As we, Conservatives, contemplate the challenge of restoring good, sound, principled government to Canada we must select a new party leader.

Many hoped that Rona Ambrose, the interim leader would seek the permanent job but she has decided that her (current) role is to lead while the party builds for the future.

My friend The Regimental Rogue posted this …


… now Field Marshal Lord Wavell was an outstanding soldier, leader, strategist and scholar whose books, articles and biographies are required reading for serious students of war at the highest levels …


… Lord Wavell’s comments about delicate mechanism in war are, I think, also applicable to politics. They also remind me of another story ~ perhaps from Wavell, himself, perhaps from Field Marshal Slim, another great British commander with deep roots in the Indian Army:

When the Indian Army, the story goes, was looking to procure new guns for their special mountain artillery batteries the candidate howitzers were, first, hooked to a team of mules, towed up a steep mountain trail and then pushed off the edge, to land in a muddy river far below. The next days the mules went to the river and the guns were hooked up again and towed to the firing range. If the gun, which had survived the long fall and a night in the muck, was able to fire it was allowed to go on for further testing for range, accuracy and so on … those that could not survive that first test were cast aside. The author of that story suggested that the same sort of technique ought to be applied to selecting leaders: those tough enough, in spirit and body, to withstand the shocks of war should go on to be trained as soldiers and leaders; the others should be sent back home to seek different careers. 

I believe that notion is sound in the military and I think it applies to politics, too.



Now, the first and most obvious point is that a robust physical presence is not a requirement for success in every field. There are many fields of endeavour where even a frail, shattered body does not impede the work of a great mind.  Politics, however, imposes some demands on people that make stamina, at least, essential … even if mobility might be impaired.

What matters most in politics is the spirit of the party which is channelled through and amplified by its leaders … and it is important to emphasize that a political party has many leaders, the person who has been elected to that post, the party president, the riding association presidents, leaders of provincial parties and others, in parliament, in the formal party structure and in the community. Spirit is, in some part, a result of the state of the “mind of the commander” ~ the leaders must, as Field Marshal Earl Wavell said, not be too ‘delicate,’ especially not when we are in opposition and trying, very hard and for the good of Canada, to regain power.

Strong minds are not bound by age, race, sex or physical disabilities … we can have young leaders, old leaders, male leaders and female leaders, leaders from every and any race and leaders with disabilities, like Ottawa City Councillor (and Conservative) Jody Mitic.

We, Conservatives, need to be open ~ as we always have been ~ to the notion that it is character, not age or eye shape or skin colour or gender that makes a leader … and it is why I have, more than once, suggested that we, Conservatives, adopt a great Liberals as a model. I doubt that Louis St Laurent would be a Liberal, today, not after what Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chrétien and now Justin Trudeau did and are doing to the Liberal Party’s values and reputation …

… Prime Minister St Laurent believed in equal justice for all, a balance of civil rights and civic duties, sound, conservative fiscal management, cautious borrowing only for the long term, a strong military to give strength to our shared national convictions about being leaders in the world, moderation in all things and honesty. he would be a 21st century Conservative.

It is time for Conservatives to put aside our fears ~ and that’s what they are ~ about age (too much or too little), race, gender and physical disabilities and select, as our leaders, the sorts of people who are most likely to appeal to the broadest coalition of Canadians who want good, honest, responsible government.

There’s no point in appealing to the 25% or so of Canadians who want something akin to Marxism albeit without the very, very real threats that socialism makes to fundamental rights …

according-quotes-6… rather, we must leave those voters to the Liberals and the NDP and focus on winning enough of the moderate majority who share a more utilitarian philosophy …


… we must not threaten to eviscerate Medicare or put poor seniors out on the streets to die and we must promise to respect the changing social norms of society at large, even when some (perhaps many) of us might disagree, on good moral grounds, with some of the directions in which some parts of society are headed. We must aim to provide Canada with “consistently good, financially responsible, trouble free government” and that requires strong, moderate, understanding leaders who can, as both John Diefenbaker and Brian Mulroney did, bring fully 50% of those who vote into the Conservative fold.

Our “weapons and instruments” are our policies and platform, and they too, as Lord Wavell said, must be robust ~ and that means appealing to a majority of Canadians, not just finely tuned to appeal to narrow slices of society. Our studies of wars teach us that, over and over again, an army with only adequate equipment and resources can defeat a bigger, better-armed opponent if it has good leadership … it is, I believe, the same in politics, but, as in war, great leaders come in every size and shape, they are not stamped out on an assembly line …

… and, as Field Marshal Wavell knew, only too well, the road to ultimate victory must, very often, include hardships and even some defeats. If it was not so then brains and a pleasing personality would be enough, but we must understand that strength of character is also required.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

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