I have heard that staff at 10 Downing Street were in (pleasant) shock after Gordon Brown closed the door behind him. They were retained and wait for it…treated with courtesy and respect by the new incumbent. Gordon Brown was known for his rudeness and door slamming tantrums. Of course this was all part of his charm according to indulgent mummy Sarah, but not so charming when you have to work for him.
We seem as a country to be in a state of political apathy. It’s not as bad as Belgium where they have no government at all. When I asked a Belgian visitor on a stay over here, what it was like living in a country with no government, she shrugged her shoulders and said “alright, no difference”. So perhaps after all we may be able to govern ourselves? This would seem to be sending out a message to our politicians to tread carefully. Are we being treated to a show of tolerance and good manners from our politicians? Has the coalition introduced a form of communication where good manners are intrinsic?
Great Britain has long been known for its accomplished diplomats with their use of exquisite good manners: “What is the definition of an English diplomat? – “someone who can admonish you, decide for you and leave you feeling elated and grateful for the recognition.”
The distance that good manners supply in communication is just enough to let each person retain “face”. During the eighteenth century actors were addressed with a title: Mrs Sarah Siddons, Mr . Charles Kemble. Surrounded by scandal that makes the life of a celebrity today seem like afternoon tea party, they were still able to work and go out in public unmolested.
Could it be that good character is connected to good manners? Certainly it’s true of international treasure and political survivor Nelson Mandela. Perhaps a spell of uncertainty is what is needed to bring some character forming traits back into politics. We need leaders who we can aspire to and not despise.