Friday, 5 July 2019

Some leaders are losers. Hitler, Stalin and Enver Pasha come to mind. Theresa May is, of course, another.

There are losers and winners in life. Some people who become leaders of their country are losers and in those cases their countries lose with them. Examples abound but Adolf Hitler, Stalin and Enver Pasha come immediately to mind. Theresa May is, of course, another.

Looking back at what might have been is a character flaw, but it does illuminate the way history happens by accident, more than because of large historical tendencies.

With Brexit the large trend is that most British people, unlike people in the other member states, never liked or believed in the EU. At least not until the referendum, when some discovered that they loved it. The smaller picture is that politicians, to use a rugby expression, fumbled the ball.

After calling an election in which she lost the majority that David Cameron and George Osborne had won Theresa May said,

"I got us into this mess, and I'm going to get us out. ... as leader "
She did not get us her party out of the mess. It was obvious that she couldn't and she should have resigned in favour of Boris or Michael Gove or anyone then.

David Cameron promised that if the referendum was won by Leave he would stay to implement the decision. He should have said on the morning after the referendum
 "I got us into this mess [for he thought it was one], and I'm going to get us out." 
He should many months earlier have instructed his civil servants to have a contingency plan ready - instead he ordered them not to do so. 

That plan could have been the Norway or Canada options. Both were off the peg solutions. We would have had the initiative and a deal would have been made by now. 

The Tory party would probably be in a strong position now in the polls.

This, not the referendum itself but not preparing a Plan B, is why David Cameron has done his country immeasurable harm.

I hope Boris is a winner and think he probably is. We shall see.

Boris surprised the day-long cabinet meeting at Chequers, the Prime Minister's 'grace and favour' official residence, by his reaction to Theresa May's deeply disappointing deal. He said, using a rude word he is fond of, 
“Anyone defending the proposal we have just agreed will find it like trying to polish a turd. Luckily, we have some expert turd-polishers in this Government.”
Later, over dinner, he seemed to be cheerful. It was David Davis resigning the next day that made Boris resign the day after that, for self-interested motives. Had he not done so David Davis would have become leader of the Brexiteers. 

By resigning, Boris made it inevitable that Mrs May's eventual withdrawal agreement, worse even than Chequers, would not pass the House. So at least thinks the streetwise George Osborne. David Davis's principled resignation was therefore a lucky thing for Boris.

David Davis might have saved his country a world of pain had he toppled Theresa May after the last election, even though he was a useless Brexit Minister. He backed Dominic Raab, not Boris, to be Prime Minister.


  1. Theresa May suffered from the impostor syndrome due to having opposed Brexit - and came up with a stupid plan full of red lines which made no sense other than to create some fake Brexit credentials for herself. The Conservatives should have never appointed her, though probably they didn't have much choice in that race, at the time she seemed to be the only stable person.

  2. It is a bit like I think the saying 'good at chess bad at life'?

  3. I think winning games often means you are a winner in life, but life is poker not chess. Eric Berne author of Games People Play and who divided people into winner, non-winners and losers thought so. The second sentence in this blog was plagiarised from him.

    By the way, Henry Kissinger said of Putin that "The Russians play chess; we play poker”. But Edward Lucas said the opposite : “we're playing chess and Putin's playing poker”. Gary Kasparov, who ought to know, thinks Putin is a poker player. “He’s very good at raising the stakes all the time. I believe he has a very weak hand, but he’s very good at bluffing... The rule in dealing with these kind of people is very simple: The sooner you stop them, the less the price you will pay.”

    1. Putin was awarded 7th dan in 2009 and 6th dan (prestigious red & white belt) at the Kodokan in 2000. In the 1970s, he was awarded a Master of Sports in both judo and sambo. Putin has described judo as "my favorite sport", and he continues to practice it.

    2. Ah yes. Judo, where you use your opponent's strength against him. Someone who knew a lot about women told me that that is what they do in relationships with men.

    3. 'Judo... that that is what they do'

      Like this:

  4. Some leaders are definitely losers. I'd add Churchill to your list. When Churchill took over as PM Britain was a Great Power with a might empire. By the time Churchill was finished it was a third-rate power without an empire. Of course you can argue about whether losing the empire was a good thing or a bad thing, but Churchill's aim was to preserve the Empire so he qualifies as a loser.

    I'm not sure about Stalin as a loser. When he gained power his country was a shambles as a result of war and the ineptitude and viciousness of Lenin. When Stalin died the Soviet Union was a superpower. I'm not saying he was a nice guy, but winners are not always nice guys.

    I do agree that accident plays a big part in history. Often it's a case of having the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tsar Nicholas II being an example. Nice chap, thoroughly decent, but totally out of his depth.

    As for Brexit, it was always going to be tricky. All very simple for someone like Nigel, safely on the sidelines. Nigel was never going to have to put it into practice.

  5. Boris’s “expert turd-polishers” deserves a place in every dictionary of quotations. Worth re-reading Orwell on politics and language ...