The making of the next political leader

Joseph F.X Zahra's article on Newsbook

We all speak of the present crisis in political leadership in the democracies of the western hemisphere. The absence of the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl. Strong, assertive and persuasive politicians that left a mark on the social and economic policies of their countries during difficult periods of austerity, terrorism or economic integration. These were politicians bred in ideologies that have now been lost. Their distinct characteristic was that of determined decision making even at the expense of unpopularity.

Political leaders had intellectual capacity, but were more renowned for their honesty and courage. They were prepared to take decisions that were unpopular and which they knew that at the end they did not win them any votes. They decided and acted in ways that they believed were of benefit not only to their contemporary society but also for the next. Perhaps, there was not much of a Centre in politics, nor a vague reference to political spin and government by opinion polls. There was much more belief and ideals. It was a matter of crude persuasion. You either liked the policy or you didn’t. Political parties were elected and defeated during elections on the basis of their results and outcomes and not their reactive response to opinion poll ratings.

It is in this context that we re-design the political leadership of the future. A leadership which is self-confident and empathic, but which is also clear in its vision and determined in its journey. A leadership which considers politics to be virtuous and which looks at society beyond the liberalism of the today. A leadership with a vision that spreads over the next generations.

An initiative has been taken by the Pastoral Formation Institute and the Malta group of Fondazione Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice to bring together a number of speakers and lecturers for a four week-ends seminars programme on “The Call to Public Life”, treating the theme of politics and the common good. Course participants will be exposed to a number of socio-political questions such as “What kind of society I would like”, the understanding of global, European and national social and political trends, the economy and public policy, immigration and demographic change, social trends and the challenges of politics, the politics of virtue, the identity and vision of the EU and the role of active citizenship for the common good. It might not be a very ambitious enterprise but the organisers aim at having participants understand that politics and public life go beyond a professional career. It aims at strengthening their capacity for critical analysis, reflection, debate and action. It forms a community of learning and practice.

Forming part of the list of distinguished speakers is Baron Glasman, the social thinker and Labour life peer in the House of Lords. He is the person who coined the term “Blue Labour”. Another speaker is Adrian Pabst, Cambridge University researcher and senior lecturer in politics at the University of Kent, and at present working on the book “The Politics of Virtue”.

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