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The Forum > General Discussion > Does Virtuous Priministership Exist

Does Virtuous Priministership Exist

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I just watched the 7:30 report. I seldom get online to post to discussions because of what I've seen on TV, but Peter Van Onselen's comment about virtuous priminstership did it.

It was claimed that a prime minister isn't going to be virtuous, for the nature of what politics is. The context for the comment was in response to the suggestion that the former prime minister could be cunning.

Whether or not Mr Howard was (and I'm not uncomfortable with the claim), it does not follow that prime ministerial posts are inherently or implicitly required or necessarily not virtuous.

We have had different degrees of virtuosity in our prime ministers. The concept is to be thought of on a spectrum of varying degrees, not as an absolute quality. That is why what Mr Van Olsenen's comment needs to be more moderately put. We have had prime ministers with back bones for integrity of leadership, and with a relative absence of guile. So, the question then becomes, why did the former leader sacrifice the amount of virtue he did, and who of us prefer to see progress towards virtuosity in leadership. If that means saying what you mean, meaning what you say, exposing duplicitous politicking, operating with egalitarianism wherever practicable, ruling with integrity and commitment to social health and wellbeing, and to fiscal viability by engineering intelligent, robust policy, then I vote for virtuous leadership. And especially because I know of no way of making a decision where there is guile involved that won't injure the electorate's trust in the process.

Posted by stav, Monday, 26 November 2007 7:19:54 PM
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Stav, I think virtuosity is too much of a vague concept for many people to get their heads around.

Would it be virtuous for a PM to always go with majority opinion and hence be a true representative of the peoples’ wishes, or would it be virtuous for him to develop a strong policy direction and stick to it and fight like buggery to convince the populace of it’s …um….virtues?

Or is it the best possible balance of the two? Or to take one approach with some policies and the opposite with others?

It seems to me that the perception of virtuosity could be anywhere along the spectrum, depending on personal interpretations and desires.
Posted by Ludwig, Wednesday, 28 November 2007 2:50:34 PM
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hi there :)

Thank you for the post - erm, :) it's because Mr Onselen used the word "virtuous" that I replicated it. Because he used the word in the more absolule/ipsative sense - 'you are either virtuous or you are not', rather than graduating the construct into domains. I saw what was happening on TV not that different to the common position taken to make excuses for bad behaviour 'feel sorry for them--they have to shed their morals because they're politicians and need to'.

I guess it is about where you're going with the cow-tow-to-party/group dynamics versus assert an unpopular strong policy comment is one part of what I reckon goes to the heart of it, I think.

People can and do subordinate their sense of self to an organisation in order to survive at work, for example. In so doing, often personal beliefs and values are sacrificed for the sake of belonging and for the sake of avoiding trouble. Like 'towing the party line', not the conscience votes.

Then there's the other end where the despot is in the person and what that person brings to the organisation and the trouble that creates. And some blending of the two.

But - somewhere in all that there is integrity and backbone and we've had leaders who defy the popular view because there is integrity in that - which is what comes up for me when I think of Mr Onselen's comment. A bit like The Scarlet Letter.

Posted by stav, Thursday, 29 November 2007 8:12:18 AM
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