political leaders

Political Leaders #

What makes a good leader? There are many elusive qualities. A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.

Here are nine criteria for a democratic Leader

• effectively managing cabinet;
• maintaining support of party;
• demonstrating personal integrity;
• leaving a significant policy legacy;
• relationship with the electorate;
• communication effectiveness;
• nurturing national unity; defending and
• promoting national interests abroad; and being able to manage turbulent times.

A progressive leader looks for opportunities to use the power of government to improve the quality of people’s lives.


The more authoritarian, the less authority.

Positivity is more potent than negative imposition.

A five-year stint as senior press secretary to former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke showed Barry Cassidy that true leadership is about earning respect, not wielding authority.

How are societies are governed? Churchill, observed that:

in England everything is allowed except what is forbidden, in Germany everything is forbidden except what is permitted, in France anything goes even that which is forbidden, and in the Soviet Union everything is forbidden even what is allowed.

We do not appear to be attracting the brightest and the best into politics; it is undeniable that the intellectual, personal and ethical quality of politicians has declined.

Political advisors, selected by politicians for their loyalty, have replaced the independent expert advice of Public Servants who might tell you things you don’t want to hear.

From Clement Attlee to Angela Merkel, it is often the duller metal that turns out to be the purer gold.

The shallowness of one’s legacy, should prompt *

“a sober evaluation of how the relentless pursuit of global power by politicians is too often betrayed by the promise of their altruistic oratory.*

True of Blair, Obama and Justin Trudeau.

Leaders like Woodrow Wilson who use elevated and sonorous phrases because of their popularity become intoxicated by a sense of their own righteousness and the opportunity they imagine of being saviors of the world.

Demagogues are not just those who appeal to the lowest instincts of the human mind, also those who by appealing to the noblest, without compromise, dishonestly practise the worst of all forms of deceit. They fail to practise what they preach.

When a politician no longer can see right from wrong, when they make repeated poor judgments, when they actually think political expediency is a legitimate excuse, it’s time to go.

All the more so when the politician is the leader of a political party. Because the moral values of the leader set the tone for the entire government.

This is what happens when politicians fixate on ideology or culture wars instead of governing. The elevation of symbolic politics over competence has a devastating effect on actual governance. Stoking fear for partisan advantage, turning international relationships into tools for domestic political gain, means absolute responsible government has been replaced by mere grandstanding, posing, posturing, photo ops, and a level of Newspeak that Orwell only imagined as fiction.

Solon #

Solon, is generally credited with the introduction of Justice and Democracy to Athens. His esteemed authority has stood the test of time. Both Plato and Aristotle deferred to him. Juvenal simply refers to him as “eloquent Solon, the Just”.

Solon was born into a well-to-do family of Athens. He worked as a merchant in the export-import trade, and he considered himself relatively poor. He did not worship money, as is evident from his poems.

A contemporary of Homer land Hesiod, Solon also wrote poetry - the language of the gods.

Like reformers in other Greek cities, Solon’s poetry criticizing the hubris of the wealthy helped establish his reputation as a sage. In Fragment 4 of his major poem, he wrote :

that the wealthy ‘do not understand how to hold back their satiety,’ despite there being plenty to go around. ‘Hubristic individuals “appropriate, unjustly, the property of others.”

When people saod he should make himself a tyrant. Solon replied:

that tyranny is indeed a very pleasant peak, but there is no safd way down from it.

Solonic authority decreed a fair and just society for all by establishing a system of government and justice that freed all members of the community from the oppression and injustice of the privileged.

Solon believed the family to be the foundation of society and ensured that family disputes were resolved fairly and equitable.

Athens at this time had three factions: the people of the hills, who favored democracy; the people of the plains, who favored oligarchy; and the people of the shore, who favored a mixed sort of government and prevented either of the other two factions from prevailing. The political turmoil had come to the point where it appeared that the only way any government at all could be established would be for some tyrant to take all power into his own hands.

Under Athenian law at that time, if a loan went into default, the creditor could seize the debtor and his family and sell them as slaves to get money to pay off the debt. The cruelty and arrogance of the rich caused the poor to form into gangs to save themselves and rescue those who had been made slaves through usury. The best men of the city saw Solon as someone who was partial to neither the rich nor the poor, and they asked him to lead. The rich consented because Solon was wealthy, and the poor consented because he was honest.

Solon’s task was dangerous and difficult because of the greediness of one side and the arrogance of the other. To placate both sides, Solon said: “Fairness breeds no strife.” To the poor, “fairness” meant equal wealth; and to the rich, “fairness” meant keeping what they owned.

When Solon was asked once which city he thought was well-governed, he said:

“That city where those who have not been injured take up the cause of one who has, and prosecute the case as earnestly as if the wrong had been done to themselves.”

Accordingly, he allowed anyone to take up the cause of a poor man who had been injured.

Pericles 495 — 429 BCE #

Noted for the full development of the Athenian democracy, the Athenian empire, and the construction of the Acropolis, begun in 447.

Plutarch described him as a man of unchallengeable virtue and greatness at grips with the fickleness of the mob but responsible for a needless war. Pericles used the new weapon of the popular vote against the old power of family politics. and used legal prosecution as a political weapon.

In a funeral oration in 430 BCE for those who had fallen in the Peloponnesian War, Pericles described democratic Athens as “the school of Hellas.”

Among the city’s many exemplary qualities, he declared, was its constitution, which:

“favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy.”

“If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if to social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way; if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life.”

Shakespeare’s Leaders #

The English political ideal was framed by Shakespeare, in his Henry V, and he is often considered the fore-runner of Winston Churchill.

Henry V has, as main attribute, the raising of the morale of his sickly and underfed troops on the eve of Agincourt – a battle in which they will be outnumbered five to one by the French. He provides inspired leadership, through sure and firm judgment, eloquence, and closeness to his men, from officers down to common soldiers.

Churchill would embody the same morale-rousing virtues in the dark days when he assumed office in 1940: making patriotic speeches to the people that displayed indomitable confidence, resolution and high principle in the face of supreme German military might.

Abraham Lincoln and Henry V also share a number of traits. They are both forbiddingly solitary – utterly alone in their thoughts and their judgments. And they are beholden to no one. The same was true of Churchill, who spent the 1930s as an isolated and frequently mocked voice warning about the rise of Hitler.

This solitariness relates to a second notable characteristic: a very broad life experience before assuming office. Lincoln had grown up in humble small-farm circumstances, moved from state to state, was forced to educate himself, served in the military, and finally became a small-town lawyer.

American Presidents #

In 1948, and again in 1962, surveys of American historians rated Woodrow Wilson fourth among American presidents, lagging behind only Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lincoln is renown for saving the union despite abolition of slavery, though many contend that the civil war is still raging. Roosevelt is respected for the New Deal, breaking up cartels, and his war efforts.

John F. Kennedy needs to more recognition.

Despite only 3 years in office, Kennedy attracted the most attention of most Presidents. A more recent poll rated JFK one of the four greatest presidents—tied for third place with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and trailing only Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Kennedy started badly, but regained authority because of enlightened advisors and a resolute brother Bobby who courageously challenged the power of the unions, the mafia and the pentagon. It was Kennedy’s greatest strength to open respectful dialogue with Khuschev, attempt racial reform and begin a withdrawal from Vietnam, that cements his legacy.

Gorbachev #

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR, died, aged 91.

Russia expert Matthew Sussex writes that Gorbachev became known for attempting to open up the Soviet Union’s economy, society and politics, and “encouraging hope and debate rather than stifling it”.

Sussex writes that he had an “enduring belief in enlightened progress” and a kind of “humanism, flawed though it was”.

His approach notably contrasts with that of current-day Russia under president Vladimir Putin, “which has turned its back on modernity, cultivating a culture of victimhood and glorifying Russian chauvinism in the cynical pursuit of personal power”.

Ultimately though, Gorbachev became viewed domestically as a “foolish leader” who engendered the collapse of the USSR. And the abject failure of his economic policies means his period in Soviet leadership will be remembered by what could have been, rather than what came to be.

Canada’s Lester B. Pearson stands our as a stellar leader. Pearson stood up to the British and French imperialists during the Suez Canal in 1956, LBJ over the Vietnam War in 1965 or against De-Gaulle’s call of Viva Quebec Libre - sending him packing in 1967.

Domestically he brought in Medicare, introduced a new flag and provided a self-respecting culture.

In Australia, Gough Whitlam stands head and shoulders above the rest. A truly reformative leader, he managed to pick Australia up by the seat of its pants and scruff of its neck and transpose it out of the 19 th Century into the twentieth. John Howard managed to take it back to the 1950"s.

Demented Despots #

Leaders are in short supply; they are either led by the nose, the polls, or followers, intent on obliging corporate sponsors, dodgy donors or rabid ideologues.

Tactics include: A dog whistle - “a political strategy, statement, slogan, etc., that conveys a controversial, secondary message understood only by those who support the message.” Also, a distraction to divert attention from real issues – also known as “throwing a dead cat on the table”.

Demagogues play to the lowest common denominators. They engage the base, deliver for the middle and ignore the bleating of people who will never vote for you. Instead of solving problems, they posture; a style of politicking by divisive blame, instead of governing.

Politics is as old a profession as prostitution, but nowhere near as ethical. Phillip Adams

Macbeth - At the beginning Macbeth is highly regarded by all, but by the end no one likes him. Shakespeare shows us the progression from undisputed hero to despised villain by how other characters describe him: Duncan: 0 valiant cousin.’ worthy gentleman.’” “noble Macbeth” to Malcolm’s final summation: “This butcher and his fiend like queen”.

Mussolini – initially lauded for getting the trains to run on time and making Italy great again, he ended up having his body strung upside down near a petrol station so passers - by could pelt him with rotten fruit.

Hitler – immensely popular for first ten years, after about 1943, he seldom emerged from his bunker, became increasingly paranoid and despotic until finally in April 1945, he shot himself inside a bunker.

Ceausescu believed he was basking in the regimented rapture of his Romanian People only to realise that they were calling for his death. Soon he and his wife were shot against a wall.

Robert Mugabe - Began as an admired idealistic freedom fighter against Ian Smith’s white ruled Rhodesia, rose to the top in 1980, only to become a despised despot disastrous to his own people. Structural inequality was inherited by all colonials maintaining control by setting one tribe against another. No wonder post-colonial governments followed exemplary policies of rife plundering by new kleptocrats, thugs and cronies.

Tony Blair – hailed as great new hope, only to disillusion everyone by joining George W Bush in a disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 under pressure from Murdoch. Thought his spin would see him retain authority.

The Kim dynasty, officially called Mount Paektu Bloodline, is a three-generation lineage of North Korean leadership descending from the country’s first leader, Kim Il-sung. The present leader, Kim Jong-Un demands adulation of millions of goose-stepping, banner waving cheering crowds. The rest of the country starves.

Kevin Rudd was the great white knight who saved the kingdom from 11 years of the stultifying Howard years. Less than three years later, he succumbed to in fighting within his party due to his need to micro manage everything.

Justin Trudeau - Canada’s attempt to rid itself of Harper, was really a poster boy brought in by a desperate Liberal Party, way behind in the polling. Gained momentum with the “anyone but Harper” campaign. A puppet leader, held hostage by poor advisors and the corrupt establishment of the Laurentian elites.

Donald Trump surrounds himself with flattering minions. He doesn’t know enough about History to learn from it.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi There is evidence of state-led violence that has shaken her country and set off a huge refugee crisis. Suu Kyi faced a difficult task because she wielded limited control in a country that has been ruled by a military junta for decades. She was the de facto head of Myanmar’s civilian government until she became too popular and Myanmar’s military used the crises to undermine her reputation and deposed her.