What is it about the loss of power that seems to improve politicians? It’s a phenomenon that I’ve been noticing more and more as I get older and witness more scum-bags turfed out of office. There seems to be something about the process that makes them more thoughtful.
For example, lets take Michael Portillo. When in power he was a loyal Thatcherite, with little to find appealing. However, once he left parliament, his policies took a notable shift towards social liberty. Suddenly Portillo had become a sensible centrist politician, totally at odds with his party, yet diagnosing the exact medicine they would need to make themselves acceptable to the public once more.
John Major, another politician I had little time for, has also been popping up telling his party the difficult truth it needs to hear. He was one of the first to recommend a pact with the lib dems (something most of the party found horrifying) and now believes that this coalition should last more than one term.
And there are more: Michael Heseltine, Ken Clarke, William Hague, and already even some from Labour are starting to talk sense (such as Bob Ainsworth).
Yet it doesn’t seem to be just the absence of power that causes such sense, because Ken Clarke now holds the position of Justice Secretary and is as moderate as ever. It seems to be the process of the public rejecting you the first time, that forces a politician to reflect.. or perhaps it gives them a “who gives a damn” attitude that allows them to finally speak their mind, rather than pander to their grass-root supporters?
Whatever the effect, it can be seen the most clearly in Robert “Bobby” Kennedy. When in power as Attorney General to his brother, Bobby was decidedly average, in fact it could be argued he was detrimental, joining the cocky gun-ho clique that led to such missteps as the Bay Of Pigs.
However once he left office in the aftermath of his brother’s death, Bobby embarked on a process of rejuvenation, a bonding with the liberal left that saw him condemn the Vietnam war.
Bobby Kennedy could have been the greatest president the USA had ever seen, had he not been assassinated, but he never would have had that seismic shift in policy and thinking, had it not been for being suddenly removed from office.
Anything to learn from this? Perhaps we should give politicians second chances more often? We may like what we get.
Of course, it’s not applicable every time. Some politicians such as Caroline Flint could never be made appealing… those cold soulless middle-manager eyes… uuuughh!