A Spectator’s View

October 12, 2013

William Thompson

Seven leadership stories from The Spectator, 14th September 2013, are annotated by guest reviewer William Thompson for Leaders We Deserve

Leadership in the Christian Church
Are universities the breading ground of non- believers? Richard Dawkins the academic atheist describes the post-Christian world at Oxford. It is rare to meet someone who is religious in academic life he proclaims. He is influenced by Steven Pink’s book which believes that ‘humans are just getting nicer.’

What world are they living in? Come to our universities from across the world and we will convince you that Christianity is a myth. Is the Country that played a major role in the spread of Christianity leading the world away from the faith that sustains millions of people across the world?

Lack of Leadership at the BBC
The huge pay offs being made by the BBC have led the Trust and the Executives to blame each other for the missuse of license fees. The leadership from Lord Patten seems not to be bad but non-existent. Lord Reith’s mission was to entertain and inform to enrich the experiences of license fee payers; Patten’s pension payments merely enrich senior executives at the expense of license fee payers.

World Leadership
John Kerry US Secretary of State has a major leadership role dealing with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the issue of chemical weapons. Kerry also refers to the difference in tone between Rouhani and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the President for 8 years who by his leadership caused Iran to be feared as a threat to civilisation across the world. Change of leader, change of tone.

‘As the leader of the football World I have decided not to decide..’
Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter aged 76 made a decision not to make a decision to move the 2020 World Cup from summer to winter. This is leadership of the highest order.

Silvio Berlusconi
The disgraced former prime minister of Italy was abandoned by five of his ministers plunging the government coalition into crisis. Has Berlusconi’s time as a significant leader come to an end?

Golden Dawn in Greece
In the news this week are four MP members of the neo-Nazi party who are charged with being members of a criminal group. Leadership of the wrong kind?

Jacques Rogge
Jacques Rogge 71 stood down as President of the Olympic Committee and was replaced by Thomas Back aged 59. Rogge is still younger than Blatter and Berlusconi. Can you be too old to be a leader?

Is Italy’s Beppe Grillo the future of democratic politics?

March 3, 2013

Beppe GrilloThe elections in Italy threw up an unexpected winner in the ‘anti-politician’ Beppe Grillo. His enthusiastic reception by 25% of the vote, and from a standing start, is one of the most remarkable election results of modern times. Sylvio Berlusconi also revived his political fortunes unexpectedly

Beppe is a self-publicist of genius. He has no media backing. His visibility to the electorate derived from his colourful stunts and lifestyle. The obvious explanation is that a quarter of Italians who bothered to vote had found a channel for their frustrations over the austerity programme conducted by the non-elected ‘technical’ leader Mario Monti imposed by external forces to ward off economic chaos.

One Italian journalist suggested that there would be imitations in other countries as a display of popular contempt for the choices on offer in democratic elections. AS a matter of fact there have been several such ‘creative radical’ candidates in other countries in the past. Protest votes generally swell during efforts by any political party to introduce unpopular changes.

The Raving Monster Loony Party

In recent years, disaffected voters in the UK have tended to support the hapless candidates of the Monster Raving Loony Party, the creative invention and publicity machine of the late Screaming Lord Such. The candidates always expect to fail badly enough in the polls to forfeit the deposit paid by each electoral candidate.

The RMLP added some fun and attracted voters who had been brought up on a satirical diet of Monty Python, often resurrecting the humor in their electoral performances and bizarre names of candidates.

Mr Grumpy

In Brazil, a popular TV personality and comedian known as Tiririka, or Mr Grumpy, stood in the elections of 2010 and won, on the slogan “things can only get worse” and won election as a deputy.

A Postmodern turn?

Postmodern theorists have examined the role of humor in deconstructing everyday realities. The German scholar Sloterdijk has explored the philosophy of cynicism as a defense against the dominant cultural belief in reason and rationality.

Nobel Prize winning Playwright Dario Fo was one of Brillo’s high-profile backers
“Grillo is like a character in one of my plays,” says Dario Fo, whose satires on medieval and modern life have seen him handed a Nobel prize and hounded off Italian stages in a career that has covered 50 years. “He is from that school of medieval minstrels who played with paradox and the absurd.”

Mr Grumpy, Screaming Lord Such, and now Beppe Grillo offer an alternative reality to the enlightenment vision of progress through rationality.

Does it matter?

In the short-term, the outcome of the election in Italy has sent a modest tremor through global financial markets, although much has already been discounted. Indeed, the market in The United States is more buoyant than it has been for some time.

The likelihood is that the resentment in Italy shown in the voting is against a political situation but is not coupled with clear plans for a substitute.

The specific and the general

I warn my students about generalizing from a particular event. There is wider dissatisfaction towards austerity measures in other countries. Greece and Spain face civil unrest. In the UK, the resentment is there, but not for the moment so much political vehemence in opposing the Government’s insistence that “there is no alternative” to current policies.

My suspicion is that Italy will eventually move to another fragile accommodation with the prevailing global orthodoxy of attempting to establish a more stable financial and political situation. As it is, the jokes are going the rounds about not one but two eccentric but charismatic politicians who won the popular vote, Beppe, and that most resilient of entertainers, Sylvio Berlasconni.

As the Economist put it [March 2nd-8th, 2013] Send in the clowns.

Dilemmas of Leadership Digest Nov 5th – Nov 11th 2011

November 12, 2011

Leaders We Deserve summarizes a week’s headlines and blog posts dealing with leadership stories

The week’s headlines were dominated by news of the continuing financial crisis in Europe.

George Papandreou

At the start of the week, George Papandreou of Greece was coming under pressure to resign.

Sporting headlines

Overthe weekend, the sporting headlines paid tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson to recognise his 25 years as manager of Manchester United.

Before the match at Old Trafford he received a surprise as the North Stand was publically re-designated the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.

Andy Rooney dies

US media reported the death of Andy Rooney, a celebrated and at times controversial broadcaster. He had suffered from an internet campaign which included articles written in his name to damage his reputation.

Hailey’s Comet

Anglo-French electrical goods retailer Kesa announced plans to sell off its Comet stores for just £2. The buyer is a venture capital consortium “Hailey”, rare sense of ironic humour in such matters…

Berlusconi to step down

After 50 failed attempts to bring about his political downfall, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi goes the same way as George Papandreou of Greece.

Teresa May under pressure

In the UK, Home Secretary Teresa May struggled to survive politically after the bungling of a pilot trial of looser border controls at airports.

Poppies at Wembley Stadium

The week ended with a football match at Wembley stadium which had become a news story over the wearing of poppies by the English players.