‘Powellism, Conservatism and Syria’ | A. Finlayson- openDemocracy

‘Powellism, Conservatism and Syria’ | A. Finlayson- openDemocracy

Perhaps Powell was onto something; nations do not have psychological conditions, individuals do. Politicians attaining high office need to identify with an ideal of leadership to orient themselves in their daunting, overwhelming task. In Britain they seem to prefer identifying with a nineteenth-century ideal of imperial martial honour than with an unglamorous twentieth-century conception of basic bureaucratic competence.

Make no mistake however, Powellism offers nothing so mundane as a commitment to thoughtful and serious government (let alone a humane, practicable and successful foreign policy). It certainly does not offer a conception of the British polity suited to the twenty-first century. The Powellites think that they are hard-headed realists and down-to-earth representatives of the common people. But what they take from Powell – and what is routinely manifested in the words and deeds of Conservative and UKIP politicians, pundits and bloggers – is a satisfying self-conception.

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