"Generally speaking a man should not publicly take part in politics before he has reached the age of thirty, though, of course, exceptions must be made in the case of those who are naturally gifted with extraordinary political abilities. That at least is my opinion to-day. And the reason for it is that until he reaches his thirtieth year or thereabouts a man’s mental development will mostly consist in acquiring and sifting such knowledge as is necessary for the groundwork of a general platform from which he can examine the different political problems that arise from day to day and be able to adopt a definite attitude towards each. A man must first acquire a fund of general ideas and fit them together so as to form an organic structure of personal thought or outlook on life – a Weltanschhauung. Then he will have that mental equipment without which he cannot form his own judgments on particular questions of the day, and he will have acquired those qualities that are necessary for consistency and steadfastness in the formation of political opinions. Such a man is now qualified, at least subjectively, to take his part in the political conduct of public affairs.
If these pre-requisite conditions are not fulfilled, and if a man should enter political life without this equipment, he will run a twofold risk. In the first place, he may find during the course of events that the stand which he originally took in regard to some essential question was wrong. He will now have to abandon his former position or else stick to it against his better knowledge and riper wisdom and after his reason and convictions have already proved it untenable. If he adopt the former line of action he will find himself in a difficult personal situation; because in giving up a position hitherto maintained he will appear inconsistent and will have no right to expect his followers to remain as loyal to his leadership as they were before. And, as regards the followers themselves, they may easily look upon their leader’s change of policy as showing a lack of judgment inherent in his character. Moreover, the change must cause in them a certain feeling of discomfiture vis-à-vis those whom the leader formerly opposed.
If he adopts the second alternative – which so very frequently happens to-day – then public pronouncements of the leader have no longer his personal persuasion to support them. And the more that is the case the defence of his cause will be all the more hollow and superficial. He now descends to the adoption of vulgar means in his defence. While he himself no longer dreams seriously of standing by his political protestations to the last – for no man will die in defence of something in which he does not believe – he makes increasing demands on his followers. Indeed, the greater be the measure of his own insincerity, the more unfortunate and inconsiderate become his claims on his party adherents. Finally, he throws aside the last vestiges of true leadership and begins to play politics. This means that he becomes one of those whose only consistency is their inconsistency, associated with overbearing insolence and oftentimes an artful mendacity developed to a shamelessly high degree.
Should such a person, to the misfortune of all decent people, succeed in becoming a parliamentary deputy it will be clear from the outset that for him the essence of political activity consists in a heroic struggle to keep permanent hold on this milk-bottle as a source of livelihood for himself and his family. The more his wife and children are dependent on him, the more stubbornly will he fight to maintain for himself the representation of his parliamentary constituency. For that reason any other person who gives evidence of political capacity is his personal enemy. In every new movement he will apprehend the possible beginning of his own downfall. And everyone who is a better man than himself will appear to him in the light of a menace.
I shall subsequently deal more fully with the problem to which this kind of parliamentary vermin give rise.
When a man has reached his thirtieth year he has still a great deal to learn. That is obvious. But henceforward what he learns will principally be an amplification of his basic ideas; it will be fitted in with them organically so as to fill up the framework of the fundamental Weltanschhauung which he already possesses. What he learns anew will not imply the abandonment of principles already held, but rather a deeper knowledge of those principles. And thus his colleagues will never have the discomforting feeling that they have been hitherto falsely led by him. On the contrary, their confidence is increased when they perceive that their leader’s qualities are steadily developing along the lines of an organic growth which results from the constant assimilation of new ideas; so that the followers look upon this process as signifying an enrichment of the doctrines in which they themselves believe, in their eyes every such development is a new witness to the correctness of that whole body of opinion which has hitherto been held.
A leader who has to abandon the platform founded on his general principles, because he recognizes the foundation as false, can act with honour only when he declares his readiness to accept the final consequences of his erroneous views. In such a case he ought to refrain from taking public part in any further political activity. Having once gone astray on essential things he may possibly go astray a second time. But, anyhow, he has no right whatsoever to expect or demand that his fellow citizens should continue to give him their support.
How little such a line of conduct commends itself to our public leaders nowadays is proved by the general corruption prevalent among the cabal which at the present moment feels itself called to political leadership. In the whole cabal there is scarcely one who is properly equipped for this task."
TWO POLITICAL TALENTS THAT HAVE GONE TO WASTE BECAUSE OF THE MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM
3. not having a "party school" for nurturing of the next generation of political talent as they do in China
It is all such a terribly sad waste, especially when those in government are of such poor calibre.
|Peter Mandelson - the man who might have been Prime Minister if only he had joined the right party|
|Hitler, whose one-party state would have avoided the wasting of political talent, so that all the available political talent in the land would at least be in the same party, whatever one's political views.|