United Nations sanctions Gadaffi regime

February 27, 2011

Tudor Rickards

The United Nations security council votes unanimously to introduce sanctions against Colonel Gadaffi in the interests of protecting the rights of its citizens. The move seeks to avoid the controversies over the interpretation of legitimacy of military actions in the Iraq conflict

The Washington Post reported [Sat 26th Feb 2011]

The move came as President Obama for the first time called on Gaddafi to step down, deepening the Libyan leader’s international isolation as he struggles to contain a revolt that threatens his 41-year rule. It also marked the first U.S. vote in support of a Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court, which the United States has not joined.

The article also conveyed a White House announcement of the contents of a telephone conversation by President Obama to Germany’s Angela Merkel in which the Presedent was quoted as saying

“when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now”

The international support for the UN resolution

The United Nations is often forced into actions which demonstrate the near-impossibility of a genuinely united position regarding means as well as ends. In this case there seems more of a consensus than is often the case.

The resolution is further strengthened by the defection of Libya’s delegation to the United Nations. The article goes on to quote Libyan envoy Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgam who wrote to the Security Council president noting that his delegation “supports the measures proposed in the draft resolution to hold to account those responsible for the armed attacks against the Libyan civilians, including [through] the International Criminal Court”

More violence in Tripoli

In a separate bulletin, [Saturday 26th Feb 2011] The Post reported further accounts of State-supported violence against protesters in the Lybian capital Tripoli

Unedited news story

The above is a summary of a fast breaking global issue

The King’s Speech: Not a Film Review

February 26, 2011

Tudor Rickards

The King’s Speech is a fine film. What are its leadership messages for today?

This is not intended to be a film review. Rather, I want to reflect on the leadership messages in a tale of the trials and duties of a monarch dealing with his human frailty. Or, if you like, the dilemmas of everyman everywhere any time.

The story

The film itself has won widespread acclaim. It is expected to receive further accolades in the Oscars ceremonies this weekend [Feb 27th 2011]. In a nutshell, the story tells of Albert (‘Bertie’) the surviving youngest son of King George 5th. When George 5th died, Albert’s eldest son David ascended to the throne.

What follows is rather confusing, even for those familiar with the story. David briefly became King Edward 7th. This sort of name-changing and brand-tweeking was repeated when Albert replaced him and acquired the title King George 6th. King Albert was considered “too German” as someone said. And King David was too close the biblical King David for someone who would be anointed as defender of faith and secular head of the Church of England. The entire royal line rebranded itself The House of Windsor some years later to airbrush out signals of its Germanic ancestry.

Bertie’s background

The heart of the story is that Bertie was never considered up to being king, which didn’t matter because that was to be David’s job anyway. He was bullied quite a bit as a child, unconsciously on the part of King George, sneakily on the part of his older brother. This treatment is suggested to have triggered the stammer which played such a vital part in the story.

Edward was a bit of a wild thing, which used to an almost obligatory feature of the role of Prince of Wales, king in waiting. He was also rather popular with the masses, although this is glossed over in the film in order to get a better portrayal as a villain. He was rather a glamorous figure a la Blackadder officer class. No surprise then, that David becomes infatuated with a person with a past, a Mrs Wallis Simpson, played in the film as a Cruella deville figure.

King George dies. Hitler is rising to power in Europe. David becomes King Edward (still with me?) but constitutionally causes a lot of trouble by refusing to relegate Mrs Simpson to the substitute’s bench.

Courage and duty

There follows a display of what another recent remade film labelled as True Grit. Bertie is introduced to Lionel Logue, a speech guru and potential mentor. The clash of roles and class becomes central to the story. Logue demands an intimacy to provide technical success with the royal stammer. Various advances and setbacks occur. The audience cringes at the embarrassment of Bertie’s public performances. The leadership dilemmas are beginning to come into focus. We have a fine example of the courageous battle between duty and capability for Bertie. And between private and public obligations and passions for David/Edward

At least the dashing David/Edward had looked and sounded good in public. But the new king was determined in his demands. Duh! No Queen Wallis, no deal. Edward quits (abdicates if you like the technical term). Which of course leaves everyone including Bertie sensing all sorts of trouble ahead. And not just moonlight and dancing…

Meanwhile in Europe …

Meanwhile, events in Europe are not going well. Except for Hitler who seems to be doing very well indeed. The government in England eventually twigs that Hitler is about as amenable to friendly advances as Colonel Gadhafi proved seventy years later. Something has to be done. Change the Government.

The king’s battle

The increasingly important story-line is the painful battle of a suffering soul as Albert continues in his struggles to defeat his handicap adequately to fulfil his regal obligations. Concessions have to be made by King and commoner. The rights and obligations of the noble leader come into focus. The commoner pushes hard to claim rights of friendship and dismisses cherished symbolism of rights of monarch over subjects.

Leadership lessons

We see how art throws light on real-life problems. The dilemmas help us transmute the specific to the personal for beyond the story of the trials facing an anguished monarch who accepted the greatness thrust upon him.


[1] The author acknowledges the insights provided in discussion with Susan Moger for the dilemmas suggested in this post. Without her contributions, the text would have little substance beyond one person’s reactions to a considerable work of art.

[2] Image from Wikipedia

Not a good week for leaders

February 25, 2011

Earthquake damage to Christchurch Cathedral
The news has been full of leadership stories this week. But they have been not so much about heroic figures, as leaders struggling to deal with crises from Libya to London, from Wall Street to Washington. For personal heroism we have to go to rescuers after the earthquake in Christchurch Canterbury, New Zealand

The start of February 2011 has produced global shocks politically, and in their wake economically. The headlines have been reserved for events in the middle east, when attention shifted from Egypt to neighbouring Libya where Colonel Gadhafi has appeared weakened. Events there appear more like an old-fashioned and bloody insurrection than the new-media supported challenges to regimes in Tunisia and Egypt last month.

What appears to be in common to these events is the weakening or termination of authority of a long-standing ruler, charged with being out of touch with the democratic rights of their people.

Efforts to maintain a ‘strong man’ position have tended to be followed by concessionary offers of reform, which have encouraged further efforts to depose the regimes.

Drugged by al Qaeda

Moammar Gadhafi at present has refused to take such a conciliatory stance. In a telephoned speech [24 Feb 2011] to Libyan state television he put the blame for the uprising sweeping Libya on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, saying that terrorist group had been drugging Libyans and thus inducing them to revolt. Western commentators remain unconvinced.


Shockwaves from the region have troubled other leaders. Prime Minister David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary William Hague have been under pressure for acting too slowly to support repatriation of British citizens. President Obama continues to take political hits as he struggles to avoid accusations of America being too enthusiastic in favour of military intervention. Stock market speculation was evident in light of uncertainties over oil supplies and prices.

And at Apple

One of the sad leadership tales of the week was at Apple. Shareholders are increasing demands for the company to reveal a succession plan for the iconic Steve Jobs, whose medical condition is seen to be a serious threat to the company’s future prospects. Unlike most political leaders, Jobs’ contributions have been visible, immense, and widely acclaimed.

A real crisis

Events even in Libya have had less human consequences than were produced in the earthquake which has devastated the city of Canterbury, New Zealand this week. There, the response has had less to do with top-down leadership than with community response and personal heroism.


Christchurch Cathedral and the effects of the Earthquake [23rd Feb 2011]. Image from australiangeographic.

George Osborne. My role in his political rescue

February 23, 2011

Just as Spike Milligan played a part in Hitler’s downfall, I can claim my modest role in the rescue of George Osborne from political oblivion

Not alone of course. Gentle George may never know that I was among millions of loyal citizens whose collective efforts in January 2011 rescued the Chancellor’s political career.

Your country needs you

You could say I failed to heed the first calls to service. As Christmas approached I was beguiled by the gentle and soothing reminders by the lovely Moira Stewart that my country needed me. Or at least it needed my contribution, however small, to buttress its finances.

I was under the comfortable impression that before January the 1st I should find an hour or so to complete my tax return on line. Maybe while waiting for Her Royal Highness to speak to her subjects on Christmas Day.

George was too busy fighting the Generals

In hindsight I was too soothed when what I needed was a sharper call to arms. Perhaps George himself in Kitchener pose, pointing down sternly at slackers from posters on every street corner. Your country needs your taxes. But George had been fighting on the city front, urging the Generals of the banking world to do their bit. For whatever reason, the little people constituting the big society had to show their loyalty without further leadership from the top.

So sometime in the week before the deadline of of January I settled down to feed into the Government’s database the relatively straightforward account of my earnings. I know it was during that week, because the website Moira had directed me to was quite curt. “Too late” it snarled. “You will now incur a £100 penalty because it takes over a week for your return to be processed”. Hmm.

More electronic hurdles

Somewhat shocked by the news, I pressed ahead. Only to discover there were several more electronic hurdles to jump over. For reasons I can’t remember the password I had used was no longer valid. I learned how I could be sent this vital information but that is a State secret about which I will remain silent and which took a week to reach me. Then, when the system accepted my password it needed a new User ID which again could only be communicated through similar Top secret channels.

Meanwhile January turned into February. The face of the world was changes as revolutions gripped the Middle East. And I had still failed to send my contribution to help my country in its darkest hour of financial need.

The electronic doors open

But then after several weeks of regular battles to be let in, the mighty electronic doors at the Government Gateway opened up to me. I was in. A hundred or so clicks later and I had committed myself to swelling the country’s fighting funds by at least as much as a Premiership footballer does in the time it takes to play a game.

Even the Guardian, no friend of General Osborne, admitted a great victory had been won:

Government finances show biggest surplus since 2008. Bumper income tax receipts bring a January surplus of £3.7bn and could put coalition on track to meet borrowing targets

And I could feel pride in the role I had played in rescuing my country and Mr Osborne from ruin.

Alan Green, Arsenal and humiliation theory

February 21, 2011

Alan Green illustrated the potency of humiliation theory in a single remark after Arsenal’s drawn FA cup-tie with Leyton Orient

Alan Green has earned numerous plaudits as a BBC sports reporter, and particularly as a football commentator. His style captures the richness of popular opinion. He is passionate and opinionated. He remains one a fierce critic of all things stupid as he sees them. Among his targets are the malign impact of money on football, the crassness of the Football Association, the duplicity of FIFA, the ineptness of referees, the exploitation of fans, and … [well you’ve got the idea]. For all that, he is worth listening to. His pungency does not need deconstructing for hidden agendas. But his words may still reveal deeper emotional influences.

Pulsating end

Speaking in Radio 5s 606 talk-back programme yesterday [20th February 2011] he was discussing with a caller the pulsating end of the Leyton Orient/ Arsenal FA cup tie. The minnows battled to snatch a draw against The Gunners. Alan adores the FA cup (or the magic of the cup, as he puts it).

Humbled or humiliated?

Sadly I didn’t write down his exact words but here’s my best attempt at capturing them. Isn’t that the magic of the cup when a great team like Arsenal can be humbled in that way?

Eureka! ‘Humbled’. For humbled read humiliated. That was the motivation behind the commentary on MUFC against Crawley Town the day before: a yearning for the downfall of the mighty. Humiliation theory applied to football. But not complete obliteration but hubristic come-uppance of the mighty by the humble.

He doesn’t really hate Arsenal

What is not is a loathing of Arsenal. Alan Green has an equally non-judgemental enthusiasm for the way Arsenal plays football under its quixotic coach Arsene Wenger. His praise for the team mid-week in defeating the even mightier Barcelona was unstinting. No. This is more a display of human motivation rooted in social identity and insecurities. Humiliation theory is alive and well, and has impact beyond the football terraces.

Singapore’s growth presents a leadership challenge

February 19, 2011

Singapore is rightly proud of its economic gains as one of the original Asian ‘little tigers’. Now it turns to the social problem of the minority of its people left behind through decades of successful growth

The growing wealth of Singapore has produced social inequalities that are worrying the Government. Inflation also is threatening to compound the political challenge. Political stability, even with its one-party dominance has become a concern.

Mariko Oi in Asia Business Report for BBC World News explored the story [Feb 2011] using a few well-chosen statistics

Singapore’s economic success and role as a regional financial centre have amplified the problem. Wealth has been created so quickly that it is easy for people to get left behind. The economy almost doubled in size in the 10 years to the end of 2008, Department of Statistics figures show. The average monthly income increased by 40% over the same period. However, the average monthly income for the bottom 20% of Singaporean households fell by 2.7% over the same decade.

Singapore’s inflation rate hit a two-year high of 4.6% in December [2010], and the central bank has warned that prices may rise at a faster pace in coming months

The government has been looking at ways of narrowing the country’s income gap and in 2007 introduced the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme. As a result, some 400,000 Singaporeans now receive financial support from the government. Top government adviser and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said last month that economic growth must benefit all members of Singapore’s community. “Otherwise,” he warned, “our community may be divided by differences in income levels within it.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is scheduled to call a general election within a year. His People’s Action Party has ruled the city-state since independence in 1965 and it is widely expected to win most of the seats. But with many of Singapore’s poorer citizens facing tougher times, the government will be watching to see if they bring any of their worries to the ballot box.

Locally-based analyst Chris Howells believes that the Government is taking a prudent approach to the issue and that the budget will not overheat.

While dishing out more than S$13 billion to households and businesses, this year’s Budget is unlikely to lead to an overheating of the economy. That is because the Government is adopting a cautious fiscal stance, forecasting a slight overall Budget surplus of S$100 million for this year, after a much smaller-than-expected Budget deficit of S$300 million last year, compared with an originally anticipated S$3 billion shortfall.

Singapore’s economic growth is expected to be between 4 and 6 per cent this year, slower than last year’s record expansion but above the country’s estimated trend growth of 3 to 5 per cent for the next 10 years [reporting Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in his Budget speech].

So for this year, the Budget has been positioned to avoid stoking the flames of inflation. “I would say that this indicates a very cautious Budget in the sense that there are no bold and drastic measures being introduced by the minister and the focus is very much on improving productivity over the next 10 years,” said Mr Tay Hong Beng, head of tax at KPMG in Singapore.

To go more deeply:

Government statistics
Workfare programme
Singapore’s shopping experience

Coalition crisis in India?

February 17, 2011

India has a coalition government brought about as a reaction to political crisis. The partnership of Sonya Ghandi and Manmohan Singh now faces a political crisis of its own. In this respect there are parallels with the problems of the UK’s coalition government

India and the United Kingdom both have coalition governments facing tough political situations. But the crises they are grappling with also have various differences, making comparisons difficult. A BBC report [abbreviated below] suggests

An unshakeable understanding between Mr Singh and Congress [party] President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ensured political stability in the country. Frequent meetings between the two suggested a neat division of responsibility between party and government.

In the past few months, [in early 2011] the personal equation may have continued, but things have begun going horribly wrong for the Congress-led coalition. Inflation, corruption scandals, a massive and ongoing agitation for a separate state of Telangana in southern India, apparent favours in the allocation of land, the abuse of discretionary powers by state leaders: everything seemed to go wrong at the same time for Mr Singh and his government.

Long considered a man of unimpeachable integrity, Mr Singh coasted to a second term as the prime minister of the world’s second most populous nation [in May 2009]. With the opposition in disarray, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government appeared to be on a roll.

The Phone-licences scandal

The corruption scandal erupted anew in February 2011. Anil Ambani, chairman of the Reliance Communications, has been questioned as part of a probe into a phone-license selling scandal:

An ongoing investigation is looking into whether mobile phone licences were sold at below-market prices in 2008. Claims that the government lost more than $30bn (£18.6bn) in revenue have caused months of political conflict and shaken investor confidence. Reliance Communications shares have declined 30% in value this year, making them among the worst performers on the Bombay Stock Exchange’s main Sensitive Index. As well as hurting the stock market, the scandal has caused political turmoil in India.

Earlier this month, federal officials arrested former telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja. They alleged that Mr Raja violated guidelines in the second-generation (2G) phone license sale, and conspired to favour certain telecom companies. India’s chief auditor said in November that the 2G licences were sold for about a tenth of their value. The government has questioned the figure, claiming it is too low.

Above suspicion

Mr Singh seeks to defend his own impressively high reputation as an ethical leader. He claims that the coalition must remain “above suspicion” (the quote referring to Shakespeare’s play and the necessary status of the wife of Julius Caesar). Extreme ethical leadership presents its own dilemmas. Symbolically it places unreasonable demands on most leaders to be seen as beyond reproach, the idealism of a Caesar’s wife. This is a lot to expect of frail human beings in general, and perhaps of politicians in particular. Mr Singh may retain his personal reputation, but the rough-house of politics may make the claims harder to maintain for the coalition in its entirety.

Back in England

Which brings us nicely back to Mr Cameron, Nick Clegg, and their coalition government of conservatives and liberal democrats in the UK. Currently, [Feb 2011] Mr Cameron, while not aspiring to the ethical status of a Caesar’s wife, risks political trouble from his commitment to the Big Society concept. The coalition now risks further unwanted evidence of tensions as Clegg and Cameron lead opposing factions arguing for (Clegg) and against (Cameron) in a referendum for an electoral reform to a transferable vote system.