Life throws up very few number ones – real leaders. Such types are usually spotted early, from schooldays onwards. These were the people who walked into a room and commanded attention. When they spoke, people listened. Or perhaps people instinctively liked them. You could call this charisma or gravitas – the very qualities required to be a leader. Most people are not like this.
That people would presume to be top dog without the merits needed – based on others’ encouragement or an unrealistically high self-image – is a strange, almost quintessentially modern phenomenon. Several reasons account for it. Ours is the “everyone must have prizes culture”. Therapists will also tell you that all you need to make a success of your life is bundles of self-confidence and “a positive” outlook. In other words, anyone can succeed. Not true – but enough people may succumb to the idea.
Not to mention the “anyone can be famous” culture. When I look at the tabloids I no longer know 95 per cent of the people concerned. They are nonentities – in my snobbish perception. A few may have real talent, of course. Yet the media explosion has led even mediocrities to believe that they are special. Anyone can act, anyone can sing, anyone can dance. But can they do it well?
Politicians should have a realistic enough opinion of themselves to avoid undue self-elevation. Why do a succession of number 2’s and number 3’s think they are number 1s? William Hague, Ian Duncan Smith, Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown, and now Ed Miliband, have all been guilty. None of them was up to the top job. They all may have had their strengths but none had, or have, that elusive “it” to make them suitable for Number 10.
Ed Miliband is a case in point. He has singularly failed to connect to the British people. The idea that he can recover in the public estimation is patently ludicrous. So why did he do it in the first place? Why did he challenge his brother, who, irrespective of his political beliefs or ideology, would have been better suited to the job? “Know thyself” could be a crucial axiom. And “know thyself” has receded partly because all the probing inquisitors have gone. Interviewers have traded exposition for aggression. A Robin Day or a Brian Walden would have detected something was amiss with Miliband. Now there is no one to unmask the glib veneer.
Not only is Miliband personally not up to it, his worship of France’s tax and spend policy (which has completely failed) makes him obsolete anyway. Blair managed to convince people he was not a socialist. Miliband seems to be tacking to the Left. Yet, fatally, he has never endeared himself to his hardcore constituency. This is no storm whipped up by the press. He’s truly finished.