Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cameron - it's the Judgment thing.

What Labour should do is use Coulson as the symbol of a deeper malaise, but not over concentrate on the Coulson story itself. The fact that Brooks was cleared reduces the danger for Cameron. It raises an element of doubt about the whole prosecution which apologists for Coulson/Brooks can exploit - News International has this in hand. 

Cameron is loyal to his friends. This is a good Upper Middle Class virtue, sometimes, but it also leads to cronyism. That IS a charge that can be levelled at the Prime Minister. He has made a string of dismal appointments in and out of Government and in many cases loyalty made him stick by failing Ministers. Cameron has always struck me as a decent man (albeit one with a nasty streak) but lacking in any wider experience in the real world outside his personal comfort zone. His closest advisors are mostly from the privileged Public School and Oxbridge educated elite from which he himself comes. Then occasionally he decides he needs a bit of "rough" - hence Coulson and Hilton and Crosby. He is a hopeless judge of character except by the standards of his own class. And those standards include believing a person if they tell you something. Coulson lied. Cameron believed him. It is the judgment thing.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Time for the Conservatives finally to put Margaret Thatcher behind them

The absence of giants in our current politics meant that some venerate Margaret Thatcher in a sort of misty memory of "greatness". This tendency has, of course, been given a turbo boost by her still recent death  and by Charles Moore's very good first volume of biography. The short version for those who didn't particularly like her but "admire" her is that desperate times demanded desperate measures. The problem with this is that in fact the times weren't desparate at all. 

James Calaghan's government in 1978 was actually pretty competent. Callaghan was a well-liked and able PM who regularly wiped the floor with Thatcher in the Commons and elsewhere. Denis Healey was a fine Chancellor, and most of the other Ministers were capable. Tony Benn, for example, was an excellent Secretary of State for Energy in those difficult Energy times. The Achilles heel was Union power and the failure of "In Place of Strife"  still clouded Labour's credibility as a potentially reforming force in this area. But with the "young Turks" - Owen, Williams, Rogers and with the brilliant Healey a Labour victory in 1979 would certainly have kicked off a new emphasis on Union reform. Well we all know what happened in the Winter of Discontent - the biggest tragedy for the Left and for Britain in peacetime Britain in the 20th Century.

Margaret Thatcher ridiculed the whole idea of "consensus". This is the delusion of a dictator not a modern politician. In complex modern societies you have to bring the people with you. Thatcher never did that. Her election victory in  1983 gave her a minority of the votes against the challenge of the soft (SDP/Libs) and harder (Labour) Left. Thatcher won because the Left was divided and in the still bright glow of the Falklands. The Myth was well under way to being created. Then, empowered by a wholly unjust majority in the House of Commons she elected to confront the Unions without any real grounding in public support. There was no precedent in a British society for the military-style attack on the NUM. It was contradictory to British Values and driven by an obsessional refusal to even consider consensus. (That same obsession had led to the Falklands War - that last irrational, preposterous Imperial adventure). 

Of course the hubris of Thatcher was eventually to be her downfall. Not, sadly, at the hands of the electorate but in the "Fall of Caesar" drama of 1990 when her colleagues in the Conservative Cabinet acted as a collective Brutus to stab her in the back (and the front as well). They were acting patriotically to remove from office a woman who was clearly at the time unfit for power. 

The post hoc deification of Margaret Thatcher is, as I said, a reflection of the feeling on part of many Conservatives that there are no giants of her stature around. She had charisma and a certain perverse style. She had energy and a commitment to hard work and she was a patriot. But she was the exception that proves the rule that politics is the "Art of the Possible". Conservatives should long ago have put Thatcher and Thatcherism behind them. And should they fail to do that and adopt neo-Thatcherite policies and even choose a Thatcher clone as leader (is there one?) the only result will be unelectability. Is that what they want? 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"British Values" - if you can define them you're a better man than me Gunga Din !

I have been struggling to find a good dictionary definition of "Values".  This, from a Business Dictionary, is probably the best I've seen:

"Important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable. Values have major influence on a person's behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations."

There is a strong element of culture and community about "values" when defined in this way. It is a collective not an individualistic concept. As individuals we all, to a greater or lesser extent, have values. However the premise of "shared values" suggests that these personal values are part of and subordinate to the values derived from our culture. But there is never a precise overlap. We may have personal values which our culture does not share. Our culture may have values which we personally reject. So when we consider the idea of "British Values" we may mean British norms (what most people believe) but this cannot be prescriptive - other than in some Orwellian nightmare where we are told what to believe!

"You're so British" a foreigner, often an American, might say to you or me. They mean - often quite admiringly - that we exhibit traits in our behaviour that they see as being characteristically British. A warning bell should be sounding when this happens. Behaviour has layers and the actions or words on the outside layer - "good manners" for example - may disguise all sorts of hidden malignancies! We are not known as "perfidious Albion" for nothing and whilst I would not charge that hypocrisy is a British Value, caveat emptor should apply - especially to first meetings.

Most British people believe that having a constitutional Monarchy is desirable - that is a shared belief. Those of us who disagree with this could be judged as being UnBritish, and to an extent we are. This does not make us wrong though - at least from our subjective standpoint. We might say that believing in "Equality of Opportunity" is a British Value. Well how does that square with the extreme privilege of the Royal Family. Not very well. We might also say that Democracy is desirable and as such we have another British Value - the right to choose and dismiss our leaders. And yet we have an appointed not elected second chamber in our Parliament - hypocrisy in spades?

In the definition above there is a description of values being shared by "members of a culture". Clearly whether we find this useful or not depends on what we see as a "culture". Whether a large Nation like Britain has ever been a homogenous culture is doubtful and that it isn't today is self-evident. The cultural mores of the many different, and often large, "ethnic" communities in Britain differ from one another and from the majority white Anglo-Saxon culture. There may be shared values and there is an obligation on us all to obey the Law - but the variations of beliefs and behaviour are wide. Some second, third and fourth generation members of what are often (though inaccurately) described as "Immigrant" communities may choose to shed some or all of their families cultural heritage and become more conventionally "British". But that is their choice and there is no compulsion on them to do so nor necessarily anything commendable in their choice.

Which brings us to David Cameron. Here is what he said recently about "British Values":

"We need to be far more muscular in promoting British Values and the institutions that uphold them. A genuinely liberal country believes in certain values, actively promotes them and says to its citizens: this is what defines us as a society."
Does Cameron here mean "Majority Values" and are the Monarchy and Parliament among the institutions he wants to "uphold"? Does he want those from a different cultural heritage to be more like him and abandon their family culture? It sounds very much as if he does. And does he want people like me to abandon my opposition to the Monarchy and not to argue that our Democracy needs urgent reform to be silent? Must I uphold institutions I deplore just because the majority isn't bovvered about them ? 

If we define "British Values" in an all-embracing way that tolerates wide cultural and belief system variations then the definition becomes so nebulous as to be neither distinctive nor useful. For example even belief in the "Rule of Law" , which all of us irrespective of background might be expected to share, is problematic. Especially for those who believe that "God's Law" is always ascendant over Laws made by man. But this is not a problem unique to Britain and it is not a specific objection to British Laws that the extremists who want (for example) Sharia - or their version of it - to prevail have. The same would apply to any State where the "Rule of Law" is NOT Sharia.

Cameron says that British Values are our  “...belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law” . You see what I mean by nebulous? "Freedom" is a motherhood catch-all that means precisely what any of us wants it to mean. "Tolerance" is much the same and highly subjective. There is nothing particularly British about "accepting personal and social responsibility" either and how we define what it means is very dependent on our core cultural mores. I'll give just one example of this. In Chinese cultures there is an inherent acceptance that one generation has an obligation to look after it's parents' generation. Care for the Elderly is not avoided or left to the State. It is a part of an individual's "personal and social responsibility". Many of us would argue that this example is far from the only one where British Values, if that is what they are, lag well behind best practice.

So I conclude that the search for "British Values" is largely a waste of time. That there are behavioural norms which make a Society better to live in, and that these include obeying the law and being tolerant of others, is undoubtedly true. Helping others, especially when they are in trouble, and being considerate are admirable values as well. Being free to choose our leaders and putting constraints on what we can say and do in public, and to some extent in private, are necessary requirements in any civilised society. But these are not uniquely British Values and in some areas we are far from the best around ! 


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The NeoCons haven't gone away - but events have shown how lethally wrong they were.

There is only one good thing to have come out of the misbegotten adventures of Afghanistan and Iraq - the defeat of the Neocons. That hundreds of thousands of innocent people had to die to achieve that outcome is beyond scandalous - but those strident voices whilst not silent are thankfully back in the margins again. 

The idea that the West, and especially America and Britain, has a moral duty of care to the abused and disadvantaged living under dictatorship is a decent one of course. Indeed the United Nations was established on this very premise. But to extend that duty beyond diplomacy and aid and institute military action as the Neocons wanted? That, at least, is now off the table - or should be.

To invade Afghanistan to track down the perpetrators of 9/11 on the face of it had a strong whiff of legitimacy to it. Such a heinous crime should surely not go unpunished. But to do it so incompetently - the men in the caves were never going to be defeated by a conventional  Army and Air Force - that's another matter. And then to pursue not Bin Laden, but regime  change - the overthrow of the Taliban - what conceivable justification was there for this? It not only turned out badly - the Taliban are just waiting for the right moment to retake the country when allied forces depart - it led to the shedding of all too many young lives.

The Iraq War had little support outside the White House and Blair's Number 10. Not from the UN. Not from Europe. Not from most of the American or British public either. But the NeoCons were supportive of course, hardly surprisingly as it was their idea! Regime change was the goal and the Mission was accomplished when Saddam was swinging from the end of a rope and his statues had been destroyed. Except that it wasn't of course. The Neocons and their NeoCon President and British accomplice had the military power to change the regime - but neither the wit nor the resources to establish anything stable in its place. "Après moi, le déluge" - and how. 

That Iraq was riddled with deadly Sunni / Shiite rivalries was hardly a secret but the NeoCons either didn't understand that or didn't think it mattered! Iraq would have changed in time and the West could have helped achieve this by supporting those Iraqi democrats who wanted to achieve that in a non religiously motivated way. Saddam's regime , whilst predominantly Sunni in a Shia country, was broadly secular and in that respect it was surely a model of a modern Islamic State. But no matter the NeoCons wanted Saddam's blood and the Shia's who wanted him out agreed. Why did Saudi Arabia not support the overthrow of Saddam? They, like Saddam, are Sunni Moslems. 

The NeoCons are not gone - they are well financed and have powerful backers especially in the Republican Party. And they pop up from time to time with their "Something must be done" hand-wringing. They wanted more action in Libya, in Syria and even Iran. And some are now calling for strong intervention by the West in Iraq again. When will they ever learn? 

Well the flowers have gone. As have the soldiers - gone to graveyards, everyone. Let's not send any more.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The last gasp rearguard action against plain cigarette packaging is as mendacious as ever from the Tobacco Giants.

As a Formula one fan and also because I worked in a Brand Management for Shell and was at times quite close to the company's sponsorship of McLaren and later Ferrari I know a bit about tobacco marketing. F1, of course, was almost the last of the global sponsorship opportunities that the likes of BAT, Imperial  Tobacco and Philip Morris had. They hung in there to the bitter end and used every trick in the book to keep their noxious brands on F1 cars for millions of television viewers to see. Even Tony Blair fell for the soft sell ( and the money) of Bernie Eccelestone who was essentially the tobacco industry's mouthpiece for years ( in his own interests of course). Tobacco money is big money - very big money indeed. There is no lobbyist too expensive, no campaign too costly that Big Tobacco can't afford it. Every restriction on cigarette brand promotion has been fought tooth and nail and the advertising profession has been compliant in trying to stop or delay controls. But gradually advertising of tobacco products has ceased in most countries as has the sponsorship of sporting and other events. 

The latest well funded rearguard action by the tobacco industry in the UK is to campaign against the  proposal that cigarettes will have to be sold in plain packs in future. The companies unite together under the umbrella of "Forest"  (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking) and they are currently targeting the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in their campaign:

Those of us who followed the fight of the Tobacco giants to keep in F1 know how they work. They fought off restrictions for years skilfully and with lavish use of all the financial clout they enjoyed. In the end they were beaten but F1 cars stayed mobile fag packets for years after such displays were banned everywhere else.

So why are the companies so in favour of branded cigarrete packets and why are they fighting this last battle so hard? The reason is simply that they know (1) The pack design is a key component of their brand promotion. The Marlboro' pack, for example, is an iconic brand symbol. 

(2) Brands add value - massive value. The profit comes from the brand promise which is symbolised by the pack. If the promise, in the case of Marlboro, is distinctive you make more money - much more.


In one recent survey, the top brands in America were shown to be Apple, Marlboro, and McDonalds and Malboro generally features in the top five or so brands in most countries where it is marketed - despite promotion of its brand being prohibited by law. It is also generally the number one tobacco brand.

Philip Morris, owners of Marlboro, know that for their brand to continue to prosper it has to be visible at the point of consumption. The Marlboro brand offers benefits to its choosers which meet those consumers' needs. Those needs are partly physical - the need to satisfy a craving for nicotine. But that could be done by any generic or unbranded cigarette. The main needs that Marlboro satisfies are emotional - above all the need for status. You take your pack of Marlboro out of your bag or pocket. You display it. You tap it. The cigarette comes out and you light it and smoke it. You are seen to be doing this - you are a Marlboro smoker. You have status.

The tobacco companies argue that strong branding only encourages brand switching - you are persuaded to switch from Camel (say) to Marlboro because you are persuaded about the practical and above all emotional benefits that will accrue from doing so. There is no increase in the size of the market from the branding activity, they say, and so it is just harmless competition between brands for existing smokers. This is nonsense.

All marketing has two objectives. To persuade people to try a product and to persuade people to buy your brand of that product rather than someone else's. This is especially so of premium brands like Marlboro. A young person seeking a variety of satisfactions might not think that cigarettes are one of them but is then exposed to the world of brands conferring status on him or her. He sees the Marlboro smoker and the uber-cool Marlboro pack and maybe he's tempted in a way that he almost certainly wouldn't be by a plain pack. There is ample evidence around the world over history of how young people begin smoking because they see it "cool" to be associated with (say) Marlboro. 

So "Forest" and their paymasters know exactly what they are doing. Yes packs may encourage brand switching. But they also, and crucially, help the growth of the market among the young people that the tobacco companies need to recruit to replace their older smokers who are dying off.

I attended the recent ConHome conference - a Conservative party gathering (mostly!) and there were one or two organisations who had paid to have stalls and displays there. One of them was Forest and they also advertise prominently on the ConHome website. There has always been right-of-centre political support for the Tobacco industry - often backed up by "Freedom of Choice" type arguments so it is perhaps no surprise that the mostly excellent ConHom website rather contaminates its brand by associating with the tobacco industry. Never underestimate the power of Big Tobacco. They would not be so strongly fighting the plain packs legislation iof they did not see it as a threat to their brands and to their business! 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

How to combat Nigel Farage's Powellite raging against the dying of the White.

Aided by a compliant media much of the political noise over the past year or so has come from the mad insurgents of UKIP. Now before anyone accuses me of intemperate language let me stress that I use the adjective "mad" and the charge of insurgency advisedly. We are observing here a popular movement with an appeal to between a quarter and a third of the population - an appeal sufficient to win them the EU Parliament elections and potentially be major spoilers in next year's General Election. I do not charge the voters who have supported them with madness - but I do direct that charge at Nigel Farage and his co-conspirators.

History, particularly that of the Twentieth Century for which we have so much archive film, shows the power and the danger of the demagogue - and that is what Farage is. His oratory is effective in the same way that that of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco or even Oswald Mosley was effective. He appeals, as they did, to the basest emotions of his audience. That is the way it works with these men. Farage has no manifesto of substance and no coherent political ideology. Compared with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) - the last real challenge to the established order in British politics - he is shallow and single issue driven. That single issue is, of course, an obsessive opposition to multiculturalism and to anything that limits Britain's power (as he sees it) to govern ourselves. So the Anti EU stance (preceded of course by UKIP's anti Euro campaign) combined with an anti immigration polemic is what you get.

Farage rages and most of the time against the dying of the light. I am sure that many of the voters who support UKIP do so because they object to the way their environment has changed. I would like to quote anonymously here from a message to me from quite a well-known sportsman about his friend's mother's decision to vote UKIP in a Northern town. He also expresses his own opinions fairly emphatically: 

"My best friend from school's mother taught in local schools for 30 years and has just retired. She lived in a nice cul-de-sac in Blackburn. She is now the only person in that cul-de-sac who celebrates Christmas. She has been a Liberal Democrat voter for most of her life but has now changed completely. This is not cultural improvement. She no longer feels part of her own community. The other fact is that we are not in a a financial position as an economy to be able to allow non skilled or low skilled labour into the U K. We cannot afford the benefit system we have currently never mind letting new people in who can access NHS/Welfare etc. Maybe what is needed is a five year gap between moving here before being eligible for welfare...."

And so on ! This is essentially the sportsman feeding back to me the UKIP message. Nigel Farage told a story a short while ago about being on a train to London on which nobody was speaking English. He was mocked for making this remark but he knew exactly what he was doing ! This was a small rage against the dying of the "white". Against the change that means that whereas 50 years ago the 8:15 from Orpington was full of people just like Nigel it no longer is. The change that the quoted sportsman comments on in simple code "... the only person who celebrates Christmas" means, of course, the only white person of traditional British origins. The lady doesn't, not to put too fine a point on it, like living close to non-white British Asians with a different culture.

UKIP's voter support comes I think substantially from people like the lady in Blackburn. People of a certain age who feel uncomfortable with the changes that have happened and who seek scapegoats. But it is a rage "...against the dying of the light" in that multicultural change cannot be unwound.Nigel  Farage in power could do nothing about that cul-de-sac in Blackburn even if he wanted to - nothing, that is, unless he indulged in Nazi style ethnic cleansing ! 

Metropolitan liberals like me argue that multicultural Britain is a far better place than the mono cultural Britain we grew up in. I believe this emphatically and so, I am pleased to observe, do most young people who have never known a non-diverse Britain. But UKIP's appeal is not to me or to them. It is to those like the Blackburn schoolteacher and to a predominantly working class target group. In "Revolt on the Right" the authors show that those most likely to vote UKIP are angry old white men - older, less skilled, less educated working-class voters who have been “written out of the political debate”. This was the group, remember, who also supported Oswald Mosely and Enoch Powell whose messages were not dissimilar to that of Farage. 

In his infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech in 1968 Enoch Powell said this:

"We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre."
I suspect that the retired teacher in Blackburn and the "left behind" group identified in "Revolt on the Right" would say that Enoch was right. And I have little doubt that Nigel Farage would as well - although whether he would admit it directly is another matter! Farage rails against "immigration" because this is a coded way of railing against "multiculturalism". Immigration, in theory, is something that Britain can do something about - multiculturalism is a fait accompli. Enoch Powell predicted this:

"For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they [the British people] found themselves made strangers in their own country. They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition..."

Nearly fifty years on it is these fears that Farage and UKIP pander to. There is little or no difference between Powell and Farage in beliefs or rhetoric. Indeed Farage has said recently:

"I would never say that Powell was racist in any way at all. Had we listened to him, we would have much better race relations now than we have got," 

Powell was, of course, also a fervent anti-European. He said in 1971:

"The very use of the word ‘Europe’ in expressions like ‘European unity’, ‘going into Europe’, ‘Europe’s role in the world’ is a solecism which grates upon the ear..."

There is little doubt that Farage would agree with that as well! However the anti European Union message that launched UKIP  would be insufficient to sustain it without the anti-immigration message as well. Europe is low down the list of issues of concern of the population at large, but immigration is high up. So Farage finesses his opposition to the EU to opposition to immigration from EU countries - a movement of labour that membership of the Union encourages. If you oppose this immigration you have to oppose Britain's membership of the Union because the only way to stop it would be to withdraw.

If we believe that the message of UKIP is a deranged message we have to admit that there is method in Farage's madness. Nigel Farage is, give or take a detail or two, Enoch Powell's representative on Planet Earth today. He is an anachronism living in a time (or at least hankering after it) which is long gone. But as "Revolt on the Right" shows, and the UKIP electoral support proves, there is a strong minority in Britain that rejects the modern structure of our society and naively belives that Farage has a message that has practical options attached to it. But in truth the cul-de-sacs's in Blackburn are not going to change and multicultural Britain is here to stay -  much to our collective benefit many of us would say. Similarly the free movement of labour in Europe is unlikely to be significantly changed, although there may be some tinkering on the edges. It is, I suppose, possible that the political class may so mess things up that we find ourselves after a referendum withdrawing form the EU. But that is pretty unlikely as well. In the meantime Farage will carry on tilting at windmills and making us feel uncomfortable.

As with Enoch Powell Nigel Farage appeals to our basest fears and he simplifies unbelievably complex matters into banal slogans. The intellectual challenge to UKIP is robust and unchallengeable. But can those of us convinced of this translate this challenge into simple messages that combat UKIP's polemics? That's is much more difficult.




Sunday, June 01, 2014

Political leadership - you know it when you see it - but I just don't see it now.

"Leadership" is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. In my experience in the world of business it is a rare quality, and possibly getting rarer. And the great leaders are mostly born not made. I remember, in Shell, various "Leadership Development" courses were popular for a time. But I don't actually recall anyone performing better for having been on one. We all swiftly reverted to type once we came back from the Training Centre to the real world. The born leaders carried on leading, and those who found it difficult to inspire carried on not being inspirational.

Leadership is often linked to charisma to the extent that "Charismatic Leader" is seen to be tortologous. In business the examples of a Richard Branson or a John Harvey-Jones are often quoted here. Well I've known leaders who were far from "stand up and sock it to them" and I don't think that charisma is a prerequisite to for effective leadership. The question, a military metaphor, "Would you go over the top with this man?" gets nearer to the truth. Does he inspire? Does he give you confidence? Do you trust him? Does he lead from the front? And, above all, does he know what he is doing?

And so to politics. In Britain at the moment there is a scary leadership defecit. And so, in desperation, we have chosen to substitute charisma for true leadership - at least in the case of Nigel Farage. That Farage has charisma is true. He is funny, and irreverent and a bit of a card. He speaks well (he speaks nonsense, but he speaks it well). He has energy and a certain style. He passes, for some, the "over the top" test. He is a snake oil salesmen, but for many that doesn't matter. And he is fallible and at times a fool. But that doesn't matter either! 

On modern times really only Tony Blair has the same impact and not one Conservative Party leader since Margaret Thatcher. Remember, for example, Iain Duncan Smith being branded as the "Quiet Man" - code for saying "We know this bloke can't hack it as a charismatic leader but he has hidden depths". Well he didn't and the Tories jettisoned him without even allowing him to lose an election! Gordon Brown was similarly inept. You'd hide in the trench latrine to avoid going over the top with Gordon. Blair was clever and inspirational - a fine speaker in public and the right man for his time -twenty years ago. But, as it turned out, there was a lot of snake oil being sold by Blair as well. He failed the "trust" test and that was his downfall. If you no longer believe that a leader is telling the truth you'll move away.

David Cameron seems to think that leadership is about being visible and having a soundbite for everything. For a while we did actually think that Tony Blair believed in things - wrongly as it turned out. With Cameron I have no idea even what he wants us to think he believes in  - let alone what he actually does. If anything. He reminds me of the old joke about the phoney who said "I have very firm principles - here they are. And if you don't like them no problem. Try these". Ed Miliband probably does believe in things but he so lacks credible confidence that he loses it too quickly. He fails the "over the top" test not because he's mendacious or foolish but simply because he doesn't inspire confidence. An able back room boy who was accidentally propelled  into a leadership position he is demonstrably unsuited to. The "Peter Principle" in action.

The leadership defecit cannot be filled by Nigel Farage, and probably not by the similarly charismatic Boris Johnson either. Boris is no buffoon and people like him. But he doesn't quite have the gravitas along with the style that a truly respected leader needs - at least some of the time. Thatcher had it - and early Blair. Even Nick Clegg had his moment in the sun during the 2010 General Election - but the clouds soon descended never to lift. Alex Salmond has it though if he loses the Scottish referendum the game will be up. Leadership skills or not. 

In America there have been two exceptional leaders in modern times - Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. For a time Barack Obama looked to be in the same league and it is a bit of a mystery why with so much going for him he has failed - at least when judged by the highest standards. Roosevelt, Churchill, Reagan, Clinton, Thatcher, Blair (briefly)... As I say you know it when you see it. And I just don't see it now.