ONE of the tenets of officer training at Sandhurst (and for that matter West Point, St Cyr and pretty much every other similar establishment), is that moral courage is a fundamental requirement of leadership. At Sandhurst, being found to have lied will result in instant dismissal. Falsifying expenses leads inevitably to court martial and cashiering.
Of course, that is by no means the sole attribute required and during an officer’s career he or she will learn much about planning, analysis and communication. This means that, in the heat of battle, they should always have a viable plan in place, a process sometimes known as battlefield management. But the world’s best plan is useless if the commander lacks the guts to order its implementation. That does take guts, because of course the enemy may be equally skilled and the plan might not work. Either way people are going to kill and be killed. Failure could end in defeat. This is a tough call at every level from private soldier to general. Which is why the armed forces invest so heavily in selection and training.
Of course, politicians are seldom former professional soldiers, and ministers even less so. And the worth of a politician’s promise is, famously, worth substantially less that the absolute commitment given by soldiers. This has been exacerbated by the rise of the ‘professional’ politician, who now dominates both government and opposition. Asking for true leadership, based on integrity and example, is therefore about as likely to be fulfilled as asking them to run a four-minute mile. The bummer is that this country now needs leadership. As we are seeing, there is no one capable of delivering it although the Maybot is taking the pay. She has just five days to deliver. I’m no Cicero or Shakespeare, but please allow me to suggest what she should say:
‘On 23rd June 2016, at Parliament’s behest, the United Kingdom gave us a clear instruction: leave the European Union. After some delay, we duly applied to leave. In the subsequent general election that I called, 80 per cent of the Honourable Members on these benches were elected on the basis of manifesto commitments to honour the population’s instruction. After two years of negotiation, debate and – perhaps too often – disagreement and political intrigue, that moment is now upon us.
‘The deal that I negotiated has twice been rejected by this House and I will not bring it again. At the time of the referendum the clear understanding was that triggering Article 50 gave two years to negotiate the exit terms. For whatever reason, the terms that we agreed have been found unacceptable. We now have the choice between leaving on schedule and adopting WTO terms or, somehow, seeking a better deal.
‘To expand upon these two options, there is no evidence that it is possible to obtain a “better deal” than the one rejected. Even if it were, it is unlikely to be achievable in the time available. A long delay is simply not acceptable within the context of the clear and unambiguous instruction (not request) that we were given and subsequently had confirmed at the election. For the electorate, this is an issue of trust.
‘It is also the case that an exit on WTO terms in no way precludes securing better terms at a future date, and that might not be far off. But we do not need those terms now.
‘The electorate trust us to govern the country and, if in opposition, hold the executive to account. They do this is spite of the recent expenses scandal, which still rankles with those who pay for everything that we do through their taxes. They voted in record numbers in the referendum, trusting us to deliver on the outcome whichever way it fell. They trust us to put the national interest ahead of party or personal ambition. That trust is a huge honour which we all would be well advised to remember, humbly.
‘Trust is a two-way street. We should trust that the electorate voted sensibly in the referendum with the same fervour that we all believed our own constituents voted wisely when they sent each and every one of us here.
‘We should remember that it is our constituents who create all the wealth which we tax. We should note that, in spite of dire predictions produced by the government at the time and since, the UK economy is growing, employment is as close to full as makes no difference and that tax revenues (and therefore profits) continue to grow. We should marvel that this is the case in circumstances, created largely in this House, that make investment – that key driver of growth – difficult.
‘We should recall that this wonderful country produces more patents per head of population than any other, that we have three of the world’s top ten universities in the UK. We are the world’s financial centre; the City of London leads the world in equity, debt, commodities and insurance. One third of the world’s airliners fly with engines designed and manufactured here in the UK. It is not us, the Honourable Members in this House, who achieve this. It is the electorate.
‘Some have advanced the idea that the electorate did not know what they were doing when they voted to leave. There is, and never has been, any evidence of that. Given the electorate’s astonishing ability to succeed as I have outlined, it is ridiculous and presumptuous to pretend that they do not know what they voted for.
‘I had hoped to deliver an acceptable deal. That has not happened, for which I take full responsibility. That is a matter for another day, perhaps quite soon.
‘As we have seen, the electorate’s endeavours have spectacularly staved off the forecast disasters arising from their decision. The electorate built this country, and continue to do so. The electorate chose to leave the EU and the electorate trusted us to deliver. We should trust them to know what they want and trust them to triumph.
‘I am now proposing to leave the EU on WTO terms because the electorate trusted me and I trust them. I hope that you will feel the same. We can no longer squander that trust.’
Sadly I doubt that the Maybot has the balls, integrity, courage or trust in us to make such a speech. That such an aberration of a leader is our Prime Minister is a disgrace.