the flak you get in that job, the pressure you’re under and the pittance it pays.  You might make some friends in the job and that might make it bearable, but I can’t imagine any other benefits.  Furthermore, there are even more deeply unpleasant jobs than that, none of which pay very much.  Yet, if one attends an interview for such a position one is expected to claim that it is your life’s ambition rather than just wanting to earn some form of living.  What’s wrong with just doing a job, being paid for it and going home at night and forgetting about it?  How did we get to this point where we are all expected to tell such lies about it?  Who is it fooling?  I can’t imagine that it’s fooling anybody.

There is something deeply unhealthy about all of this.  I don’t remember when it got started but I have a sneaking suspicion that it started in the 1980s.  Yes, another example of the hypocritical legacy of Thatcherism.


20130412-081146thatcherFirst of all I’m not going to pretend that this is an academic study of Thatcherism, this is my own personal take on what I recall of her government and it long-term effects.  I am writing this as my own contribution to the discussions being had about her legacy since her death.  It is also a reaction to a trend I see developing of some people now describing themselves as ‘Thatcherite’, some of whom may not realise the ramifications of appropriating such a tag.

To assess such a political figure as Margaret Thatcher it is problematic since it was never possible to be neutral about her; in many ways she was deliberately provocative in her pronouncements and always combative in her manner.  It was inevitable then that her death would polarise people as much as her political career had.  People either loved or hated her and in many ways I doubt that she would have had it any other way.

There is a tendency in British politics to laud those who display strength and grandeur and these are two qualities that many believe that Margaret Thatcher had.  But what is strength?  Thatcher was certainly brutally forthright about her opinions and bloody-minded but she also had a marked inability to listen to even her own ministers, let alone the people she was leading – stories about this were legion during her premiership but seem to have been forgotten now.  Grandeur?  Well Margaret Thatcher certainly has delusions of that.

Margaret Thatcher was famously a grocer’s daughter and never forgot it.  Proud of the fact and would often regale interviewers about the lessons she had learnt from her father.  Thatcher was grounded in the petite bourgeois and displayed many of the most stereotypical qualities of it.  This was highlighted by that phoney posh accent she had, something that even as child reminded me of one of my aunties utilising her ‘telephone voice’.  She was the absolute embodiment of petite bourgeois prejudices; the snobbish deferential voter; the I-vote-Tory-because-I’m-better-than-you-lot type; the mortal fear of anybody who works with their hands; the sheer terror of the ‘foreigner’; the pathological hatred of somebody being better off than you; the morbid infatuation with ‘hard-work’ and greed for its own sake.  Thatcher even went as far as joining the Conservative Party and eventually becoming its leader by ‘pulling up her own boot-straps’ (to coin a favourite phrase of hers) and marrying into money.  In fact her husband Denis subsidised her entire political career, and benefitted from it businesswise.

Margaret Thatcher’s background marked her out from the rest of the Conservatives who resented this upstart among their ranks, and this didn’t stop when she was elected Prime Minister – this was made quite obvious by the relish they displayed by tearing her off her pedestal.  However that relatively modest background did make her a remarkably astute politician; she had an instinctive insight into how people from those lower classes thought.  She was a born opportunist in the most opportunistic of British political parties.  The Conservative Party would support her for as long as those instincts were present, but for no longer.

The 1970s, we have been told, were a period of economic strife and this was all the fault of the Trades Unions who were always going on strike.  This, it will surprise no one, is a distortion of the way more complicated facts.  It was precipitated by a massive oil-crisis in 1973 and this not only had an impact on the UK but on an international scale.  For proof one only needs to look at the newspapers, magazines and even popular culture of the period to see how often this is referred no only here, but in the USA and Europe.  However we are still expected to believe it was old those evil TU’s fault for wanting too much money.

During Edward Heath’s Conservative government of the 1970-74 many fundamentally important things happened that would later prove influential to Thatcher.  Most famously her own profile rose during the ‘Thatcher The Milk Snatcher’ debacle and so she experienced for the first time the full glare of the spotlight.  Thatcher also witnessed Heath’s own attempts to curb TU power with the unsuccessful Industrial Relations Act of 1971 (repealed in 1974 by the Wilson government).  It was two Miners’ Strikes that would mortally wound the Heath government, the second of these led to Heath going to extraordinary measure of implementing the three-day week – Thatcher would never forgive the miners.  Heath is most remembered for leading Britain into the EEC and this decision has troubled the Conservative Party ever since.  He also oversaw the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, most notoriously, the Bloody Sunday massacre.  All of these factors would indelibly mark out the character of Thatcher’s own leadership style.

Britain had up until recently been a colonial power, of course, and was only too aware that it wasn’t any more.  This fact traumatised the British psyche.  We are still experiencing to the long-term effects of this today but in the 1970s it was still raw.  People were brought up to believe that the UK was the ‘empire where the sun never sets’, maps of the world were still hanging in schools covered in the red of British colonialism..  To be born British was supposed to mean that were one of the elite, even if you were barely able to afford to eat and were treated like scum by your ‘betters’.  At least you were still from Blighty!  That had to stand for something, eh?  We won the war!  Could all of this have been a lie?

This was reflected in the politics of the time; the National Front was beginning to seem very influential.  This bottom-feeding political party tapped into those feelings of inadequacy some people were having and were only too happy to scapegoat immigrants and other marginalised groups for British woes, openly using racist terminology that would turn most people’s stomach today.  Let’s not forget that this was the era of Enoch Powell; his recent ‘rivers of blood’ speech still ringing in the ears like some cancerous tinnitus.

This was the environment that fostered the rise of Margaret Thatcher.  She told people we could make Britain great again.  Worried about those sweary punk rockers?  Well, don’t worry Maggie’s going to bring good old Victorian values, that will set them straight.  You hate all those ‘foreigners’ flocking over here and stealing your jobs?  Well, don’t worry Maggie’s not going to put up with that, she’ll  send them all home and then close our borders.  Sick of being inconvenienced by strikes? Those layabouts are going to get what’s coming to them as well.  What about those lazy bastards down our street who can’t even be bothered to wok but are living lives of luxury?  Well, they’ll have to get on their bikes and look for work or starve. Thatcher was lead us back into that fantasy version of what Victorian England was like, where everything was simpler, people knew their place and it was the richest place on earth.

This is the essence of Thatcher’s vision; a mix of prejudice, fantasy and – lest we forget – the dystopian economic philosophy of Friedrich Hayek and his most famous acolyte Milton Friedman.  Thatcher, the so-called patriot, would use Britain as a laboratory to try-out Friedmanism and although some would profit from it – mostly in the short-term – the interests of the vast majority would be sacrificed.  This was economics at its most psychopathic and even though Thatcher was warned about the dangers, she ploughed ahead regardless.

Thatcher broke away from the Post-War Consensus but didn’t replace it with anything meaningful or constructive.  Her own period of government didn’t successfully result in any grand designs neo-liberal, Keynesian or otherwise; that was left to the governments that followed (even New Labour).  Her own attempts at Friedmanism were eventually scrapped, hampered by her own destructive impulses, which merely resulted in near economic meltdown.  She did unfortunately succeed in making ‘socialism’ a dirty word on this side of the Atlantic for the first time.  This is an example of Thatcher’s gift – if it can be called that – for the negative.  Thatcherism is really about negation, being defined by what it is against than what it is for.  All of the things it claims to support fall apart when analysed too deeply.  Thatcher’s government achieved nothing.  Style over substance

Tory election posters trumpeted that ‘Labour isn’t working’ in 1979, but Thatcher’s Tory government tripled unemployment to three million in just four years (and even that figure was famously massaged down).  The resulting welfare bill meant that her entire tenure in government was marked by a persistent economic deficit, which was not even alleviated by her desperate selling off of state assets like British Telecom, or the profits generated by North Sea Oil.

It comes as no surprise then that her government’s other promises were never met either.  While in opposition her party had derided Labour’s inability to seize control of inflation which was as at 10%, promising that they could if given the chance.  This didn’t happen and in fact inflation continued to increase in the short term.  By the time Thatcher left office it was nearly back at 10% (9.7%).

Her period government was bookended by riots.  Her tenure as Prime Minister began with riots caused by unemployment, heavy-handed policing, housing shortages etc and ended with riots inspired by the Poll Tax.  Today’s praise of Thatcher has to be counterbalanced by the acceptance that this was not a popular or successful Prime Minister in any real terms.  This was the first Prime Minister whose government understood and mastered the art of popular culture – her political career resembled an ad campaign and had as much basis in reality.  The real legacy was the personality cult that British politics has become.  That and her divisiveness.

For the rest of us, growing up working-class in the 1980s was depressing.  Everybody you knew seemed to be unemployed.  Margaret Thatcher claimed to be on the side of people who worked hard but seemed hell-bent on making those who were working redundant and those out-of-work unemployable.  We were told jobs were out there but the reality couldn’t have been more different.  Thatcher also claimed she was on the side of the entrepreneur and this also rang hollow.  Shops were being boarded up, factories and other businesses closed down on a moreorless constant basis.  If you wanted to start a business you could go on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme of course, but you had to have a grand in the bank to secure your £40 a week from the benefits people (yes, the same people who supplied your income support) to do it.  If anything illustrates Thatcher’s tenuous grip on reality that does.

The old apprenticeships were replaced the crass cynicism of Youth Training Schemes or Job (later renamed Employment) Training Schemes, both of which left you only qualified to join another training scheme in six months, but allowed your labour to be exploited by the deeply unpleasant charlatans who ran such things.

All of this was part of the plan of course.  Thatcher was declaring all-out-war on the working-class.  This was the one thing they were successful at; by the time she and her colleagues left government the image of the working-class had – at least in the general public’s perception – changed beyond recognition.  It now conjured up visions of an ‘underclass’; Wayne and Waynetta Slob, the family from Bread.  A fictional caricature that eventually fed into itself.

No politician has showed more contempt for people who work with their hands than Margaret Thatcher.  This is the true ‘British disease’. It was therefore inevitable that those she hated the most were the ones whose hands got the dirtiest, that is; the miners.  As we have seen the Conservatives had already sworn vengeance on them.  During the riots earlier in Thatcher’s premierships the public had grown used to sights of the ‘tooled-up’ coppers, with riot-shields, batons, visored helmets.  These paramilitary police were used mercilessly against the miners and their families.  Margaret Thatcher did more than other Prime Minister to blatantly politicise the police.

The media built a hate campaign against the miners, particularly Arthur Scargill who was merely telling the truth about the government’s plans and doing the job of fighting for the people he was employed by.  Those of us who were properly informed knew that the strike was about pit closures that would (and have) destroyed communities but it didn’t seem to matter.  Margaret Thatcher saw his as a war akin to the Falklands; propaganda, triumphalism and contempt for the truth was the order of her day

The miners were merely the most visible of her hate figures.  Practically every industry that had created wealth for Britain was dragged under by her policies, causing vast unemployment to be embedded deep in many communities.  This was not only economically damaging, the societal damage has been long-lasting.

One of the most repeated Thatcher quote has been her claim that ‘there is no such thing as society’.  Let’s look at what this revealed about her.  Certainly it reveals that had little ability to perceive of something external to her immediate experience.  It also exposes Margaret Thatcher’s weird isolationism, her belief that she alone could be right.  To her, individualism went only as far as herself and by the end of her premiership she was even identifying herself as the embodiment of the nation in the same way that absolutist rulers used to, in her use of the royal ‘we’.  Margaret Thatcher could not perceive there being any such thing as society because her own limited experience was all that mattered to her, and informed her every action.

If only Thatcherism could be have died along with her.  If only people realised what an empty construct it actually was and is.

Is Britain A Democracy?

The accepted wisdom seems to tell us that it is, but is it?  The British system when examined closely is a strange one; firstly, we have a monarch and we are reminded of this constantly along with the counterpoint, ‘but she doesn’t have any power really’.  This isn’t actually true.

The British system is unusual because it is steeped in vested interests of medieval origin.   In many ways this is the result of not being invaded since 1066.  Since that time, the rest of Europe was often in turmoil, needing standing armies to police their borders, whereas Britain concentrated on becoming a naval power.  As the great historian A.J.P. Taylor said, “The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.”  Times of upheaval lead to sweeping changes in the way countries are governed, and there was never a comparable crisis in Britain, hence little political change.  Frighteningly little, in fact.  The upside of this is that we have didn’t fall prey to the extreme politics of the first half of the 20th century, but the flipside has been inertia and stultifying inequality.

Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary says about democracy:

  • a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives: a system of parliamentary democracy
  • [count noun] a state governed under a system of democracy: a multiparty democracy
  • control of an organization or group by the majority of its members: the intended extension of industrial democracy
  • the practice or principles of social equality: demands for greater democracy

So, let us examine this definition.  At first glance Britain seems to be a democracy, because all of us who over-18 have the right to vote (my personal view is that the age should be lowered to 16, by the way).  However, if that is the case why do so few bother to exercise it (only 65.1% in 2010).  Ask people why they don’t vote and the answer is usually “They’re all the same…”  It’s all too easy to dismiss such a comment as apathy or political illiteracy, but the issue is more complicated and in many ways it is elitist to disregard such an opinion – it is better to learn from it.   Are the people in Parliament truly representative of the populace?  Only 7% of children in the UK are privately educated, whereas 35% of British MPs are from private education (20% of whom are ex-Etonians).  Does this qualify them to be our ‘representatives’.  If they aren’t, how easy would it be to find more suitable candidates?  The answer is that it should be more easy than it currently is.

I have a real problem with privately funded education and don’t believe any good can come from it.  It creates inequality and ensures that our society remains divided by class; no child is deserving of a better education than another’s child.  This is an example of the class-system at its lowest common dominator and I will listen to no attempt to defend it.

I have always voted, but can understand the concerns of those who don’t.  They echo some of my own concerns.  What I see in parliament are a political class with even fewer exceptions than ever before.  This is demonstrated by the increasing tendency for politicians to overlook the simple fact that the vast majority of people simply want to earn a decent standard of living and bring their children up in a safe and secure environment.  This may not be an ambitious aim by a politicians standards but it is certainly a valid one, and the fact that MPs seem to hold it in such little regard demonstrates how out of touch they are.

How many of you are tired of hearing politicians talking about the electorate in such a disparaging way; the undeserving poor, the underclass, scroungers, under-skilled, uneducated, etc?  It is disgraceful and indicative of the way our democracy is utterly backwards.  If YOU can’t find employment than THEY are to blame, NOT YOU, and THEY should be held to account.  If Britain is supposed to be a democracy, that’s the way it should work.

The Cult of Leadership

ImageAll over the political spectrum there is an obsession with leadership; how do you define it and what are ‘leadership qualities’?  I personally think that there is a more important question; what value does leadership really have? The value of ‘leadership qualities’ are rarely questioned.  We’ve all attended many a meeting and discussion where people have spent hours informing us of the merits of leadership without really pointing out the inherent flaws and resultant dangers, not least to the psyche of those bestowed with leadership qualities. If one takes even a cursory glance at history, leaders can be trouble.  They are human- beings with flaws and quirks which become amplified through the prism of their position.  Every single one of them falls prey to hubris, it’s only a matter of when.  Furthermore, people are all-too willing to overlook their favourite leaders’ flaws, particularly when that leader is reflective of their own ideology and romanticised history.  John F. Kennedy is a prime example of this; a man who certainly started one war (Vietnam – okay he did inherit the problem) and almost lead his country into another (this time nuclear) but is still regarded as a great President. So called leadership qualities are nearly always defined as stereotypically masculine and extrovert.  The problem with these qualities is they don’t play well with others, are resistant to criticism and the opinions of others.  An example of how rigid our definition of leadership is the emphasise on ‘strong leaders’ (Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair) who ‘make tough decisions’ and ‘won’t give into pressure’, whereas more collegiate leaders (John Major, Gordon Brown) are criticised throughout their office for being ‘indecisive’ and not reacting quickly enough. Our emphasis on leaders is also distracting.  It is one of the primary reasons why our politics are so personality based and reflective of consumer culture.  Personality politics skews the issues and has nothing to do with policy at all; it is one of the reasons why politicians get away with breaking electoral promises and having no experience of real life.  Politicians are now ciphers; every gesture they make, opinion they spout has been learned in leadership training. Isn’t it about time that we realised that leadership is an unhealthy way of doing things?  Not only for us but those we elect as leaders.  I propose that we look for another solution – why don’t we govern ourselves?  Could we do a worse job?