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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 21-Dec-05

 


Wednesday 21-Dec-05

How to lose an election

Here in the UK, the Conservative opposition recently changed its leader--again.

The hapless Michael Howard lost the election last Spring for the Conservatives and threw in the towel. Now it's the turn of fresh-faced David Cameron.

The key event for me was a televised 'meet the public' show, where all three political leaders faced a melting pot of the electorate who asked some pretty searching questions.

The question of Iraq came up with great regularity. When asked why he took the country into an unpopular war, Tony Blair just said 'I made the best decision I could at the time, given the information I had.'

Neat answer! He shows himself as a decisive leader, able to make difficult choices, whilst at the same time appealing to the doubters by inferring that he was always seeking to avoid war.

When Michael Howard was asked if he would have made the same decision, he of course said yes. To say no would be to display weakness. Then came the killer question. If you knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction, would you still have gone to war?

This is what is called a 'double bind': you are damned whether you say yes or no. Michael Howard, already in the 'don't appear weak' mindset said 'yes'. The questioner, incredulous, asked the question twice again, 'Are you sure?' Trapped, Howard could only say yes, although by now he looked far from sure as he dug himself deeper into the mire.

And so, for me, he lost the election. Tony Blair was firm and clear. Michael Howard looked like an uncertain and weak man who just says what he thinks wants to be heard.

And now it's David Cameron's turn. Can he whip the Conservatives into shape? For nearly ten years they have lost their way in internal squabbles that led to compromise leaders who could not cut the mustard. Only time will tell.


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