Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Near misses in the dark

Public and media misgivings over whether Gordon Brown is a bully causes his defenders to counter ‘He is very good at coming up with the right policies’. It is as though the question of what is a good leader can be answered through these limited dimensions. But there is another little-discussed issue: ‘How well does the leader look after his colleagues?’ Take two examples.

James Purnell comes and goes, rises and falls. In office he changed from being free thinking to being a constrained thinker. His cabinet resignation letter takes the leader by surprise, as does his decision to stand down as an MP. This is all treated as if it is to be expected – that ships are supposed to look after themselves and pass in the night without support and without anyone knowing where they are and where they are going - that political life and death at this level are matters for the individual alone.

Then comes revelations from Alistair Darling that Gordon Brown’s henchmen were ‘briefing’ against him, undermining him for warning that the world faced the worst downturn in 60 years. Claiming that the ‘forces of hell’ were unleashed on him, Darling graphically answers the Downing Street question that we posed in yesterday’s post on this blog: ‘How does leadership work round here? Is it functional or dysfunctional?'

Chatting to Piers Morgan reveals some of Brown’s human qualities, but where is the nurturing of companionship, talent and the sense of a shared endeavour? This too is the leader’s role.