Please Sir, why are the leaders of the 3 largest UK-wide political parties all white middle aged grey suited men?

With the result, announced today, that members of the Liberal Democrat Party have selected Sir Ed Davey to be their new Leader it means the leaders of the 3 largest UK-wide political parties are back to being middle aged, white men in grey suits. Hardly an endorsement of multi-culturalism or a boost for women in politics.

What’s more the new leaders of the 2 supposedly progressive parties, Lib Dems & Labour, are both ‘Sirs’, a title that hardly makes either of them look like politicians of the people and probably more akin to establishment figures. Both are seemingly widely regarded as ‘a safe pair of hands’ following both parties going through periods of political trauma, but they’re also spoken of as ‘boring’. These sober but uninspiring traits will hardly inspire voters to move towards more progressive politics I fear.

As a radical progressive of the left and a member of the old Liberal Party and Lib Dems since 1980 I’ve seen uninspiring leaders (both of my own party and indeed other parties) before and it usually ends in tears. You may not have liked Blair, particularly after Iraq, but he was an inspiring figure that the electorate really took to in his early years, like they did Charles Kennedy, John Smith and Paddy Ashdown. What worries me is how Starmer and Davey can gain the hearts and minds of voters when neither seem to have the ability to do that. I very much hope I’m wrong about this I might add.

Yes, of course, I was backing Layla Moran MP to be the new Lib Dem Leader as she seems to me to have all the qualities that are seemingly missing in Starmer and Davey. It was always going to be an uphill battle for her though as the Lib Dem establishment were not keen on her radical progressive politics which I guess they thought could well frighten the horses. The big money went to Sir Ed and his campaign which clearly gave him a huge advantage – I think I had 4 mailshots from his campaign which generous donors clearly paid for. However, that around 50% of the 100,000 Lib Dem members did not vote at all tells its own story.

It will be interesting to see if Sir Ed can actually step up to become an inspiring vote winner, as it will of Starmer but let’s put if this way, my feeling is that the uphill struggle for progressive politics in England and Wales has sadly got a little steeper via the election of Starmer and Davey. Again though I would be very pleased to be proved wrong.

3 thoughts on “Please Sir, why are the leaders of the 3 largest UK-wide political parties all white middle aged grey suited men?

  1. n hunter says:

    It reeks of the maintainance of the status quo,a deep rooted conservativeness (small c ) that the UK has had for a long time. Johnson ,at the moment, does not need a knighthood for his party is seen as the epitomy of the this system. His will come when he has wrecked the country and dragged it back into the past that his backers want.
    Boring is the word..Johnson is not,THAT gives him an edge..Yes Ed will have to change.Get some panache.He can learn from Layla how to show zeal and ‘go for itness vitality.He will have to show something to get the hearts and mind of voters.Maybe selling his background might help.
    Yes. That half that did not vote is ominous.Reasons why they did not vote should be looked into
    I also think that Davey has to find inspiration to excite the voter.. He can certainly learn from Layla. Layla as deputy put forward in the media more could also inspire and in time she could be ‘bosslady’.

  2. Matt (Bristol) says:

    Sir Keir and Sir Ed are entirely analogous to the Democratic decision to go with Biden to play safe and reassure floating Republicans after daring to flirt with a black man, a white woman and a geriatric socialist (Bernie Sanders)

    But in UK reality neither of the two centre-left parties has ever had an ethnic minority leader. But I think we could argue that Teresa May and Jo Swinson have been made to do duty for Hillary – ie the politician who ‘proves’ to the ‘experts’ that women ‘can’t win’. Otherwise, the next best parallel I can draw is that Corbyn=Sanders.

    But that means that because one party chose an aging white socialist and that went badly, and two parties in crisis pushed women to the forefront just at the point when their internal divisions were becoming apparent everyone (including socialist, liberal and radical activists) backs away from any candidate that represents a challenge to the male establishment status quo because Too Much Change Is Bad And We Mustn’t Scare People.

    As a quondam Wera Hobhouse supporter, it was interesting to see how much ‘but she’s German’ came up from other party members. And I suspect a male candidate touting her radical proposals for party reform might have got on the ballot, whereas she didn’t.

    I very much suspect that the next party to have a female or ethnic minority leader will be the Tories.

  3. David Evans says:

    I think the answers to your headline question are rather more simple than you imply – but, much more interestingly to me is why, when so many things are going badly wrong, are the so called radical left not cutting through with ordinary people – Ordinary people who look to the radical Right for solutions to their problems (Conservatives and Republicans) even though it is the radical right that have created most of the problems?

    However, first things first.

    Why are they middle aged, white men?

    Middle aged – well getting to the top in any activity, and politics is no different, is very demanding in terms of time and effort. Learning, making contacts and alliances building support networks, winning a seat etc etc etc. Huge effort, mega hours, day after day almost without any sort of break. The young haven’t had time to do enough of it, and thankfully in the UK the seriously too old don’t tend to get chosen (cf the US).

    Men – more men in politics? – possibly; more men who have been into serious politics a long time? – definitely. Will these factors change? – maybe but it rather depends on women. However one factor holding women back currently is the record of the three women who have made it to the top in the UK, all of whom have been very, very divisive and all of whom left under a real cloud – Margaret Thatcher (nuff said); Theresa May (Hostile environment and Brexit); Jo Swinson (Revoke).

    White – probably down longevity in politics as above, but also not helped (in the case of Chukka Umunna) with the consequences of Jo’s disastrous decisions to go for revoke and then to give Boris just what he wanted – a quick election, but we all know about that.

    When it comes to radicals of the left, you almost always find that failure follows. Very few make it to power, and even fewer make a success of it. But the real problem faced by radical liberals now is the total disconnect most have with the general public. Like it or not, most voters believe that the UK is very liberal anyway – after all you can say what you like about Boris Johnson and not get arrested, you can have a divorce, abortion, gay marriage – if if they want to they can do almost anything they want (if they only had enough money). What most people really want is politicos they can rely on to run things effectively and not make a total mess of things.

    That is what Lib Dems spent 30 years perfecting and proving at council level. We even got a reasonable number of MPs to do it as well, but they did it not by being radical but by being effective. I don’t know about you, but on my council, I spent almost all of my time stopping officers ignoring my residents and trying to get to the bottom of what my Director was actually up to and make it just a little bit less ‘small c’ conservative (when I was a portfolio holder). Probably 99% of my time being effective, 1% being radical.

    Of course when in 2010 all that hard work being effective came to fruition, our leaders and MPs then made a total mess of it for the next generation.

    For that next generation, I am not so sure about where they will go. Lots of the SDP types who helped so much up to 2010 (once they had bedded in) have either left in dismay or reached the end of their stint and coalition and Brexit means they have not been replaced. Hence, most of the young radicals around seem to be obsessed with Sex and sexuality, Identity Politics and even worse white male privilege – you just have to read their writing to see it get dropped in without thought or explanation, but simply by rote as a guaranteed mark in a thesis.

    Now it’s easy to understand why young people are obsessed with sex and identity, after all they, like we were a long time ago, are discovering their role in society and how to build relationships. It was a great time, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it all over again.

    However in my day, and I presume yours unless you went to UEA, those issues were at the personal level – most serious radical thought was focused on poverty, health, jobs, education, housing – indeed the five Giant Evils (plus war), and not just in the UK, but worldwide. Nowadays you struggle to find any debate at all from young radicals on these communal enablers of real liberty for ordinary people.

    So much radicalism really has become so very personal, self centred and inward looking – with a massive emphasis on blaming past generations for everything – for the bad we did we deserve blame (like allowing TM’s Hostile Environment), but blaming the good (like those who fought and won and abolished the slave trade) because to a young modern radical mind it was just not perfect enough is simply nihilism.

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