The world needs leaders with conviction, what I call a gut politician. New Zealand desperately needs the same. Leaders like Margaret Thatcher who did what was required because it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately we get the limp “aspirational” politicians.
The nostalgia of the past week following the death of the former Conservative prime minister has shown that voters want a sense of moral mission.
The magic word of the week was “conviction” – which replaced “aspiration” as the one every political leader had to utter as many times as possible in every public pronouncement. There was no longer any question, apparently, about whether “conviction politics” was a good or a bad thing, or whether it was an optional extra for political leaders. (How did that notion ever get off the ground, anyway? After all, what is the alternative: lack-of-conviction politics?) Convictions are simply strongly held, principled beliefs. What business would you have pursuing power if you had no strong principled beliefs about what was right for the country?
Unfortunately, until about 20 minutes ago, it was fashionable to imply that there was something faintly demonic about being a conviction-led leader: that it was tantamount to demagoguery or just implacable bloody-mindedness. And no one was more guilty of perpetrating this fiction than the present generation of Tories. But let’s not go over that ground again. I have said it before and I repeat it here: the great Modernising Terror is over.
The events of this past week, when the ragged anti-Thatcher protest failed to gain any traction, and the nation seemed united in respect and admiration (to the manifest surprise of the BBC), snuffed out any remaining flicker of doubt. It is safe now to speak with reverence about what the Conservatives accomplished in the 1980s. Something like real politics is back. Even if nobody is absolutely sure what it might consist of, we have a pretty clear idea of what it should look like. It is fairly crucial that the people who espouse it sound as if they believe in something. Using the word “convictions” all the time without embarrassment is not quite the same thing as having them. But it’s a start. Read more »