Disraeli, or The Two Lives

Douglas Hurd and Edward Young
Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2013 £20

Friends will know of my mild obsession with post second world ward political biographies and autobiographies. They are a strange and mildly unsatisfying genre with few jewels on the shelves. It is difficult to write a life that is completely honest and that seems especially to be the case with politicians.


I have long been an admirer of Hurd who adds another volume to his list ( his memoirs are interesting but a little high handed about some events – but his biography of Peel is a great book).


Amazon offered me this volume at a reasonable price and it was a good read on holiday. Hurd turns his attention to the myths that have grown up around Disraeli – a politician who achieved fame for what he said, not for what he did.


You may have had the experience of meeting someone in public life and wondering how on earth they have managed to achieve so much. This is the underlying thesis in this book. For example, Disraeli has been credited with passing the Second Reform Act of 1867, giving the vote to the working man in the boroughs, because he believed in “Tory Democracy”. Not so, write the authors. He never used the phrase, nor did he think democracy was a good thing. It is often said that Disraeli was the author of Tory social reform, but this too turns out to be a myth. Social legislation was introduced on his watch as Prime Minister, but he took little interest, falling asleep in Cabinet when matters such as working-class housing were discussed.

The legend of Disraeli was created largely by the Conservative party, which needed a hero on whom to pin its ideas about making the party electable in a democracy. The process began with the Primrose League, a party organisation which was created in Disraeli’s memory after Queen Victoria sent a bunch of primroses to his funeral inscribed “his favourite flower” (the wording was ambivalent – some thought she was referring to Albert and not to Disraeli at all).


There is some understandable admiration for the man and his achievements.For Disraeli to have climbed to the top of the greasy pole was an extraordinary feat. The son of a wealthy Jewish man of letters, Disraeli was baptised aged 12 when his father broke with the synagogue. As a young man, Disraeli played the dandy, wearing outlandish clothes and dyed black curls, running up vast debts and claiming that the Jews were the master race.

The transition came in his forties. “I get duller every day,” sighed Disraeli. He ceased to write fiction. Instead, he poured his creativity into politics. This is not to say that he wanted to make the world a better place through reforming legislation, as Peel or Gladstone did. He was not a man of compassion. Disraeli, ever the social climber, filled his notebooks with lists of the famous people he had met.

The key to Disraeli’s politics was a genius with words. This is what he meant when he described himself as a man of imagination. Words, as the authors explain, are not the same as ideas. Disraeli possessed a stock of ideas, many of them preposterous, on matters such as neo-feudalism and religion. But he used them like silver, bringing them out on special occasions for display; not as a working political creed. Epigrams, wit and oratory were his weapons.

When Disraeli won his first (and only) general election in 1874 and became Prime Minister at the age of 69, his colleagues were dismayed to discover that he had absolutely nothing in the way of a plan. This was partly because he was old, tired and gouty. But there was something else too. For him, just being Prime Minister was enough. Power was an end in itself.

Part biography, part polemic, this is an engaging and enjoyable book. One of the questions they investigate is: what, if anything, can we learn today from Disraeli? Surprisingly, the answer is quite a lot. Disraeli brought qualities to politics which are conspicuously absent among Westminster’s dull clones of 2013: wit and, above all, extraordinary political courage. We need a bit more difference and risk and eccentricity to all aspects of our lives – and not least the Church!





Desmond Tutu’s dream is founded in the image of the reign of God, the full dignity of all humanity, and an insistence that all God’s children are made to dwell together in peace, with justice. He has nation and of the world, and to make their methods seem absurd or ridiculous. Tutu has an impish and ingenious sense of humor, and he’s used it to puncture both arrogant self-importance and the insan­ity of injustice—yet he treats every single human being with pro­found respect.


Leaders demonstrate a specific set of character gifts, most of which can be cultivated by exercise—or spiritual discipline-—and formation in a particular way of encountering the world. The teaching task of Christians is part of building leaders who can dream big dreams and approach them with consistency, who have deep courage, abundant creativity, and a sense of connectedness, which often shows itself as compassion. Learning to do new and challenging things—whether mathematics, mountaineering, or deciphering Hebrew verbs—are all ways of honing these gifts. Forming new believers and nurturing new leaders requires some basic principles.


Consistency. In nurturing faith in new and growing Christian lead­ers, it’s most helpful to keep the main thing the main thing, and encourage all to pursue their dreams with faithfulness and integrity. When an immediate challenge requires a shift in the proximate goal, the overarching vision remains in the mind of a good leader. A worthy goal is not approached by unworthy means, lest it defeat the purpose of the journey, The use of torture or assassination in the expectation that it will end an ongoing conflict is a fitting and timely example. Nor is the goal of a vibrant economy and healthy populace served by gutting services to the most vulnerable populations in a society— something with which many nations are wrestling.


Courage. The courage needed for leadership grows out of the paradoxical awareness of one’s own vulnerability. There can be no courage without objective danger—nor is there any courage in fool­hardiness. The most effective leadership does not emerge until one has a sense of how that danger is shared by others. The energy for of danger only produces greater hazards. There are some rock walls where the only way out is up,- retreat is not an option. Global climate change is an excellent example, for denial won’t solve the problem—- the only way through is engagement and changing the way we live on this earth and use its resources. We haven’t yet found adequate leadership to make significant change. Entrenched interest groups are still blowing smoke, trying to mask the real dangers of a failure to act. Those who insist that there is no danger are demonstrably failing to act in their own best interest, relying on their perception of what are at best very short-term rewards, We hope and pray that emerging leaders will find creative ways to expose the smoke for the vanity it is, and effect some transformation.


Creativity. Creative methods, like Tutu’s humour, are both a vision of the Divine at work in ongoing newness, and a way to keep us all appropriately humble. I heard him once challenge a group of students to think about their hungry neighbours by saying, “When Jesus said feed the hungry, he didn’t mean stand around and wait for pizzas to fall from heaven!” He names the obvious in unexpected images and invites all present into the desperate reality.

Our task is to form leders who build community through consensus and collaboration, calling on the gifts of each part of the  community to serve the big dream. The dream and vision require a sense of compassion for those who will find any change difficult— but not an empty sympathy that leaves people exactly where they are.


Ten outstanding high achievers were asked to sum up their particular approach to leadership – the core message that they wanted to share with others and this is what emerged:

the images might ground the snippets!

1. The great don’t need to play games


2.Leadership comes through respect


3.Go for the people, not the position


4. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it


5. Know what makes your workers tick


6 Do what you enjoy.  Don’t plan.  Be flexible


7. Life doesn’t make sense if you don’t love what you do


8. Self-belief and an ability to think differently are vital


9. Don’t just go for the money


10. Weather the criticism, share the bouquets


“Leadership is about articulating visions, embodying values, and creating the environment within which things can be accomplished.” Richards and Engle (1986)

“Leadership is the process of making sense of what people are doing together so that people will understand and be committed.” Drath & Palus (1994)

“Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Dwight D Eisenhower (1890 -1969) US Statesman

Church of Nigeria reacts to Archbishop of Canterbury’s Resignation

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt. Hon. Dr. Rowan Williams took over the leadership of the Anglican Communion in 2002 when it was a happy family. Unfortunately, he is leaving behind a Communion in tatters: highly polarized, bitterly factionalized, with issues of revisionist interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and human sexuality as stumbling blocks to oneness, evangelism and mission all around the Anglican world.

It might not have been entirely his own making, but certainly “crucified under Pontius Pilate”. The lowest ebb of this degeneration came in 2008, when there were, so to say, two “Lambeth” Conferences one in the UK, and an alternative one, GAFCON in Jerusalem. The trend continued recently when many Global South Primates decided not to attend the last Primates’ meeting in Dublin, Ireland.

Since Dr. Rowan Williams did not resign in 2008, over the split Lambeth Conference, one would have expected him to stay on in office, and work assiduously to ‘mend the net’ or repair the breach, before bowing out of office. The only attempt, the covenant proposal, was doomed to fail from the start, as “two cannot walk together unless they have agreed”.

For us, the announcement does not present any opportunity for excitement. It is not good news here, until whoever comes as the next leader pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction. To this end, we commit our Church, the Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion) to serious fasting and prayers that God will do “a new thing”, in the Communion.

Nevertheless, we join others to continue in prayer for Dr. Rowan Williams and his family for a more fruitful endeavour in their post – Canterbury life.

+Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria

So often we think of the Church as an organisation that needs to be run!

It might be worth remembering  Bishop Edward King.  

 The words are those of G. F. Wilgress, who was, I think once his chaplain.   

‘Without any very visible method in his  administration of his diocese, there was a deep underlying purpose running through the whole. He did not ostensibly try to organise the Diocese, but tried to inspire life into it, and he left to others to utilize their powers of organisation to the full. This principal can be summed up in two sentences: “for their sakes I sanctify myself” and “organisation does not produce life, though life may produce organisation, the secret of the power is life.” These words explain his personal life. Day by day he drew spiritual strength into himself at the daily eucharist………..’




  • “Playfulness can get you out of a rut more successfully than seriousness,”


  • “Triangles are the plaque in the arteries of communication and stress is the effect of our position in the triangle of our families “


  • “If you are a leader, expect sabotage”


  • “The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assump­tion that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. If you want your child, spouse, client, or boss to shape up, stay connected while changing yourself rather than trying to fix them”

Edwin H.Friedman

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