Do these three leaders really have anything in common?
All three came to power as a result of innovative research techniques – the extensive use of focus groups to determine the response of different groups of people to various policy suggestions.
All three sought – with great electoral success – to bring together a broad coalition to install in power a set of core principles which had not been electorally popular before. In the USA, the Republican party has dominated presidential office throughout the twentieth century, while in the UK the Labour Party had not been in power since 1979. Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party brought together a very wide range of interests centred on the desire to enact pro-poor policies redistributing resources from Bangkok to the rural poor – a policy that had never been seriously implemented previously.
All three faced legal challenges by right wing opponents unable to defeat them electorally (Clinton was, disgracefully, impeached over the Lewinsky fiasco and huge amounts of money and time were spent trying to find something wrong in his personal dealings, Blair was faced by threats of war crimes and corruption that have also failed to produce substantive evidence, Thaksin has been placed under a court empowered by the military junta that ousted him).
All three were highly charismatic individuals who reached out to the public, occasionally over the heads of governmental institutions when they considered these to be obstructive – Clinton had to deal with the unpleasant Gingrich factions that controlled much of government, Blair was impatient with many British institutions, Thaksin too had those problems which led of course to the military coup when he tried to make institutions such as the army subject to civilian rule.
Clinton left office very popular and was succeeded by Al Gore who failed to get elected. Blair was succeeded by Gordon Brown who seems set to lead the Labour Party to a disastrous defeat. Thaksin’s successor – discounting the disastrous junta regime of General Surayud – was Samak Sundaravej who has been removed from office by a court decision, although he did lead the PPP to electoral success.
Clinton-Blair-Thaksin- their enemies loathe them with irrational intensity.