The Cricketing Playboy turned Prime Minister

For those of you who aren’t aware, Pakistan is important to me for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it’s where my family are from. My grandad was born in Lahore. His father was in charge of operating the railways in India during partition in 1947. My mum briefly grew up there and did her undergraduate studies at Government College, Lahore. I’ve unfortunately never ventured out there, and although I’m trying to make it an aim within the next two years, I still feel some trepidation about visiting a country where my family have so much history, and not all of it good…

I’ve heard hundreds of stories from both my grandad and mum, explaining the beauties of living there and how much they long to return. But, with our family being as dysfunctional as it is, a visit over there could be met with varying degrees of hostility.

So, I guess you could say that from hearing a plethora of family tales about Pakistan, I’ve naturally developed a vested interest.

Also, let us not forget its gargantuan size, with a population of 197 million people. It’s an emerging economic power, with an ever-growing relationship with China and, oh yeah, it’s in the middle of a conflict with India over Kashmir. So, if you ask me, it’s pretty interesting anyway.

But who is the leader of a country with so much political corruption, conflict and military intimidation?

This chap.

Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi is the 22nd and current Prime Minister of Pakistan, as well as being Chairman of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf).

Unlike most politicians, Imran was a successful cricketer who captained the Pakistan National Team to World Cup glory in 1992. Like most young sportsmen, he was a bit of a playboy and his celebrity status meant he was also one of Pakistan’s most successful exports.

So, as one of the most talked-about sportsmen on the planet, how did he go from cricketer to politician? He’d made it clear in various interviews that politics was not for him. However, just in case we didn’t already know, anyone who says that usually ends up doing exactly the opposite.

In 1996, Imran founded the political party PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf). Its political leaning is that of a liberal/centrist party, and although I don’t claim to be a world expert on Mr Khan, what doesn’t surprise me is that he created this centrist Pakistani movement around the same time that both Tony Blair came to power (a fellow centrist) and Bill Clinton was also President of the United States (the man who kicked off the whole centrist trend in modern times).

Maybe he was inspired by the two of them – who knows? Yet, despite this, I wouldn’t really come to the conclusion that Imran Khan was somebody who upheld a great many liberal values. He has spoken previously about promoting feminism, yet this is the same man who failed to condemn (i.e. endorsed) the terrorist group that shot Malala Yousef and, in the eyes of his government, a single mother is not allowed to be recognised as the head of the household. These are just a few examples of Imran failing to stand up for the women in his society.

Questions should also be raised about the army’s involvement in Prime Minister Khan’s ascent to office. Since partition in the 1940s, Pakistan’s military has seen either direct or indirect control over the government. The army has used their influence and backed candidates who have then gone on to be elected, which – surprise, surprise! – last time round was Imran.

One method of intimidation has been trying to control how journalists and media companies portray their candidates, obviously seeking as favourable coverage as possible. This is hardly the mark of a true liberal. A true liberal shouldn’t shy away from amicable debate, a true liberal shouldn’t seek assistance from a military group in order to seal a democratic victory and a true liberal shouldn’t cower from terrorist groups or seek to limit the free speech of an entire nation.

There is nothing clever or liberal about Prime Minister Khan’s leadership.

Ed Davey’s fight for the future of Liberalism

They were the results of a contest that nobody really cared about. A party that since 2015 has seemed pretty aimless and lacking in purpose. For the last five years, the Liberal Democrats have been without strong leadership. They’ve lacked a clear vision and time and time again have failed to grasp the attention of the electorate. 

The Lib Dems are supposedly the party of the centre-ground, and after five years of tribalism and populism on the right and left of politics, you would have thought there was an appetite for centrism. Well, there is, but not necessarily the type of centrism the Lib Dems are dishing up. 

No matter who takes charge of this sinking ship, they will always struggle to shake off the public perception of them being the party of broken promises. As we are reminded time and time again, the Lib Dems are of course the party, that when in government with the Tories failed to abolish tuition fees, cap bankers bonuses, not increase the rate of VAT, as well as add 3,000 extra police officers on the streets and create 100,000 jobs

The only hope for the Liberal Democrats going forward is for them to abandon the sinking ship, grab the nearest lifeboats, sail their members away from what was the Liberal Democrats and reach out to fellow centrists (former Tory MPs and New Labourite MPs). In the hope of one day being able to re-form The Liberal Party. 

If Ed Davey is telling his party, they need “to wake up and smell the coffee” well then maybe he should stop buying the same brand of cheap coffee, that nobody likes the taste of, and instead focus his energy on building a new Liberal organisation. The TIGers, Change UK, Renew UK, and even Rory Stewart attempted to take London by storm with his British ”En Marche!” movement

No centrist, since Blair, has been able to capture the nation’s attention. And considering he was also the same man who drove people away from the idea of voting for a similar figure, trust in centrism may take some time to restore before Britain is ready to vote Liberal again. 

But that means Sir Ed Davey must be ready to take the fight to Boris and Keir. Both leaders claim to be more centrist/liberal than their predecessors, but their downfall will always be their core membership being on the right and left of the spectrum. Whereas Davey has the upper hand of already having a core-centrist membership to start building a new/refreshed movement on.  

In his acceptance speech, he said he would rebuild the party. He is seeking to replace Brexit as the party’s key theme and focus on support for carers and investment in the green economy.

This may be a more effective strategy, but with only a handful of MP’s and not much support in the polls, the new leader is facing the most significant challenge any Lib Dem leader has had to face.