current affairs

Thatcher’s strong leadership style in trouble

The death of Margaret Thatcher, perhaps one of the most divisive and controversial figures in British history, on April 8th has sparked intense debate over the success of her administration and the

The death of Margaret Thatcher, perhaps one of the most divisive and controversial figures in British history, on April 8th has sparked intense debate over the success of her administration and the success of her style of politics.

Dominating the headlines, politicians, scholars and the general public are divided over whether the nation should celebrate Thatcher’s determination and force in pushing through undoubtedly unpopular policies at a time of economic instability, or whether we should learn the important lesson that such a style of politics is unsuccessful due to its highly divisive nature.

Whether Thatcher was popular or not or whether you agree or disagree with the policies that she implemented during her time in office is entirely up to you. One important thing to take away from recent headlines, however, is the move away from the Thatcher style of politics that we have taken in British politics and whether this move is a positive or negative thing.

Overall, one could argue British politics today has been reduced to theatrics and digestible sound bites that sound good but have very little political use.  In September 2012, David Cameron became the first British Prime Minister to appear on a chat show in the United States. Chatting and joking with David Letterman, Cameron spoke of British ambitions and the crisis in Syria.

So far not ground-breaking news, but following the infamous publicity stunts of Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in the weeks of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the current culture of paying more attention to Theresa May’s leopard print shoes or Samantha Cameron’s new dress, this publicity move from Cameron marks a radically different approach to politics than was seen in the Thatcher era and has been branded by some political commentators as “politics for the hipster generation.”

Some of you may say that this should be regarded as progress and that David Cameron is merely recognizing a shift in the priorities of the general public. But do we want a Prime Minister that appeals to the whims and fancies of a hipster generation, famed for their fickleness and superficial understanding of domestic and world politics, or do we want a Prime Minister willing to implement unpopular yet necessary policies?

The era of ‘New Labour’ can be seen as the turning point in British politics when politics became less about introducing policies that were necessary and more about introducing policies that boosted the popularity of the party. Whilst previous Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Mayor had maintained a sense of tradition within politics, even if the policies themselves often caused controversy, Tony Blair and the Labour party courted aspects of pop culture (“Cool Britannia”) being photographed with popular TV actresses and musicians. 

Fast forward to 2012 and Boris Johnson is being heralded as the next Conservative Prime Minister after becoming stuck in a zip wire and then being filmed dancing to the Spice Girls at the Olympic Closing Ceremony.

For what reason? Because he makes people laugh, but should he be judged as a politician purely by these antics? Judging by last month’s disastrous interview with Eddie Mair, probably not.

Whilst political interest in Britain is declining and the turnout for general elections has been at its lowest for the past three political elections, interest in fashion and culture is increasing. As a result, British politics seems to be increasingly dumbed down not only to what its leading players are wearing, who they can be seen with and what catchy slogans one can couch a policy within but also in terms of the introduction of actual policy.

However much one might criticise Thatcher, what we need to take into account is her unswerving determination to push through policies she thought would benefit the country. In both domestic and international politics, Britain needs someone who will enact policies that serve Britain’s interest. Politicians swayed by the media and the desire to be regarded as ‘cool’ or ‘popular’ are not what this country needs.

So whilst the hipsters of Brixton might burn their poster of Baroness Thatcher for introducing unpopular policies, what we need to start realizing is that the politicians today are doing us no favours. Let’s face it, in today’s current climate we need politicians who know what they are talking about and are unafraid to take on the hipster generation or opinion polls.

What do you think about leadership styles in politics today? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.