Give me a leader who can switch off
Today is Bank Holiday Monday. I hope no Great People are working. William Waldegrave argues that Great People must take proper holidays. From The Times:
At Dorney Wood, the official house now occupied by George Osborne, there is a bagatelle board. When I was 17 and Alec Douglas-Home lived there as Foreign Secretary, I spent hours and hours trying to achieve a score high enough to allow me to write my name in the ancient book of record that went with the board. When I had finally wasted enough time and won a score high enough to allow me my page, I found that a titanic name from the past had gone before me. Winston Churchill had done the same thing, presumably spending similar hours winning the same right to be recorded in the bagatelle book of fame. When had he found the leisure to do this? June 1940.
Alongside all his other genius, Churchill had the genius for switching off. Painting, wall building, bagatelle. That is the sort of man you want to be led by. Harold Macmillan was famously found with his feet up reading Trollope during some crisis. Drake finished his game of bowls. Alexander the Great took Aristotle with him for light entertainment when he set off to conquer the world, and took time on the way to solve the Gordian knot and visit Diogenes in his barrel.
Imagine the frustration of the Macedonian staff: "The bloody man is arguing about the nature of happiness with that damned philosopher again . . ." All the evidence is that the very great have curiosity, other interests, hinterland, culture - call it what you will - and though they may single-handedly rally the free world against Nazism or lead an army on foot from Greece to Afghanistan and back to Babylon, their minds have more than one track.
That means that they know how to take real holidays. Busybodies who regard holidays as a matter of merely working somewhere else are not the people you want in charge: Sidney and Beatrice Webb chose to waste not a minute on their honeymoon and so were accompanied by suitcases full of Blue Books on social policy. It is no surprise that no aspect of our lives would have been left unregulated in the world they wanted to create.
I'm all for leaders backing off and butting out - it's generally the best thing Government can do. And certainly, politicians should take a break from politics. What do they know of politics, who only politics know? But such a break should not be purely recreational. One leader in particular, if David Cameron can be called a leader, should take time off from his PR trips to Turkey and India to study Islam. Churchill studied Islam and understood it. Cameron could never be a Churchill, but he could at least try to learn from him. He could learn from this site, as could Tony Blair, whose donation would be felt in our coffers more than missed in his.
Posted on 08/30/2010 8:43 AM by Mary Jackson