It is the time to choose leaders. The Labour Party has just completed its exercise to select a Deputy Leader from three candidates. The chosen candidate will probably be contesting the party’s leadership in a few years’ time. The Nationalist Party is in the process now to choose its own leader. The mantra is flowing… the person must keep close to the people, listen to them, knock on their doors. All are demanding a bottom up approach. Very much of “more of the same”, opinion polls-led leadership. In my opinion, this is far from being enough.
Leadership is about leading, and this starts with leadership in thought, a clear purpose and a natural inclination to decisiveness. The gravitas of a person leading a political party and eventually the country, lies in his character and personality translated in thinking, attitude and behaviour, and not in the fabrication of a persona which we believe can be the winner of a political party contest or a political election. We have seen celebrities particularly in the pop music world being constructed to be successful in going top in the charts. They failed as time moved on to remain consistent in their output as the audience matured and they grew weary and old.
A political leader can never be synthetic. The person needs to be natural and inspirational, and fundamentally morally sound. A vocation to be of service, and let us not be cynical about this. There are such persons. What is sustainable in the medium to long term (ten years?) is the ethical soundness of the person and the message that is transmitted to the electorate. Business and politics do not mix, and it is about an evolving, selfless drive to be of service to society. It is not a next step in your career, but it is about purpose, judgement and policy, remembering that being weak in any of these three can have a devastating effect on society. Why does an Angela Merkel survive while Nicolas Sarkozy didn’t?
An inspirational leader has a clear and dignified message that goes beyond money and economic wellbeing, but which can outlive booms and troughs. What does the contestant have to say on freedom of expression, on respect for the opinions of others, on the rule of law and order, on the separation of power between legislature, executive and judiciary, about inequality, about the family and its values, about respect for minorities and refugees, about dignified employment? These are the true fundamentals of society. One can never build a sustainable economy and a functioning society without getting this right. Money and economic growth is a consequence of honesty and not of dishonesty.
So, let us listen to what the contestants have to say about how to achieve a veritable balance between development and the environment, on matters of education and broadcasting, on civic behaviour including prudence and courtesy in relationships, manners in driving, eating, communicating and dressing and cleanliness and respect for others, on matters of poverty and racial discrimination arising from immigration and on respect for the middle aged and their values. Being liberal means being tolerant for change but also respecting the values of those that have other ideals and a different opinion. A rainbow of multiculturalism and not a girdle of imposition. A European leader raises the bar on issues related to the proper conduct of public officers and government ministers, and raising standards in civic behaviour. Building high rise buildings and fixing up roads do not dignify the nation, but human attitude and behaviour do.
So besides examining the contestant on their proposals for the economy and material well-being, we need to listen carefully to what they are saying on matters that go beyond money, and watch the way they behave. Imagine we stop being cynical about politics and we regain our trust in politicians.