A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

June 20, 2020

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Book Review. Dov Alfon (trans Daniella Zamir), A long night in Paris, Maclehose Quercus: London, 2018

Reviewed by Tudor Rickards

We thriller addicts are easy to please. All we want is a puzzle to be solved by interesting characters, told in way which moves on rapidly with a modicum of the unfamiliar amid the obligations of the genre.
On most counts, A long night in Paris works adequately. The main characters, Colonel Zeev Abadi, and sidekick Oriana Talmore are engaging superspies in Israeli intelligence. The plot is more than puzzling enough with assorted villains, supervillains, hit men and hit women connected together through a flight from TelAviv which arrives in Paris with a whirlwind of abductions and killings for no immediately obvious reason.
The translation feels smooth (to this reviewer ignorant of its original language). The spycraft is convincing. Minor characters have a chance to shine if they do not reach a premature end; and the violence is of the non-gratuitous kind. The puzzles are eventually resolved in a satisfactory way.
One minor distraction is the presence of one or two sub-plots which could have been left out by a little more editorial bullying.

Overall, worth a browse.

Rating ****


Marcus Rashford is LWD leader of the month for June 2020

June 16, 2020

 

Marcus Radford is LWD leader of the month for June 2020. He was figurehead of a campaign to persuade the government to change its policy towards free meals for schoolchildren during the summer break when schools were not open

A range of leaders were considered as candidates for Leader of the Month in our recent post. Their actions were to be overshadowed by the achievement and leadership style shown by Rashford subsequently over a period of days.

My notes below, from June 16, summarise the story

1.00pm

Breaking news. A government U-turn on vouchers for school meals. A triumph for Marcus Rashford’s campaign. I stop searching for the LWD leader of the month. The rapid closure of the story makes it easier to trace its key features.

Rashford has become a high-profile figure almost overnight. He presents himself as an articulate, dignified young man, with a convincing story which is easy to understand, backed up by his own experiences.

The PR pressure left the government with a classical dilemma, resist or accept the emotional potency of the case. Whatever prospect of succeeding vanished after a tweet from Therese Coffey:
‘Hi @MarcusRashford, I welcome your passion for supporting children and the most vulnerable in society – a passion we share. We are working to the same aim. I & this Govt will continue to actively help and support families and businesses through this emergency and beyond’
A tweet storm followed. Three hours later, the U-turn in advance of a debate on school meals scheduled for later this afternoon.


Leadership thoughts

Rashford’s rocketing celebrity helps counter-balance the virtues of the charismatic leader which increase at times of crisis. No one previously singled out the soft-spoken Rashford as a potential leader, even for a football team.
Searching for explanations in the numerous theories of leadership , I can glimpse explanations in the Level five leadership of Jim Collins. The leader who is ‘modest but with fierce resolve’. This was discussed for football leaders in an earlier post
The other theory is of the authentic leader. While many politicians seek to claim their humble backgrounds, they too often seem inauthentic. Rashford exhumes a genuine belief for the cause he has so successfully espoused.

A refreshing discovery that we need not disregard leaders who do not fit the contentious stereotype of a charismatic personality.


Leader of the month award: BLM candidates dominate

June 14, 2020

One figure dominated headlines and transcends any monthly award. George Floyd, for the impact his death had on the anti-racist moment around the world.  It was to lead to its own heroic figures of the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement

Candidates

Superintendent Andy Bennett, for his crowd-control decisions during the Edward Colston demonstration in Bristol.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, partly for his soft-touch in the demonstration and his earlier leadership initiatives

Tennis player Coco Gauff, who spoke out over the George Floyd killing.

General Mattis, for his outspoken condemnation of his Commander in chief reported in a Sky Atlantic article

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, President of Croatia, for popular leadership without merging into its more frequent undesirable popularist Aspects.

Other candidates

The list is still open for additional candidates.

Update: June 16 2020

Two more names added to the LWD Leader of the Month award.
Marcus Rashford lobbying for retention of school meals over the summer break
Patrick Hutchingson for rescuing a racist under attack during the weekend protests.

Will Burnham Busses and Electric Bikes be the future for Manchester?

June 5, 2020

 

Manchester is facing an uncertain future as it attempts another transformation, perhaps the greatest since Cottonopolis sprung to life in the roaring days of the Industrial revolution

One initiative has been launched from the office of the Mayor Andy Burnham and his team, in conjunction with The Growth Company and Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership.

Undeterred by the label, I signed up for one of its introductory webinars [June 5 2020]. I was pleased to discover that it was to be no more that an hour, a few minutes longer that the daily press conferences from the Government.

It turned out to be more interesting. For example, viewers were spared the PowerPoint slides.  The presentations were mercifully brief, and the presence of a facilitator obviously helped.

‘Build Back better’

The strap line for the initiative is Build Back better. But what does better look like? Its
Key themes are daunting but familiar ones:
Procurement
Strategy/Purpose
Working differently
People/Talent
Green
W/L balance

The mayor outlined existing and potential projects (the following from my notes)
Return to work: Adapting provisional changes. Returning to office v Working at home
Opportunities: Change Heath Care system. Integrated system for 2.8m people
Housing crisis:The high street will change. Implications?
New industries: Digital
Self Employment: challenges through existing and new support schemes
With Gvnt. Support for levelling-up initiatives: Retrofitting for construction opportunities to achieve zero-carbon housing

Questions

Questions from the distant audience (my notes again)
BAME help? 5% companies with BAME leaders. Working to encourage and improve.
Cycling importance? Work locations for more cycling walking components on work day. Newer modes like electric scooters.
Enhancing innovative actions? Recognising ‘front line staff initiatives’ taking place
Young people’s involvement? Already working towards a large-scale initiative including career progression.
Business start ups? Revive business apprenticeships and other entrepreneurial training
Next steps? To strengthen recovery strategy. To keep in touch with those becoming involved

Overview

A well-managed introduction to plans to support the challenge of regional reconstruction In the year of the virus. More posts as the project develops.


LWD leader of the month is Nichola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

June 2, 2020

 

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LWD leader for May 2020 was chosen from four political leaders currently in a political struggle over autonomy, while dealing with the Coronavirus crisis. The winner was Nichola Sturgeon, for her performances in the daily press conferences reporting on the Coronavirus news.

The four nations championship

The differences in policy reminds me in some ways of a battle such as the rugby union championship (known as the four nations championship before their numbers swelled to today’s six.
The original four nations championship contenders were England, Scotland, Ireland (combined NI and Republic) and Wales. This month’s political battles can be seen a struggle between the leaders of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and England, the last represented by the Leader of the Government in Westminster.

The Candidates

The candidates for LWD leader of the month are therefore
Nichola Sturgeon, Scotland
Arlene Foster, N. Ireland
Mark Drakeford, Wales
Boris Johnson , Prime Minister of the Parliament representing the four nations.

The West Lothian question

At the start of of the month [May 2020] tensions are building up between the leaders representing the devolved political administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on one hand, and the leader of the Westminster Government.
There is no Parliament of England (although it has its advocates). The Westminster Parliament has representatives from England, but also from the other parts of the United Kingdom.
This is what one commentator likened to a re-run of the West Lothian question.

Border complications

The complications implied in the West Lothian question around borders continued, as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland administrations decided to exercise their rights by departing from the Westminster policy over easing the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The first impact was border complications, with people from England free to cross the border but then having to accept different rules once across. Later, the opening up of schools became another dilemma.
Polite efforts were made to indicate shared values and goals, but tensions were to remain. Boris Johnson had the more difficult task of speaking as Prime Minister of all four nations, and sometimes for England in this current divergence of views.

The Daily press conferences

All four countries held daily press conferences. Sturgeon, Foster, and Drakeford choose to lead the meetings every day. Johnson took to team approach, with various cabinet ministers who became daily celebrities among the political commentators in MSD and internet communities.This kept him largely out of the limelight.

Towards the end of the month he gained publicity of an unwelcome kind in what became known as the Cummingsgate affair. (More in future posts).

The Sturgeon challenge

Nichola Sturgeon took on the challenge in exemplary fashion. Although facing inevitable distractors from political opponents, there has been wide consensus that her daily performances have been successful. In comparison, with one exception, the Boris substitutes have ranged from adequate to abysmal. (The exception, The Chancellor, Ricci Sunakwho had fewer opportunities to shine. However, he seems to have been favoured as a future leader of the Conservative party  by the supportive MSM papers. A future candidate for the LWD award?)

Sturgeon’s meetings took place in the early afternoon, and were covered more intensively than those of the other leaders, which did not attract the same attention outside their national news outlets.The challenge for all the leaders facing the press was communicating bad news including daily new deaths, with clarity and empathy.
Sturgeon was a convincing communicator. The train wrecks involving others were the right words came out, but increasingly appearing that they were being spoken uncomfortably from a script provided them.

In all, Nichola Sturgeon is a worthy winner of the LWD Leader of the Month award