After Brexit, boring politicians like Theresa May are exactly what we need

Sod Tony Blair-style charisma and the cult of the passionate leader. Look where that got us...

Janet Street-Porter
Friday 08 July 2016 16:50 BST
Theresa May is criticised for being dull – but that's exactly what Britain in turmoil needs
Theresa May is criticised for being dull – but that's exactly what Britain in turmoil needs (Getty)

Nobody ever wants to be considered boring, do they? The Pet Shop Boys wrote a poignant song, Being Boring, on the subject:

When you're young you find inspiration
In anyone who's ever gone

And opened up a closing door...we were never being boring

But given the tumultuous events of recent weeks, being boring might be exactly what Britain needs by the bucket-load – boring people steering the ship, making calm decisions that will impact on our future in a positive way. People who are at home with complex issues, who can ignore petty rivalries, and who are more interested in team-building than enhancing their own reputation or power base.

Sod Tony Blair-style charisma and the cult of the passionate leader. Look where that got us: into a war most of the population profoundly disagreed with. Blair saw himself as a Man on a Mission, driven by deep religious beliefs and a huge ego, leading from the front. A leader who held “sofa” meetings with a pliant coterie at which no minutes were kept, a group of disciples who failed to challenge him sufficiently and who neglected to ask some difficult questions. Where was the attention to detail, a forensic dissection of the evidence?

Boris on May

Being boring in politics brings to mind characters such as John Major, who is anything but boring in the flesh, mercilessly cut down to size by a grey Spitting Image puppet with a strangulated voice. Or Iain Duncan Smith, mocked for being “nice” and ejected from the job of Conservative leader after just two years.

Now, with women in the ascendancy against all the odds, the “boring” tag is being trotted out again as a way of subtly reducing reputations. Theresa May has been labelled “difficult” by Ken Clarke – a badge of honour, as calling any woman “difficult” means she sticks to her agenda and knows what she wants.

May is also trashed as safe and cautious by some Tory MPs, in spite of being the longest-serving Home Secretary in more than a century. These same people praise Michael Gove’s intellect (you couldn’t praise his people skills).

May has displayed non-showy resilience, calmly standing up to the bullies in the police force when she demanded huge budget cuts. She got on with her job, coping with the boys club in Whitehall, old Etonians in power, and a network of secretive Masons at the top of the police force.

The other Tory leadership contender, Andrea Leadsom, has also been mocked, for enhancing her CV (show me a bloke in business who hasn’t done that) and criticised for her lack of government experience.

I first met David Cameron when he was a PR man working for Michael P Green, the media baron, then planning a bid for Channel Five. Cameron could not have been more unctuous and oily, fawning over his unpleasant and confrontational boss. I would never had given him odds of 100-1 as a future leader.

Both May and Leadsom have been criticised for not heartily endorsing Gay marriage. Get over it, I want to scream. Not everyone in the UK thinks that Gay marriage is a fantastic idea, and that’s just something we (as the Gay-friendly majority) have to live with and accept. It’s called being tolerant, not trendy. May is a vicar’s daughter and Leadsom a member of the Commons Bible study group. It doesn’t mean they want Gay people castrated, it just means they are just a bit middle of the road.

Meanwhile, MPs have just complained about the appointment of Amanda Spielman to replace Sir Michael Wilshaw as Chief Inspector of Schools. Spielman is a trained accountant who help set up school academies and who has chaired the exams regulator Ofqual since 2011. Needless to say, Nicky Morgan has overruled the Commons Education Committee’s bleatings that Spielman “lacks passion”. In other words, she’s boring.

According to the Education Secretary, “Amanda is calm, measured, analytical and evidence-based…who will be unafraid to do the right thing.” Ofsted is not a TV reality show, or a new production at the National Theatre. It will require tact, diplomacy and a cool head.

Unfortunately, minds have been rotted by too many episodes of Love Island and Gogglebox. We don’t need “personality” in government. The Nigel Farage school of leadership is last year’s model.

It’s time for boring. There’s too much at stake and the road ahead is full of potholes.

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