It takes me longer to get going in the mornings these days. I no longer spring out of bed when the alarm rings. By such small measures, I know I am not fit to be the next President of the United States or the Leader of the Labour Party.
Don’t get me wrong. I am in good health for my age. My doctor could let you have very, very specific information, which Donald Trump promised but did not provide. But there is no doubt that I am slowing down and enjoying the freedom to go at my own pace.
I have the good fortune never to have suffered a bout of pneumonia . I now know it takes many weeks to fully recover and so question whether Hilary Clinton should undertake 5000 miles of travel and campaigning this week – although there are rumours she has a body double. But a woman who has driven herself for 520 days and counting to become President, is not going to let up now.
I am petrified at the thought that questions about Clinton’s health will swing a neck and neck election in Trump’s favour. How can this glorious but crazy country have been so carried away as to have selected candidates aged 68 and 70 to battle it out for the White House. Bernie Saunders, the Democrats runner up, is 75.
Trump would be the oldest person to take the oath and Clinton would be the third eldest by a short head behind Ronald Reagan. Either would face the prospect of a punishing schedule for the next eight years which no amount of cosseting by a posse of staff and advisers could hide. The President may be required to make life and death decisions at any time of the day or night at an age when their energies and health are likely to be failing.
The American constitution sensibly limits a President to two terms of four years. Such a prohibition in this country would have saved us from the diminished third terms of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Politicians hang on to power and need saving from themselves. Uncle Joe should now introduce a rule that a President should be under sixty on inauguration day and so out of office shy of seventy.
We could do well to follow suit. Look at the final terms of William Gladstone, aged 83, and Winston Churchill, aged 77. Both were among our greatest prime ministers but neither served their country or their reputations well in their final years. Robert Mugabe defies the odds at 92.
Similar restrictions should be imposed on parliamentarians. The burgeoning benches of the House of Lords could be relieved at a stroke if a compulsory retirement age of 75 was introduced. The current average age of their Lordships is 69. Members of parliament should step down when they draw their state pension. The allure of the so called ‘ best club in the world’ is too great to give up. There is no reason for the powerful to be granted these dispensations from the normal rules of working life. However, the Queen should remain exempt from retirement at any age.
Jeremy Corbyn would then have to stand down as Leader of the Labour Party. It may be the only way he will do so. Only a year ago, I was writing in this column of my enthusiasm for a man of my own age who had gained power. The oldies were back. I supported his stand in opposing the war in Iraq and the now derided invasion of Libya and loved him for wanting to ban nuclear weapons and re nationalise the railways. I applaud the way his idealism has swelled the numbers of a great political party.
But politics is the art of the possible and I do not see Jeremy pulling his parliamentary party together or winning over the electorate. I think that allowing party members to elect the shadow cabinet is irresponsible. And so with a heavy heart, I have just cast my vote for the other chap.
I do not warm to Owen whats-his-name. He makes up policy to please and lacks the experience needed for the job. I am dismayed that more experienced Labour politicians have kept their heads down. They must grow up and re join the shadow cabinet after Jeremy’s expected re-election. The Labour Party needs to vociferously oppose a bold and right wing government before it is too late.
The years of peak performances are in the fifties when experience has been gained and energy is undiminished. Thereafter the elixir of wisdom may still mature and to be drip strictly on request but the edge is lost.
So I propose one further rule of political life. We should emulate the Roman Empire where consuls had to reach a certain age before being allowed higher office. In my new schema, cabinet ministers should be at least forty and prime ministers should be at least fifty on taking office. They could then gain experience of the world and learn the wiles of political life before holding the high office. If this rule had been in force, we would be staying in the European Union.
Published in Newcastle Journal 20th Sept 2016