A rejection of aptitude

At the risk of stating the obvious, there is something rather strange going on in Britain at present. I'm not talking specifically about Brexit, nor the supernova-esque expansion and seemingly inevitable collapse of the Labour party, nor even the apparent failure of the entire political class to relate to “ordinary people”. Rather, I'm trying to understand what may underpin all of these, to comprehend what has got us so riled at those in positions of authority that we’re prepared to slash and burn our way through the established order.

Unless you chose to have a lobotomy or other serious brain injury in the wake of the Brexit vote, you may recall that “experts” were not exactly flavour of the month in the Leave campaign. The most interesting thing about Gove’s statement wasn't that it was plainly idiotic, nor that he was widely mocked in the mainstream media for it. It was that the mantra of “taking back control [from experts]” repeated ad infinitum by Leave campaigners actually struck a chord.

A similar discourse has emerged in the slow, painful car crash of a PR disaster than the Labour party call a “leadership election”. Corbyn’s critics’ claims that he is not up to the job are less commonly countered with evidence that he is than with statements about his consistency of opinion or authenticity. For many of his supporters, good friends of mine included, it doesn't matter if he lacks many of the competencies his job would usually require, so long as he is sufficiently well-meaning. They don’t want “normal politicians” who are adept at playing the political game. They relish in Corbyn’s amateurism.

At first glance, it’s hard to say where this has come from. Is it a rejection of the managerialism that pervades not just 21st Century politics but most modern workplaces? A desire to return to the (probably imaginary) days when honest folk just got stuff done, without having to fill in a form, prepare a business case or consult all stakeholders? Maybe, but one of the common criticisms levelled at Corbyn is that he hasn’t achieved enough, so that doesn’t really fit. Instead, it may be more closely aligned with “taking back control”. Does much of the populace feel so disconnected from — and cynical about — those in positions of power that it actively relishes the idea of important jobs being done by people without the conventionally accepted necessary skillset, so long as it feels those people are in it with the best intentions? Do people feel closer to power if power is wielded by those who seem little different to them? After decades of stage-managed politics is the vogue now for our leaders to be all-too-obviously flawed?

For now, this post ends in questions rather than answers. There seems to be a pattern here. I'm just not sure yet what it means.