I was reading Iain Dale’s list of his top ten political heroes and thought I’d try doing my own list.
Rather than have people make comments about why they disagree with my picks (it is inevitable that every name on there will have many critics), I’d encourage people to suggest their own names and reasons for inclusion.
1. Winston Churchill: Never has there been a finer example oh how one man can make a difference. His leadership, his judgement, his oratory, his overcoming his demons and his defeat of Hitler make him not just the greatest Briton but one of the world’s greats.
2. Golda Meir. Not many socialists would make my list but she is one of 24 signers of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and went on to become Israel’s Prime Minister 20 years later. One of the first female leaders of any country she led the country through a war of survival in the Yom Kippur War and also approved Operation Wrath of God in response to the Munich massacre.
3. Inaugural US President George Washington. He won the war of revolution against the British. Six years later he became President and established the tradition, now law, of limiting the holder of the most powerful job in earth to eight years. He also established civilian authority over the military and was an early supporter of religious pluralism
4. Peter Fraser – another socialist. I became a fan of Fraser when researching the histories of all the former PMs for the PMs website. He was a good war-time leader, played a major role in moderating Labour away from communism but most of all was prepared to change a deeply held view when convinced he was wrong. In WWI he want to jail rather than be conscripted – the ultimate protest. But in WWII he was the leading proponent of conscription and went against his own party to get the public to support it. Also a key voice on the world stage for smaller countries.
5. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. I pair these two together because it is together they changed the world for the better. As beacons of hope for Eastern Europe they had the policies and rhetoric (which is often under-valued) which led to the freedom of over a dozen countries and hundreds of millions of people. They also both restored national pride to their respective countries. During my formative years of age 13 to 23 they introduced me to the importance of values in politics.
6. Nelson Mandela – one of the few I have met. If you locked me up in a jail cell for 27 years for fighting against a regime which didn’t give me the vote, well when I came out I would not be preaching peace and reconciliation but instead I would have a very long list of people to get even with. But that is where Mandela is great and inspiring – his leadership and reconciliation.
7. Ruth Richardson. She came into Parliament in 1981 to get rid of inflation and she did. But more importantly she played the major role in bringing sanity back to the country’s finances. With the passage of time people forget or minimise the crisis faced with a projected $5 billion deficit with crown revenue being only $25 billion. Yes we were over-spending by a massive 20%, net public debt was 50% of GDP and the interest was crippling. She took the steps necessary to save the economy and by 1996 debt was down to 30%, we had record growth and surpluses. Plus she gave us the Fiscal Responsibility Act to stop us from ever going back to the bad old days.
8. Pitt the Younger. A great Prime Minister of a great country. He became PM at the amazing age of 24 as a tribute to his parliamentary skills. And then went on to remain Prime Minister until he died aged 47, with a brief gap from 1801 to 1804. He held the country together when King George III went mad.
9. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Both were US Presidents but they are heroes for their roles in two inspirational documents. Jefferson for the Declaration of Independence and Madison for the Bill of Rights. The phrase “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government.” serves as a beacon for freedom.
10 Gaius Julius Caesar. Caesar is most famous for his leadership as a general, but he was also an incredibly popular and cunning politician. And as the saying goes even war is merely politics with guns! Despite being from one of the most noble or patrician families in Rome Caesar had huge popularity with the plebeians and the head count and they supported him as Praetor and Consul and then finally in the civil war. He also knew the art of deal making with the first triumvirate of Caesar, Crassus and Pompey. He was second only (if that) to Cicero as an orator and was also one of Rome’s best lawmakers.