Who should be the next UK Prime Minister is back on the agenda again. In June 2019 we had a contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Boris Johnson won against Jeremy Hunt. He went on to win a General Election in December 2019 with a whopping 80 seat majority. I wrote about the Leadership Election and the General Election at the time.
So why are we back here again? Why do we need a new UK Prime Minister? More to the point, why have his Member of Parliament (MP) colleagues dumped him thus forcing a leadership race? He survived a confidence motion in June 2022, despite 41% of his MPs voting against him. But a string of by-election defeats led his MPs to fear he had become an electoral liability. In the last few days up to his resignation as leader of Conservative Party on 8th July two prominent members of his Cabinet resigned along with 50 Government Ministers. As one said’ “Enough is Enough“.
Read on to find out how the leadership election works and my take on the leadership characteristics we should be looking for in next UK Prime Minister …
The initial selection process was in the hands of 358 Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs). They took eight initial candidates down to two. In the final stage the Conservative Party membership select a Leader and Prime Minister from the final two. As I write, there are estimated to be 160,000 paid up members who are participating in this final selection. There will be Hustings during July and August and the winner will be announced on Monday 5th September. Who will the Conservative Party members select to be the latest resident of that famous address: 10 Downing Street?
political LEADERSHIP capabilities
For this contest I’ve updated my set of eleven political leadership capablities with which to judge the two candidates. I looked at research on the political leadership characteristics of two of our most notable post-war Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. This is not just a random choice on my part. A YouGov survey of the greatest Prime Ministers since 1945 conducted in May 2019 placed Margaret Thatcher number one with 21% of the votes just ahead of Winston Churchill with 19%. I’ve further enriched the key actions (the description against each heading below) by drawing on my own set of leadership competencies. These form the basis for my own Leadership Coaching practice. The result? A very comprehensive framework for assessing the observable behaviours of each candidate.
WHO ARE THE FINAL TWO WOULD-BE POLITICAL LEADERS?
Rishi Sunak was until 5th July the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was one of the Cabinet members who resigned. Liz Truss is Foreign Secretary. She did not resign from Boris Johnson’s government and so remains in post.
POLITICAL LEADERSHIP capabilities
Here are the political leadership capabilities I believe we in the UK should be looking for from our next Prime Minister.
- BELIEF: Conviction; Authentic; Honest; Moral compass.
- CONFIDENCE: Projects authority and credibility; Manages stakeholder reactions; Has impact; Has well-formed opinions and clear goals.
- COURAGE: Encourages new approaches; Addresses change resistance; Decisive in taking actions; Seeks and speaks the truth.
- COLLABORATION: Demonstrates inclusive behaviour; Conveys respect; Carries people along against a vision; Builds and supports the team; Welcomes debate and push back; Shows empathy & engagement.
- COMMITMENT: Driven by strong personal values; Sets goals and see them through despite opposition and barriers.
- DETERMINATION: Establishes a positive climate; Encourages cross-functional collaboration; ‘Not for turning’.
- PASSION: Makes a strong case; Advocates for UK abroad; Fights for the key policies and manifesto commitments; Is seen to be on the side of the people.
- PERSISTENCE: Drives to outcomes; Manages complexity, contradictions and uncertainty; Makes sound decisions; Gets commitments; ‘Never gives up’.
- RELATIONSHIPS: Seizes influencing opportunities; Cultivates an active network; Champions talent and potential; Forges strong political alliances and personal relationships.
- RESILIENCE: Stays focused; Manages stress; Remains determined; Rises above setbacks in order to inspire hope for others.
- COMMUNICATION: Delivers clear messages; Pays attention to others; Presents with impact; Influential with gravitas; Has visibility.
The key action statements after each of the eleven political leadership capabilities represent behaviours you can observe. Watch the speeches each candidate will be giving over the summer. Read the interviews they are giving now and have given in the recent past – especially before they became a candidate for this contest. Look back at things they have said, done and written in the past. But wary of third party ‘evidence’ such as the opinions of supporters and rivals or commentary in the media. This can be biased and often a snapshot of a single event.
Want to add a bit of science to asssessing the candidates? Here is my Five Point Scale for Leadership Capabilities Assessment.
So my list consists of 11 items again. These are quite different to the 11 criteria for spotting future business leaders I featured in my ‘Leadership: Your Vote Counts’ article five years ago. For this leadership election my ambition is that people will be scrutinizing the two candidates against my updated political leadership capabilities.
I commend the ‘Further Reading’ below – especially the article by Sir Anthony Seldon The 10 leadership tricks that make a successful British prime minister.
My country needs and deserves strong political leadership at this time!
Now you have your say:
QUOTES FROM MARGARET THATCHER:
- “Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.”
- “If you lead a country like Britain, a strong country, a country which has taken a lead in world affairs in good times and in bad, a country that is always reliable, then you have to have a touch of iron about you.”
- “If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”
- “There are still people in my party who believe in consensus politics. I regard them as Quislings, as traitors… I mean it.”
- “I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.”
- “I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air.”
QUOTES FROM WINSTON CHURCHILL:
- “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
- “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.“
- “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.“
- “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”
- “All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honour; duty; mercy; hope.”
- “To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”
- Margaret Thatcher: An Appraisal of Leadership Style
- Margaret Thatcher: Leadership skills of the Iron Lady
- 10 Winston Churchill Leadership Lessons
- Sir Winston Churchill Leadership
- A Prime Minister … or a CEO?
- What Makes for an Effective British Prime Minister?
- Rating 20th Century British Prime Ministers
- The 10 leadership tricks that make a successful British prime minister
- What the Tories should look for in their next leader
- Daily Mai: The Toppling of Prime Minister Boris Johnson