One of the sad realities of politics, and British politics in particular, is that our so-called leaders have virtually no leadership experience whatsoever. Despite that, we expect them to lead us through thick and thin, take the right decisions, have sound judgement, to know when to step in when things are going pear-shaped and sort things out. So when things do go wrong we shouldn’t be surprised when they mess up. If we put chumps in charge we must expect a chump’s response. That’s exactly what we got over the Libyan evacuation. A Lance Corporal in The Rifles would have reacted in a more decisive and prompt manner than our Foreign Secretary – and our Prime Minister, who should have intervened and sorted the matter out, but didn’t.
Clearly David Cameron is having to learn leadership on the hoof. There’s not much any of us can do about that, but what is alarming is that he appears either to have nobody close to him who is experienced enough to give him the right advice or he has, but is too pig-headed to take their advice.
Cameron’s decision to employ Andy Coulson was a bad call. The fact that he didn’t sack him as soon as it became clear that Coulson’s involvement in the phone hacking scandal might not be quite as he had admitted, was a serious error of judgement. To take an arms manufacturers on his Middle East tour in the current circumstances was not only insensitive, but crass stupidity – and again an error of judgement. The farce over the Libyan evacuation I think demonstrates that we have a Prime Minister who is floundering. He either can’t make decisions or doesn’t know what decisions to take.
In the light of Mr Cameron’s performance, I think we have good reason to be concerned. If he can’t crack the easy things, what hope has he got of getting the big decisions right? Today he said that there were lessons that had to be learnt. I hope he has the humility to understand that he is the one who has most to learn. There is one leadership maxim he would do well to remember – ‘you are only as good as those that support you’. A good leader surrounds himself with the best, an inspired leader surrounds himself with those that are better than himself. Egocentric politicians may find this difficult to accept, Mr Cameron needs to prove that he is the exception.