In another major coup for David Cameron the Governor of California – Arnold Schwarzenegger – has agreed to address this year’s Blackpool Conference. There are a number of things I don’t like much about Arnie and his politics but now is not the time to rehearse those. Here are three things that we can usefully learn from The Governator:
- Direct democracy. Schwarzenegger won the recall election against the discredited Democrat Governor Gray Davis. The power to recall ensures that elected politicians can be booted out of office early if they really mess up. The recall of the London Mayor – proposed by Andrew Boff – was the first idea on ConservativeHome’s 100policies.com. In this age of disaffection with politicians the Conservative Party should be championing ideas that devolve electoral and other powers to ordinary citizens.
- Servant leadership. California’s Governor survived last November’s anti-Republican mood by showing that he was willing to change course when necessary. Some right-wing Republicans accused him of being too "politically compliant" and "easy-to-please." Schwarzenegger embraced the critique: "I’m eager to please the voters because I’m a public servant. I don’t see myself as a politician. I see myself as a public servant. I serve the people of California. I serve Democrats and Republicans, and if someone says that, that I’m eager to please, yes, I am. I’m there to please the people. That’s what this is all about." It is, of course, possible to be too eager to please – too much of a weather vane, not enough of a sign post. But there is something attractive in a politician that attempts to lead but never in a way that is indifferent to the public mood.
- Inspirational leadership. One of my favourite political speeches was given by Arnie. I have it on my iPod. It was his speech to the 2004 Republican Conference. It was funny. Ideological. Honest. Read or watch it via this link. Here’s my favourite passage:
"My fellow immigrants, my fellow Americans, how do you know if you are a Republican? Well, I[‘ll] tell you how.
If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government, then you are a Republican.
If you believe that a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group, then you are a Republican.
If you believe that your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does, then you are a Republican.
If you believe — If you believe that our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children, then you are a Republican.
If you believe — If you believe that this country, not the United Nations, is best hope for democracy, then you are a Republican.
And ladies and gentlemen — And ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican."