Thursday, April 10, 2008


Intellect no guarantee of political success

I'm not sure about anyone else but I always reckon it better that the boss is cleverer than most of the people in his/her charge-certainly cleverer than me. But the converse does not necessarily apply: it doesn't follow that the cleverest politician is the most qualified to be leader. Look at Ronnie Reagan, reckoned by many experts to be among the most effective presidents of the last century: he was most definitely challenged in the brain-box department. But he had one towering gift that made his ambition to be president credible: his ability to communicate.

This is why I was so surprised to read today that Ed Balls, is rumoured, according to Michael White to have an:

'underlying 24/7 motive is to manoeuvre himself into winning the post-Brown Labour leadership.'

The problem is that Balls, like his uber clever fellow prodigy, Ruth Kelly, may have hoovered up all the clever genes, but neither seems to have the communication skills required to direct a taxi driver to the desired destination. Both stammer and struggle their way through speeches in the Commons and interviews on Today. If Balls thinks he has a chance of replacing Brown- himself no Demosthenes- I have two words for him: 'Dream on'.

Both are also about as popular as scabies for a different reason - they are both incredibly arrogant, a very frequent problem for the cleverest in society. Their ability makes them arrogant, and their arrogance leads to rudeness, and their rudeness leads to unpopularity (which I'm guessing is the root cause of all the negative comments on White's article).

On your other point, it wasn't necessarily that Reagan was stupid, although he was no intellectual giant. He certainly at no time was as clever as Balls. But I think the Alzheimer's unfairly exaggerated that reputation for stupidity. Bear in mind, at one time he had a rapier wit and a clear vision, as well as a shrewd political judgement - later on, in about 1986-87, he had clearly completely lost the plot, and famously couldn't even recognise his own cabinet ministers.
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