This morning, I am in a hotel room in Manchester watching commentators discuss the latest humiliation of UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, after every option of her Brexit plan was rejected by MPs.
As you will know, the news from last night is that she told her party she would step down if her Brexit deal is passed which seems like a desperate plea for support so that she can finish the job she took on. When this all started to blow up, I had some sympathy with May because it seemed like she didn’t stand a chance from the beginning, maybe because MPs from across the UK are afraid of what a British exit from the EU will actually mean for the country.
The longer things have gone on, the more embarrassed I feel as I watch the pantomime that our parliament has become and with recent events in New Zealand, it’s hard not to wonder where we might be if we had a different kind of leader at the helm.
It is clear that Brexit is divisive – it divided families and friends overnight with passionate views on both sides, often under one roof – so it needed leadership that could recognise all opinions and bring people back together, moving towards a shared vision for the future.
After the referendum in 2016, it seemed to me that what was needed was a cabinet of the best people from across all parties. Ok, this isn’t common but a coalition Government was in place under Churchill’s leadership during the second World War and working together now for the good of the country is just as important now as we negotiate our way out of the European Union as it was in wartime.
Evidently, May doesn’t share that view (or doesn’t have the skills) and she has missed the opportunity to unify, instead, widening the divide and creating even more conflict. The greater the challenge, the more determined she seems to become. She has stuck to her guns but she clearly hasn’t inspired confidence and is now paying the price.
In a stark contrast, we have just seen New Zealand face their own man-made crisis in the Christchurch terror attack, with a leader who has reacted entirely differently; not with soundbites and rhetoric but with kindness and compassion. She has brought people together across New Zealand and been clear that she will take action to protect people and make sure this tragedy doesn’t happen again.
We have seen Jacinda Ardern with her people, sharing their grief, showing support and role modelling behaviours. She has shown people how they can join together in solidarity. She hasn’t just said it; she has done it. She has led a nation in mourning, not by standing out but by blending in and showing that she is part of the community too. She has shown emotion, empathy and humanity, standing out to the world as a modern leader who many would do well to learn from.
So how could May have followed this example to bring together a not so United Kingdom? Maybe she could have listened harder and shown some care for those who have found themselves in conflict instead of ploughing on without support. She perhaps could have tapped into those heightened emotions and spoken to the people instead of robotically trotting out tory lines that sound too cold for comfort. And she certainly could have found some humanity to show she understands the anguish that is out there on all sides instead of ignoring those dissenters and carrying on regardless.
Britain needs to be united behind a shared vision for the future and I hope that the next leader can recognise this and deliver success.
What do you think of leadership in relation to Brexit? Do you agree that a different style might have yielded better results? Share your thoughts in the comments below.