Mark Fox: Who is going to give us the leadership we deserve?
For some time now, it has been apparent Britain is going through a profound crisis of confidence in its institutions, its leaders, and in its place in the world. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around in public life at the moment who has the vision or wisdom to offer us a way through, or is there ...?
In recent times, there has been a growing sense that the country is adrift. That Britain, a once strong and confident nation is losing its way, its people increasing bewildered and disaffected by the political and social leadership on offer. That corruption, lack of integrity and general shiftiness is the hallmark of those who occupy leadership positions in any area of business or public life. The Queen alone seems to float above her people, immune from the growing sense of disillusionment. But how has this come about and why does no-one seem to have any idea on how to rebuild the nation and its morale?
The lack of political understanding of modern Britain and its challenges is particularly odd since our leaders fanatically consult focus groups and commission polls in the same way as their predecessors peered into crystal balls or gazed at tea leaves, with apparently the same effect on their understanding of what is going on.
MPs remain in group denial about the level of hostility and contempt in which they are held. It’s not just the expenses scandal but the repeated failure to take responsibility for implementation and policy failures. At some point they need to grasp the fact that if they are to command the respect and the support they crave they have to behave in a way that earns it.
The media is often blamed by other institutions for causing and exacerbating trouble and worry. As soon as you hear someone say it’s the fault of the media you know they themselves have failed. The media is but a mirror of what is going on around it. There are now too many sources of news and information for anyone outlet to seriously affect what we think but that doesn’t absolve the media from the need to hold to a higher standard of integrity. Too many journalists cling to the belief that the importance of the work they do in the end excuses the appalling practices that some indulged in. Not one newspaper has apologised for the wrongdoings of the industry.
Bankers are the current lightening rod for displeasure with business. Not so long ago it was private equity, BP, the petrol companies, and the privatised utilities. Bashing big business, outrageous pay packets, the returns to shareholders is all great fun. It has become perfectly acceptable. In turn business leaders flail about, cite they are operating in an internationally competitive market and convey no sense that they are living on the same planet, let alone the same community as their customers and shareholders.
The way the BBC handled the Jimmy Saville issue and, now, the way it is emerging that the NHS treats its patients show us clearly that no institution can be relied upon. But perhaps even more sadly the corruption of purpose and practice extends into our churches and voluntary groups. In both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England the horror of child abuse has arisen. Neither institution has conveyed convincingly the sense that they have dealt with the issue with focussed determination. How many Bishops have been sacked or censured in either church in Britain for mismanaging the issue? Not one.
In an entirely different way, many of our leading charities have lost the sense of their own purpose. Many who deliver welfare or social services have become entirely dependent on state funding. They are no longer separate or additional providers of services, instead they have become simply one of a number of ways the state has of delivering its services. This financial dependence has corrupted many charities sense of independence and purpose.
It is a bleak picture. Compounded by a time of economic depression and weakening military capacity. Good examples of our sense of national bewilderment manifests itself in the way we talk about immigrants, our fear of building our relationship with the 26 countries that are our immediate neighbours, or saying gay marriage is a thing we want to introduce because it helps our political party change its image rather than just because we feel it is a good thing to do.
But we are a creative, dynamic and energetic people. We are outward looking, tolerant and inclusive. We know things are not right because most Britains still have that sense of decency, integrity and honesty that seems to be eluding our leaders.We deserve better than this. The question is: who is going to provide the necessary leadership?