Friday, November 20, 2009

A Very British Selection

The new President of the European Union is the gloriously-named Mr Herman Van Rompuy, the Prime Minister of Belgium. On seeing his photo, my first thought was I didn’t know Sven Goran Eriksson had gone into politics – I hope the EU do better than Notts County.

Mr Van Rompuy’s name, pronounced, I think, Rumpy, is a headline writer’s dream. Now if Ed Balls becomes Labour leader, sub-editors everywhere will be leaping for joy.

As I said earlier, I think we should have elected the President. Still, we must wish Mr Van Rompuy luck in his new post.

Despite the media’s scorn, there is something very British about this selection of the least offensive candidate. Instead of cheering someone on, we are more likely to fear the alternative and rally behind a compromise.

The Conservative party have constantly chosen leaders for who they are not – John Major was not Michael Heseltine, William Hague was not Ken Clarke, Ian Duncan Smith was not Michael Portillo and David Cameron was not David Davis. In each case the obvious front runner was defeated by the more conciliatory option. As John Major said at his first cabinet meeting as PM, ‘who would have thought it?’

Not only in politics of course. In business, top quality candidates are often sidelined by their superiors for fear of their own position. When David Frost first applied for a job with the BBC in the 1960s, he was nearly rejected because he did such a great interview that the panel feared his brilliance.

Brian Clough would have made a great England manager, Matthew Le Tissier and Glenn Hoddle should have played for England more often, Geoff Boycott would have made a good chairman of England cricket selectors and James Nesbitt would have made a great Doctor Who. The list of might-have-beens goes on.

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