Greece Demonstrates, Syria bleeds

November 14, 2012

In Greece, Political leaders continue to battle for the country’s economic survival. The ruling coalition is introducing increasingly unpopular austerity concessions. Refugees from Syria find there is little compassion for their plight. Leadership lessons are hard to find

The political and economic turmoil in Greece continues.

Last week [7th November 2012] judges and doctors participated in a general strike. As politicians deliberated, over 80,000 angry protestors including a group of policemen in uniform, demonstrated outside the Parliament buildings.

The Greek dilemma

The Greek dilemma is increasingly seen as misery and decline inside the Economic community, or misery and decline outside it.

If Greece leaves

The most vulnerable members of the Economic community such as Greece, Spain and Portugal all have the most recent history of military dictatorships ‘rescuing’ the country at its time of need. Is there any evidence of that about to happen? It seems at least a possibility, if Greece leaves the EEC.

Meanwhile, in Syria

Meanwhile the national turmoil has implications for the bloody conflict waging in neighbouring Syria. [14th November 2012]. Even the cold statistics make heart-breaking reading.

The Syrian Red Crescent charity says two and a half million people have been displaced within Syria, and a UN refugee agency considers the estimate on the conservative side. Nearly half a million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries, the UN says. Figures of more than thirty people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began over the last eighteen months.

Civilians flee in their thousands into camps on the Turkish border.

Life savings for an eight mile boat journey.

I watched a BBC Newsnight report last night, which showed desperate Syrian families prepared to spend their life savings in a risky crossing of eight miles, into Greece. Hardly surprisingly, those who arrive find the bitterness of people at their own plight, and a mood of heightened xenophobia against immigrants in general.

Leadership, what leadership?

I would like to draw some instructive leadership lessons from these stories, but they are hard to find. Perhaps there is the paradox to consider of the weakness of strong leaders and the limits to autocratic rule. Maybe we should think about the inter-connectedness of events which make dominant theories of leadership too simplistic to help us understand events and find actions which protect the interests of those most at risk.


Lord Alistair McAlpine’s story

November 12, 2012

This morning [Nevember 6th 2012] I came across my unpublished notes concerning a story written by Lord Alistair McAlpine. It seems a good time to publish them in this era of scandals concealed and scandals revealed

The notes were tucked away in a book, and seem to have been written sometime in the late 1990s. I must have been collecting materials on political leadership, but I can’t recall completing them for publication.

Political intrigue

In the first of my notes, the author is writing about a political intrigue around a leadership challenge. He warns that the plotters have to be careful because “there was a time when the stalking horse won and stayed there for three terms (in office)”.

Hypocrisy and cynicism

In the second extract, I had marked up the following passage:

“Hypocrisy and cynicism are not uniquely the stuff of politics nor indeed of politicians. They are weapons of the second-rate in all walks of life … the tools of those who would only better their own positions. Those I write of have neither principles nor morals so they cannot be chastised for what they do”.

The trades are completely different

A final quote mused on “how strange it is that politicians have such admiration for those who succeed in business … The delusion explains a lot of the problems suffered by our nation … [because] the two trades are totally different”.

Disclaimer

The extracts are from Lord McAlpine’s work of fiction, Letters to a young politician, written around the mid 1990s. I re-read my copy of the book for this post.

You will find an excellent review of the book, by Andrew Marr, who exercises the reviewer’s right to avoid revealing how Lord McAlpine’s story turns out in the end.

Lord McAlpine has suffered from false accusations this week [Nov 6th-12th 2012]. The false allegations, repeated on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, contributed to the resignation of George Entwistle from the post of Director General of the BBC.