Why Brexit needs leadership based on kindness and compassion not soundbites and rhetoric

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.

 

Image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

In the most important election of our lifetime, who will be first past the post?

As we are approaching election day in the UK, I am one of many people still undecided about who to vote for.  My previously staunch Labour family are seriously considering changing their colours and people up and down the country are wondering who best to lead what have the potential to be disastrous Brexit negotiations.

It’s going to be a tough job so you have to wonder who would want it!

In terms of contenders, it’s really a two horse race thanks to our first past the post-election system which keeps the other parties in their place.  Whilst I would like things to be more fair, the fact is that many voters are thinking Corbyn or May and if you’re not sure, then it’s a pretty tough choice.

Corbyn carried the can in many ways for the remain campaign defeat as he was accused of failing to provide a strong voice for those who wanted the UK to stay in the European Union.  Media articles suggested that he actually wanted to leave himself and who doesn’t accept that the union needs reform but the British people decided to go for broke so if he is elected, he’ll have to navigate some tricky negotiations to try and get a decent deal for Britain.

Theresa May’s position was that we are better ‘in’ but when challenged on her ability to lead the nation towards independence given her personal views, she answered “we gave people the choice and the British people decided to leave. Now we have to deliver on that choice and respect the will of the people”.  The role of Prime Minister now is to deliver what people want.

This chimes with a previous blog post which considered the role of elected representatives and whether once elected they should do what they think is best or what the electorate want.  Maybe it is better that these negotiations are led by someone who can deliver the will of the 52% leave voters but protect the concerns of the 48% who voted to remain.

It’s a difficult choice in this election and I have a feeling that the Prime Minister will get the mandate that she is looking for from the British people although if the polls are anything to go by, not with the majority she hoped for.

So why does she seem like such a strong candidate?  Apart from the systemic issue previously highlighted, Corbyn divides his own party so how can he unite a nation at a particularly turbulent time?

My husband came home from work recently and asked me ‘why don’t people like Corbyn?’.  For me, it’s because he doesn’t look ready to do the job and whilst I know it shouldn’t be about that, I wouldn’t hire someone who turns up for a job interview not looking smart so I’m not keen to have a Prime Minister who can’t dress for the occasion.  What would he consider appropriate for an important diplomatic meeting?  I can’t be certain and that concerns me.

Watching interviews with Andrew Marr and Jeremy Paxman, I was pleased to see he did dig a suit out of the wardrobe.  He also seemed considered in his responses and I found that he had good points to make and I wanted to listen to him.  He might have some positions which are controversial but I like his policies on the living wage, zero hours contracts and public services and he is clearly a socialist to the core.

May on the other hand was ‘on message’ with the Conservative vision for the future which she says will be secure and have a strong economy.  Will the public services be safe? Who knows. Her focus, she says, is on getting a good deal in the Brexit negotiations and strengthening the economy overall.

She did have a very clear call to action for all those people able to have their say in this election and that was for everyone to go out and vote regardless of their colours.  As the Prime Minister herself said “this is the most important election of our lifetime” so make sure you turn out on Thursday and make your voice heard.

 

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