Sunday 23 September 2018

The British can teach us a thing or two about how to dump weak leaders

David Cameron, pictured with his wife, Samantha Photo: Reuters
David Cameron, pictured with his wife, Samantha Photo: Reuters
Enda Kenny continues to stumble along as Taoiseach
Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

Britain has a tradition of acting with ruthless efficiency towards its prime ministers who fail. Henry VIII's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, was sent to the block after pursuing an unsuccessful royal marriage policy. His final appeal by letter - "Most gracious Prince, I cry for mercy, mercy, mercy!" - fell on deaf ears and Cromwell's head ended up on a spike on London Bridge.

Fast forward almost 500 years from that day of reckoning on Tower Hill, on July 28, 1540, and we witnessed this week how the British continue to move rapidly to remove political leaders who tumble from grace. Their ends may be less brutal but are no less inevitable. And sentence is just as swiftly executed.

This observation is not intended as criticism. On the contrary, it is impossible to watch the British political machine in operation without admiring its disciplined efficiency - which must be conducive to stability. One prime minister is traded in for another and a new cabinet is appointed, all in the space of a day or two.

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