David Garcia on Fri, 8 Nov 2019 12:03:37 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> The leader thing...

Charisma vs anti Charisma

Short Preamble

Some vigilant nettimers might have noticed that the dis-United Kigdom is in the early stages of a 
general election. And you may even have noticed that proceedings were kicked off with two bare faced lies. 
The first was in the opening lines of Johnson's initial salvo from outside the Number 10 bully pulpit, in which 
he declared that this was an election he did not want. Nonsense. He has been begging for this election for 
months. He actually sought Parliament’s approval for an election on three separate occasions before it was 
granted. Like Trump (and Corbyn for that matter) campaigning is when he is happiest. 

Second bare faced lie is his claim that the election was forced on him by a Parliament seeking to 
block his deal for exiting the EU. But his bill had been passed and granted a second reading 
by Parliament! The only thing Parliament blocked was the ridiculous three day time table that would 
have enabled Johnson to steam roller the most important bill in UK’s recent history through 
without proper scrutiny. Thus it was not the deal per se that was rejected but Johnson’s desire to 
avoid the scrutiny that might have revealed the leakiness of the vessel onto which we are being invited 
to set sail.     

The Beef

I recognise that the above is just a bit of local colore of little interest to the list. But the reason 
I am prepared to risk some disaproval is that there is an aspect of the contest that may be of wider interest; 
the question of leadership.

For me a fascinating aspect of this contest is the stark contrast between the two main leadership 
offers on the table..

Theresa May, was a painfully shy career bureaucrat who believed she could campaign in the same way
she governed as an exercise in detailed preparation and control. This worked for her as a minister and later 
as PM. But from the moment the 2017 campaign kicked off it was clear that this was an approach implodes at 
first contact with the rough and tumble of a modern election campaign where the acceleration of unpredictable 
events is the rule not the exception.  

In contrast the chaotic space that maximises opportunities for obfuscation and displacement is where Johnson 
is in his element. People are making great play of the early Tory gaffs and disasters are already creating 
extreme turbulence. 

But Johnson relishes turbulence like a kid on a roller coaster the bumpier the better. The main point is (and by 
this he stands or falls) Johnson just LOVES being Prime Minister. Many (like May and Gordon Brown) long for high 
office only to discover that they are not really front of house performers. Time and again ambition trumps self 
knowledge. But this is not the case with Johnson. During his short but troubled tenure stuffed with failures to 
numerous to list, the alpha narcisist looks supremely happy in the job. In the depths of his being he knows this is 
where he belongs and this self belief (Etonian entitlement some might call it) communicates itself to followers 
and (I fear) voters who often respond to someone who offers themselves for a job they look comfortable in. 
In the old sporting cliche “he/she didnt (or did) want it enough!”.

So on the surface this diagnosis should be terminal for Corbyn and Labour. Just as Johnson has spent a lifetime 
seeking the throne, Corbyn never (until very late in life) sought leadership. Indeed he must wake up every 
morning astonished (perhaps even horrified) to find himself occupying this position. He is someone in the 
midst of a personality cult who not only avoids but despises the tricks and tropes of personality based charismatic 
leadership. But what should give us heart is that this is precisely the fucking point. And it was powerfuly made 
in his under reported but well made opening address, in which he contrasted himself with his opponent and the 
conservatives on just these grounds. “I was inot born to rule” arguing that he is only “seeking power in order to 
share power” that “the good leader holds open the door that others might walk through in the future”. This places 
what the nature of leadership and by inference government at the very heart of this campaign. The question is
will we have the maturity to accept the challenge that is being offered for a very different “experimental” kind
of governance.

The many years of Corbyn’s political life along with the accidental nature of his original candidacy to lead the Labour 
party lend credance to these claims and mean we can dare to use the dangerous word authenticity in the case of 
both Corbyn and Johnson. What you see is likely to be what you will get. But with radically different destinations. 

David Garcia 08/11/2019

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@kein.org
#  @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject: