Crossing the Rubicon in the 21st Century – watching ancient history repeat itself

The majority of the United Kingdom’s Politicians have lost the respect of the population and they have only themselves to blame. In an analogy with the Roman Empire, ‘they squabble in the Senate, whilst the legions have begun to march on Rome.’ Just as Caesar did with his Legion from Gaul, we have crossed our own Rubicon, but no one knows where this will take us.

On 3rd April 2019, the British Army found itself in the political media headlines when a small group of paratroopers were filmed on a firing range in Kabul, shooting at a picture of the Leader of the Opposition. That this activity broke the Army’s Values and Standards (Courage, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty & Selfless Commitment) is absolutely clear and the Army has taken this incident very seriously, as would be expected. However, it would be foolish for our politicians to dismiss this as an isolated event confined to ‘a disgruntled far-away legion’ and instead it should be taken as a small omen that all is not well amongst the British people, who are now fed up with the lies, skulduggery and broken promises that they see today in Westminster. Above all, politicians would do well to remember that values and standards of any group, tribe or nation, are a two-way street and those at the top must be seen not just to share those values that they so easily ‘virtue signal’ at every social media opportunity, but behave accordingly in line with them. This they are clearly failing to do.

We have today in Parliament, possibly the worst Prime Minister this country has ever experienced and a Leader of the Opposition of similar standing. In terms of leadership, neither appears to genuinely believe in what they are trying to achieve, and if they do not believe in what they are doing, they cannot lead and should not be given the opportunity to lead. They have little ability to adjust to a changing situation or to even realise that the situation has changed. Furthermore, their tendency to lead by stealth breeds mistrust in those who are outside their coteries of advisors and the wider public. This lack of openness is not the quality of a leader - leaders should be communicators and collaborators. Tragically, the resultant toxic leadership is having a very damaging effect on our democracy and public trust of government and politicians.

In both cases, the Conservative and Labour parties have failed to find suitable replacements for their failing leaders, demonstrating how the political classes are willing to put up with such poor leadership and they lack the moral courage to do what is right, all in the name of their own personal causes or political ambitions and in-fighting. The principled few that are calling for change, are too small a voice to be heard. Many Members of Parliament are staggeringly out of touch with the electorate.  They are colour-blind to extreme religious ideology, military veterans’ issues, uncontrolled immigration, anti-Semitism, the futility of university fees, the plight of the farming and fishing industries, the right to die, corporate greed, and of course, the result of the 2016 EU Referendum.  Many people now look at Parliament not as a place that represents the people, but instead, a place that resents the people.

In November 2018, SixFigureGrid wrote about Imploding Parliamentary Democracy, Social Media and the Rise of the Tribe, and how politicians had become “paralysed by the inability to find enough common ground from their voters, who have increasingly moved away to join ‘new tribes’.” And it warned furthermore, that if they failed to understand that the situation had changed significantly, they were doomed.  The point is that today’s political situation has changed and so has the mood of the country, and as the saying goes, “if you hate the word change, you’re going to hate the word irrelevance”. Yet even with this clearly identifiable shift in attitude towards the major parties, many politicians still believe that their own political opinions trump the people who elected them. With local elections in less than a month’s time, the main political parties are likely to be in for a huge shock at the voting booths, as voters are more likely to vote for anyone before their old party, possibly voting for a new party that might just represent one of their beliefs or values. The result is anyone’s guess, but it could be the beginning of the end for both the Conservatives and Labour at grass root level and the end of the dominance of the two-party political system. What follows is to delve into the unknown. 

However, the UK is not alone in this dilemma, especially in Europe, where people are turning away from mainstream parties and at best voting for parties that hold their values and at worst, turning violently against the state, such as the ‘Gillet Jeunes’ of France. And perhaps it is this latter group’s activity that should make our current politicians think twice about ignoring the democratic process and the electoral promises that they made. For if they do ignore it, the result is likely to be further paralysis, further deadlock and most importantly, a rise of distrust, resentment and anger not seen since the English Civil War over 350 years ago.

As Julius Caesar said as he crossed the River Rubicon with his Legion on the way to Rome, “ālea iacta est  (the die has been cast). It appears that the same is true of our own political system.


SixFigureGrid - Navigation through the 21st Century

Know where you are; understand what is going on

Perception | Scale | Tempo | Ethics | Security | Innovation | Uncertainty

Contact us