This week in politics it has been difficult to pick over the blatant lies to recognise the truths and to separate egoic personal ambition from a strong desire to serve the country… and even to see clearly who actually has the skills to navigate us out of this mess. It doesn’t help with the media highlighting the drama of personality clashes either.
It is going to take a particular type of leader to see us through the months and years ahead to re-establish our credibility in the global community. Whilst he might have been everybody’s hero during the Brexit campaign, I don’t feel that Boris Johnson has the skills to be an inclusive leader…. remember the look of shock on his face the morning of his ‘victory’ .. a little bit akin to a rabbit being trapped in the car headlights! At that moment it became clear that these guys did not have a plan. So while on the one hand I admire his running mate Michael Gove for being ‘truthful’ and declaring that what he had seen of Boris’ coping strategy when the proverbial hit the fan over the weekend. His behaviour made Gove recognise (possibly reluctantly) that Boris was NOT the right man to form a new team and heal the current rifts, in the conservative party and in the country. On the other hand, he then declared that HE was in fact the man to do this … again, would we have judged him worse for not knifing Boris the back and also stepping aside … that would make it look like he was walking away from the mess and vacuum that they both were responsible for?
Cross Party Collaboration needs to be created
I believe the way is clear for our current Home Secretary, Theresa May, who has been in that job longer than anyone in history, to be the next Prime Minister and by saying that I am neither declaring myself a Tory supporter nor a socialist. I think that the polarisation of being on the left or right is meaningless right now. We simply need a fair, uniting representation of the people – whatever that will look like. Cross-party collaboration like never before will be critical now to ensure that the voices who declared themselves unheard in the EU election, are now finally listened to.
Female nation leaders stepping it to unite
I found an interesting article this morning about female nation leaders stepping in after countries have been through trauma and crises. As I read it with interest, then increasing recognition, I discovered that I had written myself it two years ago !!
Basically, I reported in a post on this blog about research which examined five-decades of 5,700 national leaders which showed that in the most ethnically diverse countries, women outperform their male counterparts in terms of GDP, which is a significant indicator of progress. In tough economies with great ethnic diversity, countries with a female at the helm correlate with a 6.6 % rate of growth in GDP after their arrival. This compares, in similar situations with a less than 1% return from male leaders.
Perhaps some feminine sensitivity is needed for healing the divides
As report author Professor Katherine Phillips said, this “dispels the myth that women are too maternal, lack strength or are otherwise ill-equipped to provide senior-level leadership in trying times and amid complex circumstances. Our findings reveal that not only can women grow global economies, but that a little motherly sensitivity can go a long way in guiding a nation in need of healing to not only mend, but thrive.” I think that would now include the UK! We certainly qualify as a nation in need of healing.
Nobody has really been discussing any gender aspect of our current leadership needs and it would be fair to say that most of the players in the game have been men with a few walk-on parts taken by women … with of course the exception of Nicola Sturgeon who seems to continue to be a uniting force within Scotland.
I have not previously taken much notice of Theresa May but yesterday when she stepped on to the podium to announce her much anticipated candidacy for Britain’s next Prime Minster, I really saw that she had the reassuring presence which this Westminster comedy of errors is now calling for. You could tell she had been given a well-crafted script but by by comparison with much of the unscripted Eastenders-like drama around her, her voice was quiet, regal and reassuring.
“I am Theresa May and I think I am the best person to run this country.” For me that bold statement alone was a dead give-away that the words were written by a man. That’s OK … we need strong leadership now and courageous declarations. And the next bit was clever because it tackles all the criticisms levelled against her about being boring .. surely the polar opposite of the now-departed Boris Johnson.
“I don’t tour the Television studios, I don’t go gossiping about people over lunch, I don’t go drinking in Parliament bars …. and I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me.” She continued “People want strong resilient leadership and honesty from politicians”…. ouch, that was a clear reference to the lies that were the cornerstone of the Brexit campaign with many campaign promises being reneged on within hours of the win being announced last Friday. Trust in politicians in general is at its lowest and a calm, steady pair of hands, with a good track record at the top is probably a safe bet for restoring faith in our system. She is actually the longest serving Home Secretary since 1892 .. more than 120 years.
When it gets messy bring on the women
We also need a female role model who is different to Margaret Thatcher. Loved and hated seemingly in equal measure, we need to prove that not all women will be clones of Margaret. Politics is changing, unity is required and I strongly believe that feminine qualities of compassion and collaboration are what is needed to unite the country.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, often points out the difference that women bring to leadership situations. She is famously quoted as saying that if it had been Lehman sisters, the bank would probably not have collapsed. She also says that when times are tough, women are much better at doing what needs to be done and was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying: “ When it’s messy, get the women.”
I think Andrea Leadsom with her finance and city experience would be a good deputy PM and we have never had a female duo at the helm. And we could find that a likely Labour leadership challenge puts another woman in the Opposition Leader role. Interesting times ahead.