British election: The surprise will be on whom?

8 June 2017

Well, not exactly “Reporting live”: I wrote this on April 18, just after Theresa May called the British election. I sent it to three British friends, also to the Canadian Globe and Mail that said it was too short. I post it here today exactly as I wrote it then (aside from adding “British election” to the title, and regretting having included two words in the first sentence: Jeremy Corbyn).

There are 64 million Brits and yet they can’t do better than Theresa May, let alone Jeremy Corbyn or David Cameron? Of course, the Americans couldn’t do better than Donald Trump. The world is now a strange place indeed. 

I thought there was one overriding message from David Cameron’s snap vote on Brexit: don’t call snap votes when so much of the electorate is restless. She is, I guess, as sure as was he. Labor is ill-led, and how can the Liberal Democrats possibly come back?  The British prime minister may be in for a surprise.

There is another message too, from other snap elections in different places. Be careful of sending voters to the polls too early: they might read this as political cynicism rooted in cocky confidence, punishable by purgatory.

What has happened to good sense in politics, to decency, to wisdom, to modesty? (At least here in Canada we have a prime minister who doesn’t pretend to be president.) There is the story of an old lady in Maine who said: “I never vote. It only encourages them.” In these days at least, that’s wisdom. How come she was never elected president?

© Henry Mintzberg 2017

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