The real problem with political leadership

I was reading a rather good political commentary in The Guardian yesterday (spotted via a David Brain tweet) by Danny Rogers, the editor of PR Week UK, in which he laments the lack of strategic communication counsel at 10 Downing Street.

In his concluding remarks, he says:

[…] A former Labour party adviser, now a PR consultant, says: "There is a feeling that the [political] strategy again lacks boldness. It only contributes to an image of administration paralysed by fear, rather than driven by true ambition and zeal."

However, Brown believes all is not yet lost. Certainly he realises that simple PR tactics are unlikely to make him any more likeable personally – wearing brighter ties and trying to smile more proved a waste of time – but some bold policy moves, handled properly, could still strike a chord with the public.

There is some confidence within his office that the media will eventually tire of the almost constant narrative that his government is doomed, simply out of boredom. And any brighter economic prospects would certainly help.

But what Brown needs at No 10 is a trusted and respected strategic adviser to tell him some tough home truths and to provide a single clear direction.

I think the problem is far deeper, much more to do with the individual at the pinnacle of political leadership in this country, whether that’s Gordon Brown or someone else.

Reading some of the opinion in the US surrounding Senator John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate in the forthcoming US presidential election, one comment by Dave Winer really struck me and which I think is at the heart of the problem we have here.

I can apply Winer’s comment – aligned with the quote from the former Labour party adviser Rogers references, above, in his ‘ambition and zeal’ comment – directly to the UK:

[…] We need someone who is an over-achiever, not just curious, but a sponge for ideas, information, perspectives. Someone who can’t stop reading and asking other people what they think.

That’s what we need here, too, at the apogee of government. And I mean someone who really does this with utter conviction and credibility, not simply spins the words.

I just don’t see anyone in the current government who matches that job description.

No wonder I’m apathetic about politics.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Chris

    I agree – why can’t politicians ask questions? Why can’t they be curious?

    They don’t know all the answers all the time. No one does – I’d have a lot more respect for someone who had an opinion but was willing to listen as well.

    Unfortunately, my respect for politicians at the moment is … well … I’m not even sure I have any respect for most of them.

  2. Josh

    I just get so frustrated with the general public and the ease in which they allow themselves to be manipulated by the press/media.

    A friend of mine, recently said (whilst we were drinking beer and talking about hitting the town) that Brown had to go. When I pressed him as to why exactly…he just shrugged and then readily admitted he didn’t know anything about politics.

    Although I was initially angry with my friend and then frustrated with the media, reading this and Danny Rogers piece made me realise that is is politicians fault. Perhaps if they started treating us like grown ups and listening to us then we would start giving them our proper attention, rather than ignoring them.

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