IF we needed a reminder about the emptiness of modern politics, the Boris/Tory leadership show has once again demonstrated where we are. As it happens, as far back as John Major replacing Margaret Thatcher, we can already see the emptying out of politics.

For those old enough to remember the Spitting Image satirical puppet show, it didn’t take long for its producers to turn John Major grey: literally, John Major’s puppet face turned grey. It turned grey because he was seen, understandably, as being extraordinarily boring, but he was boring for a reason.


Read more by Stuart Waiton: https://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/18105928.stuart-waiton-tears-make-great-drama-bad-politics/


He was boring because he had no mission or purpose. Thatcher had done her job of smashing the left, in the form of the trade unions. She had supposedly freed the country and allowed individuals to flourish, but the question of what these free individuals were meant to do, in political terms, was never answered.

The role of the politician was now belittled. It was, according to the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, The End of History. Liberal capitalism had won, he argued, and basically, big ideas about society had come to an end. Now, rather than expecting politicians to have competing ideologies and ideas about society, they simply became managers of the system.

It may not have been that obvious at the time, but all of the big ‘isms’ of the 20th century were exhausted: liberalism, socialism, even Conservatism, as inspiring outlooks had run out of steam and politicians were transformed into little more than supermarket managers trying desperately to engage their disinterested customers with their latest offer.


Read more by Stuart Waiton: https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/19613687.stuart-waiton-environmental-extremists-want-impose-permanent-green-lockdown/


What followed was two decades of what is called “technocratic governance”, a world where experts in white coats and clipboards made accounting and legal decisions about how best to manage society. This is why one of the “Hurrah” phrases used by the candidates in the Tory leadership contest is that they will “Get the job done”.

Rishi Sunak, our modern grey man, is the most obviously technocratic candidate. He’s an “expert” you see, a bean-counter extraordinaire, a “safe pair of hands”. But what is the “job” exactly? Saying you will get the job done, at the level of politics and ideas, is a vacuous statement, more an avoidance of saying anything than actually saying something of meaning and substance.

Another dimension of the collapse of politics is that personality and personal attributes were now elevated as a form of replacement therapy for the lack of ideas. Consequently, for two decades we have seen the previously hippy notion of the “personal is political” move centre-stage.

The Tories, for example, are, perhaps more than anything else, denounced for their “greed” and “sleaze”, and they have struggled for decades to try and show that they are in fact a “caring” party. Being nice, professional, and behaving well are now seen as core values for politicians, but this is not politics. There are no ideas here, they are essentially personal attributes.

Penny Mordaunt is a good example of this trend, with her talk about “positivity” and “integrity”. It’s all well and good being a positive person with strong moral principles, but the question remains – positive about what, and in what direction will these apparent moral principles take society?

Usually, when there is a coup in a political party it is because there are alternative factions that reflect different interests and ideas in society. With the Boris situation, there appear to be no clear factions or outlooks; indeed, I haven’t heard a single clear political alternative being offered by the candidates.

Having said that, at least Kemi Badenoch, the outsider in the race, actually talks about politics, culture and ideas. She hasn’t sold herself as someone who “gets the job done” or who embodies “positivity”; rather, she has stated her political beliefs.

Badenoch believes in the importance of freedom of speech, for example, and recognises that it is under threat. She argues against the divisive obsession with racism and argues that black people suffer most from woke ideas that portray ethnic minorities as forever victims.

Ignoring the Tory paranoia about looking “nasty”, she has also firmly argued about the need to defend sex-based rights against the trans lobby. She has even questioned the political dogma around zero-carbon that is limiting our capacity to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

However, despite her being black and a woman, it is noticeable that those who talk endlessly about “diversity” don’t seem to have come out in support of Badenoch. Diversity it appears, is another of those empty terms that wallows in everything diverse except diversity of political ideas and opinions.