Commanding respect

The Telegraph

Respect isn’t garnered by commanding it, nor by placing a fake title like Hon. in front of your name. Like that title, respect must be earned and cannot be commanded. You earn respect through your deeds and your actions. We have precious few conviction politicians these days.

Nowadays, however, politicians do not command automatic respect. It is not that we live in an age where deference is dead: look at the way celebrities are given red-carpet treatment, wherever they are. But we do expect politics of conviction. Perhaps precisely because so few people today subscribe to a clear and unshakeable set of values, or live by a traditional moral code, we seek principles, ideals, and vision in our elected officials.

Conviction politics, alas, has been in short supply from this Coalition. Instead of deeply held beliefs, the Government has been capable only of quickly executed U-turns.  At first, as an enthusiastic fan of the Coalition, I had seen the Cameron-Clegg ability to rethink positions as welcome proof of their honesty: when something did not work, the Coalition was prepared to hold up its hands and say, sorry, back to the drawing board. But a couple of U-turns at the outset of government is one thing; quite another is the long series of retreats and rethinks we’ve seen, on everything from child benefit to petrol duty. When a government is built on a flim-flam set of interchangeable principles, it vacillates, and risks teetering into the abyss. I fear Fraser Nelson was right when he wrote in the Telegraph that there’s more than a whiff of Groucho Marx about the Cameroonians:  “These are my principles,” the great comedian once declared. “And if you don’t like them: well, I have others.”

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