Electorate largely gets leadership it deserves... - Veterinary Practice
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Electorate largely gets leadership it deserves…

THE MERCURY COLUMN in which a guest columnist takes the temperature of the profession – and the world around

PERHAPS one of the most surprising things to emerge after the death of Margaret Thatcher has been the widely varying responses, not to the passage of her life but to her death. Clearly, the world is a very different place now than it was in the 1980s but many parallels still exist today to how things were then.

We may no longer be deeply immersed in a cold war with those countries representing a communist ideology, in fact one would struggle to name any state with a truly communist outlook today, but the world shudders when Kim Jong-Un struts his stuff in North Korea and the list of nations with a nuclear capacity still frightens us.

We may no longer have powerful unions but, in their place, countless millions have been empowered as individuals, with a far better understanding of their rights within a runaway culture of unaffordable benevolence, governed by a collective apathy that sees political correctness as preferable to common sense.

Is Britain a better place?

For all of Margaret Thatcher’s brave interventional politics, can we say that Britain is a better place because of her or maybe even despite her?

There can be no concrete answer to such a question and there may be as many answers as there were those willing to venture their opinion, but most would agree that, in her first term in office at least, Britain was able to haul itself back from the brink of a series of different disastrous possibilities, all of which are different today.

One issue which has taxed the pundits is whether or not the use of viral messaging resulting in an anarchic manipulation of the pop music charts to swell the sales of the Wizard of Oz song, “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”, should be rewarded by the BBC with prime-time recognition.

The BBC is, for all its sins, still the state communication channel and the caution displayed by its management in wrestling with this conundrum is a testament to the continuation of an earlier set of standards in defending free speech.

What have we lost?

Each of us may have our own views on the propriety of using public media to register a political point but, if the defence of free speech carries with it a disregard for the even older standards of paying respect to the dead, perhaps Britain has lost rather more than we thought over the last 30 years.

Responses to this challenging situation have been enormously varied with many describing the situation as “funny” and, clearly, what the establishment sees as proper behaviour is not held to be that important by a very large number of people who make up a share of the electorate.

Democracy is a priceless asset, if anyone can make it work, but the democracy which Margaret Thatcher vowed to defend is a rather different beast today than it was in her time. Martin McGuinness, an Irish Sinn Féin politician and a sworn enemy of Britain under Thatcher, has been the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland since 2007 and was seen as a serious contender for the post of President of Ireland in the 2011 election.

The very fact that he is now able to comment on Thatcher’s death alongside Jerry Adams in the mainstream media gives us an idea of how our democracy is unfolding. Of course, others might use the term “blossoming” and that too lies at the heart of our struggle to define or harness democracy.

While we might fondly imagine that the leadership of such an august body as the BBC should be upstanding and outstanding, such vacillating compromise suggests that neither is currently apparent.

Can we be bothered?

One observation remains constant over this period and that is that collective apathy allows the active to succeed, even where the overwhelming majority might prefer a different result.

If we lie down and accept those things which we abhor because we cannot be bothered to take a stand, we have no one to blame but ourselves if the end result is distasteful to us.

It was the same in the days of the powerful unions which were Thatcher’s bête noir. A moderate voice can only be heard if it is sounded loud enough and, in the absence of enough moderate voices, workers in the 1970s and 1980s ended up with an unmanageable extremism which, although doomed to eventual failure, created mayhem in its passage.

The same can be said for the antics of North Korea’s latest leader and, on a minor scale, the same can be said for excusing compromised standards of public behaviour in the name of free speech because it is easier to do so than to resist.

How vulnerable are we?

This veterinary profession is, by the nature of its establishment, vulnerable to the ravages of collective apathy in its membership and is continually at risk by the actions of those governed by a less responsible view of how things might be done.

Over the years, the profession has been dependent on a number of people drawn from its own ranks and willing to give their time and effort to lead that membership through the troubled waters of an often hostile world and thankfully, some might say miraculously, the profession remains more or less intact, if a tad bruised, from everyday contact with that world which has seen some of its rights and privileges compromised over the years.

In this ever more complex and deconstructed world, leadership of a largely disparate group of professionals, all of whom are more focused on their own specific needs than the holistic status of the group, will become increasingly challenging.

RCVS Council elections are notoriously poorly supported but there was never a time when strong leadership was more sorely needed.

As we’ve seen in other demographic processes, whether they be concerned with countries or organisations, the electorate largely gets the leadership it deserves and if we think it not worth the bother of joining in the process, none of us can complain if the system fails us.

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