Who spoke out this week against heartlessness and why was the speech reviled?

December 2, 2013

Answer: It was Boris Johnson, the charismatic mayor of London, whose other remarks in the same speech were the focus of its negative reporting

I could have begun this post by stating: “Boris Johnson spoke out about social injustice and heartlessness this week [Nov 2013]. His words in this vein were reported as follows:”

“I also hope that there is no return to that spirit of Loadsamoney heartlessness – figuratively riffling bank notes under the noses of the homeless,” he said.

”And I hope that this time the Gordon Gekkos of London are conspicuous not just for their greed – valid motivator though greed may be for economic progress – as for what they give and do for the rest of the population, many of whom have experienced real falls in their incomes over the last five years.”

The outcry

The speech was mainly however an attempt to re-invent competitive capitalism. The article offered another perspective on Boris’s political philosophy, captured in the speech, and which led to a flurry of critical comments:

Boris Johnson, the flamboyant, self-mocking and ambitious mayor of London, has put his gilded foot in his mouth once again, suggesting that the poor of Britain are victims of low IQ and that greed is good.

Mr Johnson, who many believe wants to succeed David Cameron as prime minister and Conservative Party leader, has created an image that is both bumbling and endearing, based on bluster, wit and fundamental competence.

He has survived missteps, including various affairs and a love child, that would have sunk ordinary politicians, but he is a fiercely intelligent debater and funnier than most comedians.

But his comments on Wednesday night in the Thatcher Lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies have created an uglier fuss, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg accusing Johnson of discussing humankind “as if we are a sort of breed of dogs”.

Boris and a clue to charismatic leadership

Boris Johnson is regularly described as charismatic. He illustrates the survival of a leadership style that refuses to die away to confirm the arrival of a post-charismatic era. He conveys, as the article suggests a bumbling style, but he conveys also intelligence and charm. Brand Boris is consistently inconsistent.

He defies the assumption held knowingly or not by almost every other politician, that to look foolish is career damaging. This is an almost impossible act to sustain (not looking foolish). The majority of mainstream politicians struggle with the dilemma of appearing authentic, as their mask of omniscience slips.

Will Boris achieve his political ambitions?

Not if the fate of his beloved classical tragic heroes is pertinent. Boris’s destiny is to replay the fate of those who would defy the gods.

In the meanwhile he appears to demonstrate the possibility that ‘we the people’ deserve the leaders to whom we give our unconditional admiration and good will. The leaders we deserve.

Later:

The Chancellor, George Osborne ‘distances himself’ from Boris’s remarks, [Andrew Marr show, Dec 1st 2013]


Boris Johnson, Feel-Good politician

November 10, 2013

TV Review

Unedited Notes on watching a repeat [Nov 9, 2013] of the BBC documentary of Boris Johnson

He tends to ignore ‘Network of social obligations’. Quote from His House master at Eton

The Darius Guppy affair. Friend who called to ask Boris for an address to help Guppy beat up a journalist

On challenged, sometimes presents his bumbling but endearing style in public rather than denying wrong-doing

Became editor of Spectator and broke his word not to stand for parliament in 2001.

Sacked for lying to Tory leader Michael Howard about an affair

Stood for London mayor backed by Prime Minister and school friend Cameron

Can show discipline when needed, but very chaotic otherwise.

Rivalry with Cameron intensifies after Cameron becomes PM

Another affair…”he’s our Berlusconi, only funnier” [Private Eye editor Ian Hislop]

London riots may have put his re-election as Mayor of London at risk

Said to be the only ‘feel good’ politician in land

Implies he is a serious contender for PM. Prospect offered with less than ringing endorsements

Missing: did I miss any mention of his unpopularity on Merseyside after ill-judged remarks over Hillsborough in a Spectator editorial?

What did we learn about Boris?

What did we learn about Boris? Not a lot that was not already in the public domain. Will he become Prime Minister? Probably not, but the public mood of disillusion of conventional politicians remains high.

The Boris publicity wave rolls on

In the days after posting the above, Boris continues to make media headlines. Click here for a video clip of his claim to be pro-immigation. [Warning: it may come with irritating plug ins]


As Olympics starts, Mitt’s blitz irks Brits

July 27, 2012

Mitt Romney arrived in Europe at the start of the 2012 Olympics to visit leading politicians. It was part of his Presidential campaign designed to raise his profile as an internationally-significant figure. He may have passed through London unnoticed, if he had not made a mildly critical remark to a US journalist

London, Thursday July 26th. One topic has distanced everything else from the nation’s attention. The Olympic Games.

Mr Romney might have arrived and announced plans single-handedly to rescue the Euro and bring peace to the Middle East and been largely ignored. Instead he chose to mention a few concerns based on news he had learned of glitches in the administration of the Games. Mr Romney is quite keen to remind American voters of leadership skills he showed in rescuing the Winter Olympics in the US in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Keep your nose out, they are our glitches

The British media had enjoyed its own frenzy of anger towards various glitzes. The head of G4S, a services contractor, had been hauled before parliament to agree that his organisation’s performance had been a shambles. Tweets by athletes complaining about bus delays were also reported and discussed. On the day Mr Romney arrived, the Olympics committee was forced to apologise to North Korea for mixing up its flag in its football game with that of, [oops] South Korea.

Ironic sympathy

Mr Romney might have won favourable attention by offering a few remarks in the tone of ironic sympathy that Bill Clinton was famous for producing. But Mitt does not do ironic sympathy. “Keep your nose out”, yelled the press. “These are our glitches”.

Enter Boris to fan the [Olympic] flame

The day ended with a concert in Hyde Park where the assembled party-goers were treated to a wide-screen presentation. Boris Johnson, the charismatic mayor of London, added his wit to the story, hugely enjoying the opportunity.

“There’s this guy called Mitt Romney” he began, to roars from the crowd. “He wants to know if we are ready. Are we ready?. The crowd roars back.

A retraction

The late news bulletins presented the mayor’s remarks, followed by an uncomfortable Mr Romney making what sounded like a retraction to his original line. He now takes the politically-correct (but factually incorrect) position offered by the Prime Minister and just about everyone else, that this was a glitz-free Olympics – until Mitt blew into town.


In a season of setbacks for charismatic leaders, Boris Johnson’s star is in the ascendant

May 5, 2012

The newly elected mayor of London is presented at his most Churchillian in a post-election image. If Francois Hollande [and Roy Hodgson in sport] have had the better of more charismatic candidates recently, Boris scraped through against Ken Livingstone

The results for election of Mayor of London was held up until late in the night, before news of the victory for the incumbent, Boris Johnson was confirmed.

The polls always had Boris ahead of Ken, although there was a narrowing of support in the final days of the campaign. The eventual winner emerged on second preference votes. This seems to have reflected a swing in national sentiment towards socialist candidates.

Both main candidates, conservative Boris Johnson, and Labour’s Ken Livingstone are controversial individualists who have repeatedly shown independence from party loyalties. That may explain a difference between Johnson’s success and the wider political failure of the conservative vote to hold. There is a mood afoot that rejects politicians of all three major parties.

It had been an acrimonious campaign, but in the end Johnson was hailed by his rival conceding defeat as probably the next leader of the conservative party.


Leadership as it happens: Notes as David Cameron addresses his party

October 5, 2011

The following notes were made as David Cameron was addressing his Party, in October 2011. My immediate reactions are included

15.07 Its start suggests careful ‘both anding‘. Each assertion being made is carefully balanced. The moral rightness of acting in Libya, and it also in our best interests. Some humourous references made to a story from yesterday of the cat who kept an illegal immigrant in the UK; and to Boris Johnson’s popularity as a leader in waiting.

15.08 warms to theme of leadership. Illustrates with themes of “leadership works”.

15.12 Why the only way out of the debt crisis is ‘Plan A’ and living within our means (Is this the re-draft of the leaked suggestion about trying to pay off credit cards?).

15.14 ‘This country will never join the Euro’ (Applause).

15.18 ‘We are the party of the NHS’. (Compared with both Labour and Lib Dems).

15.20 (There is a main theme emerging. It is about sticking to Plan A. Polished asides add interest and glitter).

15.22 Workers rights are less important than having the right to a job

15.24 Seems a bit more confusing with its lists of why ‘this country’ is innovative and great, and assertions about the need for various radical ways to release innovation

15.28 We are going to get this country back to work…(not the feckless labour party).

15.29 Education has been infected by an ideology..I understand ..we can tranform education by good leadership. Leadership works

15.32 We have great private schools. let it be us be the party that deals with the apartheid of Pivate and State schools

15.34 we will clamp down on illegal immigration.

15.36 we are going to spend over 1000 pounds to get people back to work. No previous Government did it (i.e. £1000 per person for some unspecified number of people).

15.38 Acknowledges our great leaders esp Margaret Thatcher. We don’t boo our leaders (reference to Miliband and the Tony Blair boos. ‘But didn’t you sack Margaret Thatcher?’ I wondered)

15.40 Still seems to be mostly operating in low gear.

15.42 Leadership (again) in the family. Spoke for ‘support of gay marriage not despite being a conservative but because I am a conservative.

15.44 Spoke about social gains in nearby Wythenshaw. (Not an unqualified view it seems to me).

15.46 Making things happen. That is what we do. That’s what leadership is about.

An immediate reaction

That’s it. The theme of leadership ran through the speech. It was rather a surprise.


The Guardian’s brilliant map-testing and map-making in Murdoch meltdown

July 19, 2011

The crisis at NewsCorp has been produced in no small part by brilliant investigative journalism from The Guardian newspaper. Their analysis of Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation demonstrates how a story can be read and tested for its credibility to help reshape public beliefs

Journalists are attempting to create new stories all the time. This is a process which metaphorically examines what is known (map reading), tests its credibility (map testing) and offers re-interpretations (map making).

As the crisis unfolded [in July 2011], the Guardian’s daily accounts became the first ‘go to’ for many who had not been regular readers. A nice example of its approach can be found in its treatment of the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson
as chief of the Metropolitan Police.

An interpretation

The piece was presented as ‘an interpretation’ of the resignation statement. The map was presented as provided by official sources. Its contents were scrutinised to get behind the text (map-testing). By focussing in such a way, a story behind the story emerges. For example:

When Sir Paul writes that he has no knowledge of the phone hacking in 2006

The Guardian notes: Reminds people that the original inquiry happened on Sir Ian Blair’s watch… nothing to do with him

When Sir Paul writes that his meetings with the NOTW deputy editor Neil Wallis were a matter of public record

The Guardian notes: Between September 2006 and June 2009, Stephenson had seven dinners with Neil Wallis. That’s a lot of dinners for a deputy editor. The meetings weren’t “public” until this weekend.

When Sir Paul notes that unlike former NOTW Editor Andy Coulson, who had been employed by Prime Minister David Cameron, deputy Editor Neil Wallis had never been convicted or associated with the phone-hacking issue

The Guardian notes: Stephenson is effectively saying to Cameron: Your guy is smellier than my guy. It leaves Cameron vulnerable to the question: if the Met chief is willing to take responsibility and resign, why don’t you?

The map-making continues

The last piece of map-testing had become part of the questioning of those interviewed about their insights yesterday [July 18th 2011], including London’s mayor Boris Johnson. Boris was announcing the resignation of Sir Paul’s deputy, John Yates, the latest casuality in the crisis. Quizzed on Sir Paul he was somewhat less ebullient than usual, and rather unenthusiastically refused to agree that David Cameron should resign for lack of judgement in the Andy Coulson affair.

Making sense of a complex story

The Guardian method of analysis is worth studying by any student wishing to test the accuracy of some text. It can be extended to ‘reading’ of situations of all kinds.


Robert Quick resigns: A depressing leadership tale

April 10, 2009
Robert Quick

Robert Quick

Robert Quick resigns his role as head of counter-terrorism after details of a top secret document were filmed due to his casual way of handling his papers on the way to a meeting. The incident raises a depressing story of leadership and lack of it

The basic story is relatively simple to understand (although there are a few layers of political context which might also be worth considering). Bob Quick was until recently [9th April 2009] Deputy Commissioner with responsibilities for counter-terrorism at London’s metropolitan police force.

This week Commissioner Quick is filmed heading for a security briefing, holding a bundle of papers, in full view of the press, and maybe other surveillance cameras. The technology available revealed one document was exposing top secret information. This might have been a bit of a one-day story (tut tut, how careless, the man should be reprimanded). It turned out to have more significant implications.

Action against a major terrorist initiative was put at risk after enough details were revealed to the world’s press from the front page of the document which Quick was carrying as he entered No 10 Downing Street.

The action, allegedly against Al Qaida, was triggered prematurely to minimise damage which the security leak might have produced. Within 24 hours arrests were made in a coordinated action which seems to have achieved most of its goals. Damage limitation. Within another 24 hours Quick resigns over his security blunder.

Quite right too. Or was it?

Quite right too’ was the general reaction from press and public comment. ‘He had to go’. The case for the prosecution put pithily in the Sun (if you understand the Kwik-fit reference) with its front page shout You can’t quit quicker than a thick Quick quitter

Blundering police chief Bob Quick quit yesterday — in double-quick time. The anti-terror cop walked at 7.25am before he could be disciplined for compromising an operation to smash an al-Qaeda plot. It is thought fanatics were planning to cause carnage in Manchester within ten days.

A few dissenting voices were raised to the effect that he was a talented professional whose knowledge of terrorist threats to the country’s security was unparalleled. One letter to The Telegraph presented the minority contrary view

What a disaster to lose all those years of expertise because Bob Quick made one mistake, which I am sure he will never repeat. It once again shows the integrity of public servants and puts the politicians they serve in an even worse light. The Home Secretary should ask him to reconsider. By this resignation we are all much more vulnerable to the terrorists than as a result of the publication of a briefing document.

If this were a leadership exam ..

Tempting to see this as a suitable story for a leadership examination:

Complete this sentence drawing on your understanding of the resignation of counter-terrorist head Robert Quick

‘Bob Quick had to go because …’

Why the case is depressing me

Whipping off my black thinking hat and putting on a red emotional one I find the case a depressing one. Depressing because important leadership questions bothering me have been ignored. Depressing because in that respect the ‘story’ is like countless other leadership narratives, with focus on the immediate past and speculative commentary on the stupidity of the main characters and the potential enormity of the consequences of their actions.

So what’s missing?

Where to begin? On with a black professorial hat again, perhaps with a bit of green (for creative) trim. What’s missing is any evidence of leadership directed towards seeing this not as an isolated incident but as representative of a culture of sloppy security. What about action from home secretary Jacqui Smith? Maybe she is a bit distracted with recent personal problems, and maybe with the part played by the looming figure of London mayor Boris Johnson in the hiring and firing of police chiefs.

The Home Secretary (or maybe Gordon) would show welcome leadership with clear evidence of intent. It need not be more than a brief outline of action put in place (and not just another enquiry) to indicate what steps have been taken to protect sensitive information a bit better than as permitting a bundle of top secret papers to be ferried around in range of unwelcome cameras, and guarded only by a burly (about-to-be ex-) copper.

Acknowledgements

To Edward de Bono for his inspired little book on thinking hats, which he says he wrote on a long-haul plane journey.

To the kwik-fit ads which inspired the Sun headlines


G20 Notes. Boris Johnson sets the scene

March 30, 2009
Boris Johnson [wikipedia]

Boris Johnson

The G20 summit threw London into turmoil. Boris Johnson was on top form with advice for the anticipated protestors to the event

Journalism would be the poorer if the mayor were to stick to his day job. Here’s Boris in the Telegraph setting the scene for the G20 summit

It is now 10 years since the anti-capitalists attacked the City of London, and next week they intend to outdo themselves. In student bedsits and in terrace Kensington houses, the alienated children of the middle classes are planning to subvert the G20 summit. Across the desolate wastes of the Leftie internet, their wrathful campfires are already burning, and when April dawns they will surge like the orcs of Mordor in the general direction of foes the Bank of England.

Boris describes the scene in scintillating fashion:

They will taunt the police. They will paralyse traffic. They will do their utmost to spoil your day; and when they have been sufficiently whipped up that they will begin the chant of hate. Somewhere in the crowd, a nose-ringed twerp will drain a mouthful of cider and call to his comrades. “What do we want?” he will demand.
And at that moment, a great silence will fall in the carnival of cretinous crusties. The papier mâché horsemen of the Apocalypse will turn their heads inquiringly in his direction. “What do we want?” he will demand again, a shade more hysterically, and by this time the rioters will be looking at their feet and coughing. Er. What do they want? The embarrassing truth is that they haven’t a clue.

Boris supplies a slogan

They say they want to “burn a banker” and “stop the City”, and no matter how superficially appealing those ambitions may be, it is hard to see how they can be turned into practical economic policies.
So, in a spirit of compassion, let me give the G20 protesters the slogan they need. Here is a demand they could make that would transform the lives and hopes of millions of the poorest people on earth. It is a global stimulus package that doesn’t involve borrowing untold trillions from future generations. It is something the world’s leaders have been trying and failing to do for the past nine years, and if I were the man with the megaphone my cry would be: “What do we want? The completion of the Doha Round of world trade talks! When do we want it? Now!”

But seriously …

I have never wavered in my view that the former mayor Ken Livingstone had broadly made a positive impact on the lives of Londoners through his transport policy, not excluding the road tax system. But he’s history. That’s democracy. Londoners opted for Boris, the leader they preferred, and who is in danger of becoming a serious politician sneaking in thoughtful messages, almost subliminally while preserving his other roles as a national jester, cultural hero, and popularist leader against the mad running dogs infected with the political correctness virus.

London will remain relatively untouched after the protesters and G20 leaders depart. It remains to be seen how Boris Johnson’s career unfolds. Journalist, mayor of London …leader of the conservative party?


Leaders in the news: Winners and losers

October 13, 2008

Howard Schultz Starbucks

Howard Schultz Starbucks


In times of crisis, some leaders step forward, others are deemed to have failed. There have been examples of each, as the global financial crisis enters a new critical stage

Fred the Shred takes the fall

Pressure mounted on Sir Fred Goodwin to resign as chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) as the bank seeks to tap the Government’s £500 billion rescue fund. The Government is reluctant to a deal with RBS’s participation unless he relinquishes his role. Although he clung on tenaciously this has been a very bad week for Sir Fred. Another former city hero exits ignominiously.

Sir Fred Goodwin 0

Gordon Brown is no dead cat

The deeper the crisis, the more polls seem to swing towards Prime Minister Gordon Brown. David Cameron and George Osborne grudgingly offer support the government. Are we seeing a ‘dead cat bounce’, or is there life in the political career of Gordon Brown? He appears more relaxed in the last two weeks than he has been since taking over from Tony Blair as Prime Minister.

Brown 1, Cameron 0, Osborne 0

Boris Forces Resignation of Sir Ian Blair in Leadership Battle

The resignation of Sir Ian Blair [October 2nd 2008] develops into a political story. The BBC traced his turbulent career. Boris Johnson, incoming Mayor of London, is proving a hands-on leader willing to act forcefully. Sir Ian, under pressure on operational and personal fronts, was called into a ‘meeting without coffee’ by the Mayor before tending his resignation.

Boris 1 Blair 0

Obama and McCain Round 2

The second televised debate between the two candidates [October 7th 2008, Nashville, Tennessee] is as stage-managed as the first.
A key negative moment was was reported widely as

Jabbing his finger and spitting out “that one” instead of naming Barack Obama, John McCain showed an angry side

Polls suggest that Barack Obama is moving ahead.

Obama 1 McCain 0

Dick Fuld faces the music

Dick Fuld, controversial CEO of Lehmans has had a very bad few weeks. When ‘invited’ to testify before a hostile congressional committee following the crash of his company, he demonstrates his robust leadership style, denying wrong-doing or ethical weakness. He ticks the boxes for the callous Wall Street fat cat. Fuld very much the loser here.

Dick Fuld 0

Darling’s drastic rescue bid of the banks and maybe Gordon Brown

As The Times sees it
Chancellor Alistair Darling [October 8th 2008] launched a drastic rescue of Britain’s high street banks [to avoid] a cataclysmic failure of confidence by announcing a part-nationalisation plan with £50 billion of taxpayers’ money. Alistair Darling, like Gordon Brown has had a better week.

Alistair Darling 1

Starbucks, Schultz and the running taps

Howard Schultz, returned to the chief executive role at Starbucks earlier this year, faced with serious loss of froth in the business. Poor figures and closures continue. This week [October 8th 2008] the ‘running taps’ story threatens to sully the firm’s good environmental reputation.

Starbucks 0, Howard Schultz 0

And in the long run?

Not all these cats are dead. And, as we know, cats have seven lives.


Tessa Jowell and Boris speak as one: London 2012 is to be the austerity games

August 24, 2008

As the 2008 Olympics reaches a climax, interest turns to the London games of 2012. Tessa Jowell, wearing her hat as Olympics minister, and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, both send a similar austerity message. We examine the rationale for these actions

According to the BBC

According to the BBC

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell has told [the BBC] that there will be no extra money beyond the £9.325bn already allocated to the 2012 London Games

In the same week, her message was echoed by Boris Johnson, who also promised that the games would run to budget. A brave claim, which seems to me to risk offering a hostage to fortune.

The messages have the merit of being clear and unambiguous. This government is not going to risk overspending the 2012 budget. But unless communicated carefully, the impression is left that the primary concern of the government and the Mayor is to avoid any doubts of being imprudent regarding the financial implications of the 2012 Games.

Raising their game: a bit of this, a bit of that

Perhaps politicians, like Olympic athletes have to raise their game to achieve the highest accolades. The statements for me, needed a bit more ‘yes and’. A bit more acknowledgment that at present many people are interested in how London 2012 will take British sporting achievements to a level that will continue the upsurge of pride in the sporting achievements in Beijing 2008.

In other words, the leader has to be more creative in handing the concerns of an intended audience, as well as getting across a message from the leader’s perspective. A bit of ‘this is what I want you to understand’. And also a bit of ‘I understand what you are really worried about, and this is what I intend to do about it’.

Janusian thinking
Creativity is often manifest by a process which puts together two sets of ideas. Arthur Koestler called it bisociative thinking. Others have referred to Janusian thinking, implying a capacity for looking in more than on direction at once.

Images of Janus suggest the process is looking in two different and contrary directions. This matches well with the notion that the creativity of a leader involves bringing together rational and emotional messages.

The evidence is that Tessa is less able to manage such two-way thinking than is Boris.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,568 other followers