ANALYS | I Newsweek berättar Tony Blair om bl.a. sin syn på de problem som demokratier runt om i världen idag står inför.
En intressant detalj är hans kritik mot hur många regeringar fungerar idag är att de verkar tro att kommunikation kan ersätta behovet av att leda utifrån sin övertygelse.
Innan man vågar ta beslut måste man försöka utröna medborgarnas åsikter innan man vågar fatta några egna beslut – vad Blair kallar “governing by Twitter”.
Detta är inte minst intressant eftersom Blairs tid i Downing Street just utmärktes av ett dagligt behov av att kommunicera minsta lilla, äkta eller påhittade, nyhet man kunde finna.
Det var under Blairs tid som spin och spin doctor blev skällsord för att beskriva hur hans team fungerade vid makten.
Alex Perry skriver:
On 4 December Blair wrote an essay in The New York Times headlined: “Is democracy dead?” He began by stating that democracy was certainly “not in good shape”. US politics were deadlocked in partisanship. European politicians were not delivering a return to growth. The democratic Arab Spring had been largely outmanoeuvred by the old regimes. Democracy was failing, he wrote, and, worse, the challenges before it – extremism, financial crisis, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea – were rising.
Blair had sharpened his ideas about leadership and the failings of democracy in the years since he left power. Democracy, he now concluded, faced an “efficacy challenge”. “Slow, bureaucratic and weak,” it was too often “failing its citizens” and “failing to deliver”. The price was grave, and apparent. Without effective action by democratic governments to stem it, volatility and uncertainty were spreading. Public fear and disillusionment was stoking the return of the far Right in Europe and the United States. “Suddenly, to some, Putinism – the cult of the strong leader who goes in the direction he pleases, seemingly contemptuous of opposition – has its appeal,” wrote Blair. “If we truly believe in democracy, the time has come to improve it.” Every few years, democracy was about the people’s vote. But most of the time, it was about their elected representatives harnessing the machinery of government to effect change on their behalf. Attempts to be a cipher for popular opinion Blair dismissed as “governing by Twitter”. Leaders had to lead.
“This is a shocking thing to say,” said Blair, “but in modern politics, if you are spending 30% to 40% of your time on your real core priorities, I think you’re lucky. I can think of political leaders and systems who are lucky if they get 5%.” Agendas were more packed than ever, crises came ever thicker and faster and yet leaders were spending all their time “communicating”. The core functions of government were being forgotten, Blair said. All but gone was any time to consider “the big questions”. “You know,” said Blair. “Where are we going? What are we trying to do here? What’s it all about?” Blair viewed the resulting paralysis with disdain. “The wheels are spinning and the vehicle is moving” but the result was often just “driving round in circles”.
Blair said that many veteran leaders agreed “the whole business of government . . . has just got to change radically to be effective”. If politics as usual wasn’t working, then the pragmatist’s response had to be to search for answers outside it. “Democracy is a way of deciding the decision-makers, but it is not a substitute for making the decision,” he wrote in the Guardian in 2013. “Democratic government doesn’t on its own mean effective government. Efficacy is the challenge.”
In Egypt this March, Blair went further, praising the military regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has restored some stability but at a price of torturing and killing opponents and imprisoning journalists. “Yes, democracy is important, but democracy is not on its own sufficient,” said Blair. “You also need efficacy. You need effective government taking effective decisions. I don’t think you have to be authoritarian. But you have to be direct.”
His own method in power had been to study an issue, canvass a wide spectrum of opinion, even listen to the press and hold a public referendum; then note the debate, thank its participants, come to his own conclusions, and lead. “It wasn’t that I didn’t have doubt or hesitation or uncertainty,” he said. “You can’t be sure. But I’m for taking that big decision. It’s less to do with certainty than a big solution to a big problem.”
Blair was saying there was a time for talk and a time for action – and that a leader’s duty was to stay the course. “I decided a long time ago that it’s about whether I’m doing the right thing or the wrong thing,” he said. “If it’s the right thing I’m doing, if I’m doing what I think is right, then I should be doing it even though people disagreed, even if I am being attacked for it. If you always worry about why there is so much static, if you live your life by that, you end up not doing very much.”
Blair accepted that his views could be antagonistic to the democracy he wanted to improve. Partly, he said, that was the inherent tension between executive power and people power. A leader would always face dissent, on any issue. His opponents’ fury was “completely understandable” and they were “absolutely entitled” to their views, he said. But that didn’t make them right. And that meant, obviously, that the results-oriented leader shouldn’t take these views into account. Opposition was the price paid by true leaders. Weathering the storm was the test of them.
Tidskriftsomslag: Newsweek, 17 april 2015.