‘Reckless opportunists’ by Aeron Davis
I picked up ‘Reckless opportunists: Elites at the end of the Establishment’ to accompany me on my flight to Les Menuires this year. As it happens I read hardly any of it on the plane, and the majority on a sofa in our apartment having scuppered my chances at doing any skiing this year in an accident involving multiple ambulances, hospitals, and a severely fractured arm. That however, is a another story for another day…
Davis opens his introduction with “[a]s I write this introduction, the British elite appear to be weaving from one full-blown crisis to the next”. This felt like both a rather timely read, and fitting summary, during the week that Tom Peck in the Independent described the House of Commons as “a Benny Hill chase on acid, running through a Salvador Dali painting in a spaceship on its way to mad infinity and beyond”.
Any potential readers of ‘Reckless opportunists’ will be glad to know that Davis’ structure and style is anything but the quote above! Originally chosen for it’s compact nature, and the fact it wouldn’t take up too much room in my hand luggage – the internal structure neatly fits with the external. Comprising of four key parts: Part I Barbarians Inside the Gate; Part II Getting to the Top; Part III Staying at the Top; and, Part IV Exit Strategies.
I found Davis’ style and lense particularly refreshing; he focuses on three main elements of what he considers the elite: politics, business, and the media. Occasionally, writers will only focus on one of these, so to examine all three together provided a wider picture and analysis. Further, Davis’ language and structure is easily accessible; with each part split into chapters and multiple subheadings. On a brief side note, my first read through of this my brain was still addled with strong painkillers, and it still felt like a flowing read!
Part I Barbarians Inside the Gate and Part II Getting to the Top are the sections of this book that have stuck with me the most, in particular the following quotes:
“[s]elf-interest and competition has left politicians willing to destroy their parties, civil servants their departments, chief executives their companies, and journalists their publications”
“[t]oday, it’s pretty much impossible to be both an expert and a leader. In fact, trying to be an expert in anything when ascending the leadership mountain is a sure way to fail”
When we are currently in a system that doesn’t value expertise, and the skills required to become a leader, are not the same as those required to be a good leader, does this not signal a huge red flag? If our leaders themselves are committing acts of self sabotage do we not need to step back and reconsider the system? This is not sustainable, and we would be naive for thinking it was – something needs to change, different voices need to be heard.
‘Reckless opportunists’ was a small blessing in disguise this holiday, and can easily be read in two to three hours. Davis provides the reader with a concise, neat summary of the current Establishment in Britain, and points to how we have arrived at this current ‘chaos’. Through extensive insider interviews he fills the reader with confidence in his analysis, but also sheer shock at some of what goes on behind closed doors. However, his concluding remarks and suggestions for transforming the Establishment we have today from “solitary, rich, nasty, brutish and short” to “modestly paid, nice, civilised and long” provide the reader with some hope for a less chaotic and more representative future. I would recommend this book to anyone trying to understand British politics, finance or media; and indeed I have passed it over to my younger sibling – I’m still awaiting their thoughts!
‘Reckless Opportunists’ in Facts:
Author: Aeron Davis
First Published: 2018
Publishing House: Manchester University Press
Pages: 149 (142 bulk read)