Written By: Amos Murphy
A party leader resigning after a general election has become the conventional norm; anything but a Blair style, 100+ seat majority and those at the helm for the smaller parties are having their heads called for – voting is now well and truly a rational exercise, as is the leadership within a political party.
Since the 2015 general election, there have been six resignations of party leaders from the ‘big hitters’ in British politics: Clegg, Milliband, Farage (more than once), Cameron, Nuttall and most recently Farron. Whilst situations and the context differs completely from leader to leader particularly for the larger parties, the amount of time one has to exert their influence, and achieve significant change in the name of their party is extremely slim – there is an increasing blame culture being adopted within British politics, with those at the top having the finger pointed at the most.
This conveyor belt style of replacing party leaders draws stark comparisons to the treatment of modern day managers at football clubs; the world is expected of those with very little resources in a very little time, examples being Farron and Nuttall, and when they inevitably don’t deliver, instead of strategically and tactically coming up with a separate solution, building on the foundations they’ve began to make and adopting a different approach, the first port of call is to give them the sack.
Political credentials are all but obsolete in an age of 24/7 rolling news and ‘memes’ scrutinising every detail of a leaders’ charisma, social life and persona; the digital revolution has had an unprecedented affect on longevity and loyalty within politics, whether that’s a failed attempt at eating a harmless sandwich, or a pathetic out of time go at the Mexican wave, the keyboard warriors will annihilate anybody making a gaffe of anything – there’s no margin for error anymore for politicians as they must act as party delegates and showbiz celebrities- be careful though, they’ll soon start claiming expenses for that.
But, where is the fine line drawn between success and failure for a party leader? Tim Farron managed to make dents into the damaging stigma left behind by the legacy of Cameron and Clegg’s coalition, whilst Clegg was mercilessly exploited and evidently came out worse, in two years of leadership to make gains from such a destructive previous election, showed great grit and determination and presented a small but modest victory for Farron – yet five days later the momentum gained by a rather popular and likeable leader has been lost.
Whilst stagnation must be avoided to make any credible gains, and leadership change still brings the right benefits in most situations, the again, football esque feeling of ‘mutual consent’ when a party parts with its leader, suggests that no matter how many ‘personal reasons’ for leaving are embedded into a resignation speech, there is always an overriding sense that there has been pressure on one to resign, before they’re ultimately sacked – leaving the real question to be, how can anybody expect change to be brought about if every time they get into third gear, somebody else slams on the handbrake and rips the key out of the ignition?
In this completely unpredictable political climate which has descended onto us, it would be credible to suggest the continuing evolvement of a multi-party system in the UK would create power vacuums for those smaller parties looking to assert an influence through a crack left open by the ‘big two’; yet the return to an adversarial two party politics system in the 2017 election, with 83% of the electorate favouring either Labour or the Conservatives, will make many assume that the age where the likes of UKIP had realistic chances of asserting themselves, becoming a permanent fixture within British politics, is burning out into hopeless embers.
With the gap widening again between the major two parties and those beneath looking for a way into the elitist world, and ‘career politicians’ as rife as ever, those looking for the opportunities to stick “leader of ” onto their CVs in an attempt to check as many boxes off on their political bucket list as possible, will only become more and more prominent as time passes; politics is no longer about genuine credibility, or chances to bring about change for the demos – the soundbites, career opportunities and constant publicity is a much bigger lure, whilst at the same time selling your soul to be controlled like a puppet by those above.