Thursday, 21 July 2016
Some say Maggie may... yesterday the ghost of Maggie arose, in May. It could have been a one off, but I hope not; we’ve waited a long time for what we might just have seen. Whatever your feelings about the Thatcher years, there was never any doubt that she was very much in charge, until a coalition of the timid stabbed her in the back. And, notwithstanding the extremism of the Erdogans of this world, isn’t firm (but short of despotic) leadership something we have seriously needed for too many years?
Ted Heath was an oddball who is best remembered for having to heave his shoulders and perform that ridiculous laugh for the camera. Wilson could hardly wait to get the Beatles round for tea. Jim who? John Major appeared to revel in his ‘grey man’ persona; presumably many thought he was dead until the Remainers shoved him on stage to spread despair and despondency during the referendum. And then came Blair, a bigger courter of affection we have never seen. Love me, love me he cried to the strains of Cool Britannia as a succession of popular entertainers were photographed by his side.
Cameron declared himself ‘heir to Blair’, which tells you much but he did rise to the challenges of his office and carried off his duties with aplomb. After so many years it was good to see a leader who really relished leading, rather than following. I didn’t forget to mention Gordon Brown, by the way, I just thought it was best to draw a veil over that interlude. Anyway, now we have Ken Clarke’s ‘bloody difficult woman’ in charge and if yesterday was anything to go by, it’s going to be a thrilling ride.
Those of us old enough to have benefitted from the privilege of the grammar school, formerly the best state school system in the world, will remember our best teachers. They weren’t the ones who tried to befriend us, or the ones who repeatedly had to call in the staff bully to take back control. The best teachers were the ones who actually made us work for our learning. The subject specialists who brooked no dissent, ruled with an iron rod – and in some cases, the cane – but were relentlessly driven to pass on to us the secrets of the universe. They knew that they were shaping the leaders of the future.
If you think the caring, sharing, cuddly, touchy-feely, wishy-washy, every opinion counts society we have today is a good thing then you need a good birching more than most. We have lost respect for authority in parallel with authority losing respect for us and much of it comes down to the loss of those firm hands. This article in Spiked, by two teenaged Brexiteers says what people of my generation have been saying for decades, that the education system is at the spearhead of all that is wrong today.
Remind you of anybody?
We may yet be a generation or two away from the end of western civilisation – for islam will surely return us to the dark ages – but unless the British regrow the national spine we will have no chance of ever turning back the tide. Theresa May has her work cut out, but the evidence of the last week suggests she is more than ready for it. Call her a Cnut if you like, but at least she has the balls for the job.