Transformers: The Latest Knight
There are very few British prime ministers who can be described as truly transformative. How do you even measure something as complex as this? Maybe it can be measured by how long a prime minister holds the office for – surely they’ll get more of their policies implemented and therefore transform the political landscape as a result. I’d disagree with this. Clement Attlee, the Labour Prime Minister between 1945 – 51, was only in office for 6 years, yet in that time he managed to create the welfare state, the NHS and bring much needed stability to a war-torn Britain.
Maybe it can be measured by how much political consensus they can achieve whilst serving. No, you see, I’d disagree with this also. Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative prime minister from 1979 – 1990, was well known for holding uncompromising views, referring to more centrist Tories as ‘wet’ and eventually being kicked out like a dog in the night by her own honourable and right honourable friends. It goes without saying though, that Thatcher was a transformative leader.
The one thing that both of these figures have in common, however, is the fact that they managed to shift the center-ground. After Attlee’s few years in power, Churchill took on much of his policy; gone was the imperialist war-time Churchill and in his place was a leader willing to continue funding the NHS and building council houses. After Thatcher we eventually ended up with Blair, who’s New Labour was described by the Baroness as being her ‘greatest achievement’. In each case the transformative leader managed to get the opposition to take on their ideas once in government.
I don’t think we’ve had a transformative leader since. The closest we got was with Tony, but his continuation of the neo-liberal economic policies of the previous Conservative administration and his sickly cosying up to George W Bush, which reeked of the Thatcher-Reagan special relationship, can hardly be described as shifting that all important centre ground now can it? I don’t think Cameron came close, in his defense he was propped up by Clegg for the vast majority of his premiership. Then that brings us to May.
May has a lot of scope for changing where the centre ground lies. Brexit has dealt her a great opportunity, because she can make it her own. If she makes a success of it then the May Brexit would create a seismic transformation of the very function of the nation. The old bi-partisan views on the need for us to be part of the European Union would be broken off (much like a small island floating on the shores of a continent). The fact of the matter is, however, that she won’t succeed – she’s proven time and time again that this lady is very much for turning.
How can she possibly be a transformative Prime Minister, if at every turn she – well, turns? This, added to the fact that she spectacularly u-turned on Cameron’s hard fought overall majority, means that there is simply no chance of May moving the political consensus in her favour. She is not and will not ever be transformative. This begs the question, who will our next transformative leader be?
The short answer to this question is that we all already know him – he’s the chap with the beard and the allotment that stands opposite Theresa every week in the palace of varieties. Jeremy Corbyn. Let’s just think about it for a moment. His own parliamentary party doubted him, yet he gained the biggest share of the vote for Labour since Clem in 1945. He’s already transforming things – and that’s in opposition.
Do you think the Tories would have started contemplating a much softer Brexit if it wasn’t for Corbyn moving the centre ground? Do you think Philip Hammond would use his Mansion House speech to call for an end to austerity, if JC hadn’t had such widespread support for his manifesto? Do you think Boris Johnson would be talking about raising the measly 1% pay rise each year for public sector workers, if Corbyn hadn’t tabled a motion for it last week? Do you think that the Queen’s speech would have such a gaping chasm where Trump’s state visit should have been, without Jezza’s opposition to it?
The long and short of it, is that Jeremy Corbyn will be our next transformative leader. Like Clement Attlee he will reignite the sense of compassion each of us have in our society and like Thatcher he will be uncompromising and principled in the implementation of his views. He’s already changed his own party, and has begun to change the Conservative party. His legacy will transform the consensus in British politics and fundamentally change our society. It's highly unlikely, but I just hope that the current government will show the strength to call a general election so we can once again have the stability of a transformative Prime minister.
Who knows, maybe Bojo will be known as Corbyn’s greatest achievement.