Neil Shastri-Hurst is a former British Army Officer, doctor, and Conservative activist in the West Midlands
Last week, Johnny Mercer spoke out. In a typically honest and forthright interview he pulled no punches, as one would expect from a former commando. He told The House Magazine that he was no longer sure that his “set of values and ethos” were still “aligned with the Conservative Party”. He peppered his analysis with some choice words. His views could not be misconstrued.
Mercer’s words made me cast my mind back to September his year, and John McCain’s funeral. McCain was an All American Hero. A veteran, defined by his courage whilst a prisoner of war, a legislator in both Houses of Congress, a presidential candidate. Whether one agreed with his politics or not, McCain’s dedication to service and duty made Americans and countless others across the globe proud. He was a maverick, but also a conciliator. He worked across the aisle in order to deliver for his country.
In the days following his death, there were many other such tributes to the man. The contrast with his approach to politics and that of the current White House administration has been emphasised repeatedly and pointedly. Meghan McCain paid tribute to her father during his memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral as follows: “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.” The subsequent break in protocol and spontaneous eruption of applause highlighted the importance of his impact on American politics. So too did his choice of former presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush to be amongst those who delivered eulogies: two former opponents who lauded him for putting his principles and country before his party and his politics.
In a world increasingly dominated by populist political rhetoric, in which chasing a headline and provoking a reaction is the apparent aim, McCain’s approach to politics really matters. During his lifetime, he called on his fellow politicians to do better for those that they serve. He understood the meaning of service in its truest sense. Whilst that service has not disappeared it does, at times, appear in short supply in today’s politics.
The after-effects of McCain’s political contributions will reverberate for some time to come. There must be a hope that he will inspire a new generation of soldier-statesmen to take up the mantle. In the UK, there are a number of parliamentarians who have previously earned the Queen’s Shilling in service of their country. These men and women offer a solution to a nation and a wider world crying out for leadership. They truly get the concepts of duty, service, and nationhood. Like McCain, Mercer and his fellow former servicemen and women are innately more comfortable in taking a bipartisan approach to their politics to find workable and achievable solutions to the challenges they face. In short, they believe in the power of their nation over that of their party.
With swathes of the public on both sides of the Pond disenchanted with the political leadership currently on offer, the resurgence of the warrior-statesman may be just what the doctor ordered. Their patriotism and sense of nationhood having the resonance of genuineness that so often eludes the political classes, they have been in the privileged position to live and operate alongside the whole spectrum of society; a unique experience to most modern political leaders.
So, long after the final eulogies have disappeared in the wind, perhaps McCain will have one final contribution to make to the world.