Thursday, 20 August 2009
"All Political Careers End in Failure"
This sad reflection on the reality of life in politics is credited to Enoch Powell. He was a great student of history (his book "Great Parliamentary Occasions" was written in 1960, the year of my birth, and is one of the first and most treasured books I own), and a superb speaker - though some of his political views were pretty obnoxious.
How many have successfully defied this rule? Winston Churchill & Margaret Thatcher were not ready to move out of Number 10. DeGaulle resigned, shocked that the French were ungrateful and had voted against his wishes in a referendum. Tony Blair didn't leave in a blaze of glory. Many MPs & members of Congress failed to retire in time - being kicked out. As Harry Truman said (and isn't he the classic example of this truth) - "A statesman is a politician who's been dead for fifteen years".
Colin Brown in his history of Whitehall quotes the comments of George Cavendish, Gentleman-Usher to Cardinal Wolsey, who reflects on public opinion and its ultimate results for politicians -
"The common people always desire alterations and novelties of things, simply for the strangeness of the case; which afterwards gives them small profit and commodity...for the inclination and natural disposition of Englishmen is, and has always been, to desire alteration of officers who have been thoroughly fed with sufficient riches and possessions by long holding of their offices. And they being put out, then comes another hungry and lean officer in his place, that bites nearer the bone than the old. So people be ever pillaged and despoiled by hungry dogs, through their own desire for change and new officers"