We don’t want no reforming leaders

A reforming prime minister. Or a reforming president. That’s what many people think nearly every country in the world needs.

That’s why, when election time comes around, those of us who are interested in the politics of the people who rule us tend to ask what changes this man or this woman will bring. And the people we vote for will ultimately be the ones who say they will bring about the changes that we think are good for our nation. Selfish changes often, but changes nevertheless.

Only, we do not realise that reforming leaders are never going to get going once they are in the seat of power. You don’t have to live in a country that has been around for thousands of years, you could be in the US which is just 238 years old. There are so many vested interests in the system surrounding government at all levels that reform is well-nigh impossible.

For example, before coming to power Bill Clinton promised to reform healthcare, a sector sorely in need of radical change if it was to benefit the people. He handed the task to his wife, Hillary. But once she got going on the task, she realised that the funds providing medical insurance were not going to countenance any change. They were making too much from the existing system and they had enough politicians on their payrolls to defeat any vote that threatened the status quo.

The health insurance lobby won that battle, with ease.

Thus, taking this into account, the achievements of the late Gough Whitlam seem all the more remarkable. The man was in office for just three years or even less and brought about so many reforms that it leaves one dizzy just to think about them.

But then there was one difference between Whitlam and other politicians: when Whitlam got into office, he had a number of plans which he wanted to implement, come what may. His first interest was not securing his own re-election. Which is precisely what every single politician is interested today – making sure that when the polls are called next time, they have enough political capital, and enough money for a campaign that will lead to re-election. The long-term interests of the country do not even begin to come into the picture.