Competence and charisma..and how does Newton fit in?

30 Apr

I’m down to one Coronavirus update per day. Well, post 5pm the news and comment is on a giddily spinning loop of repetition for the following 24hours anyway. So much to admire, plenty to sigh over and much to irritate. How will this devastating pandemic be remembered at home and abroad in years to come? Much will hinge on how, near and far, ‘success’ is measured. In whose hands will be the guidance for public perception and scrutiny? These hands are fashioned differently, across the world according to how differing regimes control or trust their subjects.

I have been reticent in spouting my views. I feel too close to it all for any sensible perspective. I’m in observation mode. That said, I note the recent social media spats between those who carp each day at some deficiency of leadership or strategy implementation and those who want the detractors to button it and led the substitute skipper Raab and his mate Hancock, get on with steering the tricky course unfettered by background noise. Now Boris is back in the driving seat I fear more division rather than less.

I have not been a fan of the media these past few weeks but I do accept that they – and Keir Starmer – have a job to ask pertinent questions which ensure accountability. However the style of many inquisitors is determinedly adversarial. Political correspondents, even breakfast show hosts, see interviews with leading politicians as contests. Win or lose. Did I embarrass or skewer my opponent or not? No wonder politicians have become so well-versed in evasion and bluster. Thank God they can hide behind ‘the science’. Only Nicola Sturgeon can see off the clever sniping of a Kuenssberg or Marr.

My spies tell me that, in Germany, the media are less adversarial. Indeed politicians are not, in general, seen as celebrities. Charisma doesn’t count for so much. German politicians are rather dull functionaries of the state who, by and large, are considered competent and, of course, accountable. They don’t don suits of armour before going into battle with salivating journalists. As a result they feel more confidant in answering questions directly, without evasion.

Isaac Newton’s third law of motion: to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As Piers Morgan goes on the attack; the twitterati shout foul. As we applaud NHS heroes some complain that the Blitz spirit detracts from the realities of underfunding and understaffing. While there is a clamour for Captain/Colonel Tom to be knighted, there is equal noise that the NHS shouldn’t need charity handouts. Matt Hancock is praised for his earnest, even Herculean efforts to ramp up testing and lead us out of the abyss of Covidity; equally there are many who suggest that we shouldn’t have been in such a mess to begin with. Why can fast food restaurants open and garden centres remain closed? Why X deaths here and Y deaths in Germany? And so the equal and opposite reactions go on.

In the cold light of a future day some of these arguments will be shown not to be equal. The lack of preparedness – equipment, staffing and a defined pandemic strategy – will probably be blamed on austerity; the squeezing of public services and the protection of investment banks. Closer to lockdown the slow reaction-time to the spreading danger. Air traffic, Cheltenham, Liverpool v Athletico Madrid. This points to a reactive government and leadership, not proactive. Of course this is easy criticism to make and a criticism which could be levied at many other nations. Our insularity and ‘we can go it alone’ attitude, post Brexit, may not have helped.

Boris, Raab, Hancock and the scientists and medics have much of the country behind them. They have stuck to their guns with vigour and sincerity. Indeed ‘following the science’ gives the politicians a get out of jail card as they lead the nation through lockdown. Whether that card remains ‘free’ in the months to come is far less certain. There will be a political price to pay. Keir Starmer and Nicola Sturgeon may be sharpening their knives to exact that price. Buried in committee and cabinet minutes may well be the early warning sirens of the current crisis, buried for, probably, financial expediency. I wonder if Jeremy Hunt has thoughts on this?

For all my Newtonian speculation I am, for now, happy to clap the NHS heroes on a Thursday, zoom to friends and family, cheer Captain Tom, congratulate Boris on his latest issue, praise Mr Hancock for his rearguard action and so on. I read the press coverage and analytical articles online rather than fume at repetitive questioning and endlessly repeated news coverage.

The iPad and internet has saved many from isolation and near-insanity. However I would love a beer in  my local and a curry in the village and a cuddle with my grandchildren. Real contact is all. The blame game is inevitable.

 

 

2 Responses to “Competence and charisma..and how does Newton fit in?”

  1. del59shan April 30, 2020 at 2:16 pm #

    Hear and very here!

  2. Dai May 3, 2020 at 3:08 pm #

    Think it’s a case of f..ked if you do and you are f..ked if you don’t. I sadly believe as a nation we are happy for someone else to do the thinking for us, be it ‘The Daily Fail or the Guardian.

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