I have a dream, about political speeches. Maybe one day a prime minister – not The Prime Minister – but a prime minister or a president somewhere, will make a speech on a controversial subject, that paints an honest picture. Imagine the subject was fracking. The speech might go something along these lines:
“We have considered all the options put to us on fracking, and we know it’s not without its risks, but on balance we think we should take it further.” The speech would then acknowledge parallels with other technologies and inventions, especially those to do with energy for our nation, and will admit they all had drawbacks but we hope to be able to live with those relating to fracking. The leader would then respect the voters by promising to admit mistakes in their judgement if proven wrong. In my dream, a president or prime minister might say “No-one has 20/20 hindsight, nor the power of pre-emptive rearward vision, but by that same token, no-one can be sure of disaster’s certainty. We hope like you do, that the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks.” Alternatively, such a speech might reject the new ‘fracking’ schemes, because the risks are overwhelming and “…we don’t care if other countries do it, we’re just not going to join in.”
Of course, this supposes that a prime minister or president is acknowledging the fact that he or she is top dog of a management committee that runs a country, and that their collective role has long since ceased to be one that upholds rooted values or staunch principles, but is just appointed by the electorate every five years to run stuff for a while. For unflinching principles that cause bitterness and division, reference Margaret Hilda Thatcher. For thin principles with infinite malleability and a roaring personal agenda, reference Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. For principled perpetual indignation, see Anthony Wedgewood Benn. For compromised principles leading to failure anyway, Neil Gordon Kinnock.
My dream supposes that a prime minister might not make a series of sweeping claims of short term benefits on a subject that may become the next Greenham Common, or the new Twyford Down. It would be a speech that didn’t rely on or hope for an electorate to take no notice and concern itself with life’s minutae instead. It would come from a prime minister or president who does have a connection to the population over which he or she rules, having meant it when once claiming that a collective national problem was one that we were all in together. The same source of such a speech may also respect the expertise of specialists in tricky areas of social policy, like education or health.
In my dream, the speeches of leaders would not be smokescreens for the purpose of distracting and diverting, but actually a process of communication. Realistically though, I’m not a dreamer.