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March 04, 2006


Backword Dave

Harold Wilson famously silenced a man who demanded why he supported "savages" in Rhodesia.
"My friend, we don't support savages, we just allow them to come to our meetings," Wilson replied, to great applause.



I'm not sure about this, but it strikes me that part of this is that Wilson was an enormously brilliant man on his own terms, as were Heath, MacMillan, Churchill and Atlee, and most of their predecessors. Eden wasn't, and failed conspicuously.

The point is that for most of the 20th century, the country expected their leaders to be the best and the brightest and punished those who weren't, and their leaders by and large returned the complement (at least in theory) in how they engaged with the electorate. Beginning in the 1970s, it became fashionable to regard high intelligence as slightly disreputable. Callaghan, Thatcher, Major and Blair have shared the characteristics of being singularly unimaginative, uncreative and non-empathetic, but they have got away with it by not intimidating their base (partial exception for Thatcher, but she played a comfortably predicatable role which which the lower middle class could identify).

If your political identity is bound up with being better than no one (and no one is better than you...) you only have administrative measures left to keep hoi polloi at arms length. It probably also predisposes you to managerialism, as you haven't got the mental apparatus for anything better.

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