Cynics who say power is all that counts in politics forget that power without ideas is just improvisation. It is ideas that enable leaders to impose a direction on events. Margaret Thatcher’s death last year reminds us what it felt like to be led by a conviction politician. Some hated the UK prime minister’s direction, but no one doubted there was one. No one doubted that her success helped produce a conviction politician on the progressive side: Tony Blair.
In the past 15 years, few politicians have imposed their will on our times. We can blame the current crop of leaders for that, but the deeper cause seems to lie in the waning power of ideas. Politics is more polarised than ever, but behind the party stockades, diminishing bands of believers repeat partisan incantations that no longer describe the world, let alone change it. Read more