A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

June 20, 2020


Book Review. Dov Alfon (trans Daniella Zamir), A long night in Paris, Maclehose Quercus: London, 2018

Reviewed by Tudor Rickards

We thriller addicts are easy to please. All we want is a puzzle to be solved by interesting characters, told in way which moves on rapidly with a modicum of the unfamiliar amid the obligations of the genre.
On most counts, A long night in Paris works adequately. The main characters, Colonel Zeev Abadi, and sidekick Oriana Talmore are engaging superspies in Israeli intelligence. The plot is more than puzzling enough with assorted villains, supervillains, hit men and hit women connected together through a flight from TelAviv which arrives in Paris with a whirlwind of abductions and killings for no immediately obvious reason.
The translation feels smooth (to this reviewer ignorant of its original language). The spycraft is convincing. Minor characters have a chance to shine if they do not reach a premature end; and the violence is of the non-gratuitous kind. The puzzles are eventually resolved in a satisfactory way.
One minor distraction is the presence of one or two sub-plots which could have been left out by a little more editorial bullying.

Overall, worth a browse.

Rating ****

Marcus Rashford is LWD leader of the month for June 2020

June 16, 2020


Marcus Radford is LWD leader of the month for June 2020. He was figurehead of a campaign to persuade the government to change its policy towards free meals for schoolchildren during the summer break when schools were not open

A range of leaders were considered as candidates for Leader of the Month in our recent post. Their actions were to be overshadowed by the achievement and leadership style shown by Rashford subsequently over a period of days.

My notes below, from June 16, summarise the story


Breaking news. A government U-turn on vouchers for school meals. A triumph for Marcus Rashford’s campaign. I stop searching for the LWD leader of the month. The rapid closure of the story makes it easier to trace its key features.

Rashford has become a high-profile figure almost overnight. He presents himself as an articulate, dignified young man, with a convincing story which is easy to understand, backed up by his own experiences.

The PR pressure left the government with a classical dilemma, resist or accept the emotional potency of the case. Whatever prospect of succeeding vanished after a tweet from Therese Coffey:
‘Hi @MarcusRashford, I welcome your passion for supporting children and the most vulnerable in society – a passion we share. We are working to the same aim. I & this Govt will continue to actively help and support families and businesses through this emergency and beyond’
A tweet storm followed. Three hours later, the U-turn in advance of a debate on school meals scheduled for later this afternoon.

Leadership thoughts

Rashford’s rocketing celebrity helps counter-balance the virtues of the charismatic leader which increase at times of crisis. No one previously singled out the soft-spoken Rashford as a potential leader, even for a football team.
Searching for explanations in the numerous theories of leadership , I can glimpse explanations in the Level five leadership of Jim Collins. The leader who is ‘modest but with fierce resolve’. This was discussed for football leaders in an earlier post
The other theory is of the authentic leader. While many politicians seek to claim their humble backgrounds, they too often seem inauthentic. Rashford exhumes a genuine belief for the cause he has so successfully espoused.

A refreshing discovery that we need not disregard leaders who do not fit the contentious stereotype of a charismatic personality.

Leader of the month award: BLM candidates dominate

June 14, 2020

One figure dominated headlines and transcends any monthly award. George Floyd, for the impact his death had on the anti-racist moment around the world.  It was to lead to its own heroic figures of the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement


Superintendent Andy Bennett, for his crowd-control decisions during the Edward Colston demonstration in Bristol.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, partly for his soft-touch in the demonstration and his earlier leadership initiatives

Tennis player Coco Gauff, who spoke out over the George Floyd killing.

General Mattis, for his outspoken condemnation of his Commander in chief reported in a Sky Atlantic article

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, President of Croatia, for popular leadership without merging into its more frequent undesirable popularist Aspects.

Other candidates

The list is still open for additional candidates.

Update: June 16 2020

Two more names added to the LWD Leader of the Month award.
Marcus Rashford lobbying for retention of school meals over the summer break
Patrick Hutchingson for rescuing a racist under attack during the weekend protests.

Will Burnham Busses and Electric Bikes be the future for Manchester?

June 5, 2020


Manchester is facing an uncertain future as it attempts another transformation, perhaps the greatest since Cottonopolis sprung to life in the roaring days of the Industrial revolution

One initiative has been launched from the office of the Mayor Andy Burnham and his team, in conjunction with The Growth Company and Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership.

Undeterred by the label, I signed up for one of its introductory webinars [June 5 2020]. I was pleased to discover that it was to be no more that an hour, a few minutes longer that the daily press conferences from the Government.

It turned out to be more interesting. For example, viewers were spared the PowerPoint slides.  The presentations were mercifully brief, and the presence of a facilitator obviously helped.

‘Build Back better’

The strap line for the initiative is Build Back better. But what does better look like? Its
Key themes are daunting but familiar ones:
Working differently
W/L balance

The mayor outlined existing and potential projects (the following from my notes)
Return to work: Adapting provisional changes. Returning to office v Working at home
Opportunities: Change Heath Care system. Integrated system for 2.8m people
Housing crisis:The high street will change. Implications?
New industries: Digital
Self Employment: challenges through existing and new support schemes
With Gvnt. Support for levelling-up initiatives: Retrofitting for construction opportunities to achieve zero-carbon housing


Questions from the distant audience (my notes again)
BAME help? 5% companies with BAME leaders. Working to encourage and improve.
Cycling importance? Work locations for more cycling walking components on work day. Newer modes like electric scooters.
Enhancing innovative actions? Recognising ‘front line staff initiatives’ taking place
Young people’s involvement? Already working towards a large-scale initiative including career progression.
Business start ups? Revive business apprenticeships and other entrepreneurial training
Next steps? To strengthen recovery strategy. To keep in touch with those becoming involved


A well-managed introduction to plans to support the challenge of regional reconstruction In the year of the virus. More posts as the project develops.

LWD leader of the month is Nichola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

June 2, 2020



LWD leader for May 2020 was chosen from four political leaders currently in a political struggle over autonomy, while dealing with the Coronavirus crisis. The winner was Nichola Sturgeon, for her performances in the daily press conferences reporting on the Coronavirus news.

The four nations championship

The differences in policy reminds me in some ways of a battle such as the rugby union championship (known as the four nations championship before their numbers swelled to today’s six.
The original four nations championship contenders were England, Scotland, Ireland (combined NI and Republic) and Wales. This month’s political battles can be seen a struggle between the leaders of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and England, the last represented by the Leader of the Government in Westminster.

The Candidates

The candidates for LWD leader of the month are therefore
Nichola Sturgeon, Scotland
Arlene Foster, N. Ireland
Mark Drakeford, Wales
Boris Johnson , Prime Minister of the Parliament representing the four nations.

The West Lothian question

At the start of of the month [May 2020] tensions are building up between the leaders representing the devolved political administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on one hand, and the leader of the Westminster Government.
There is no Parliament of England (although it has its advocates). The Westminster Parliament has representatives from England, but also from the other parts of the United Kingdom.
This is what one commentator likened to a re-run of the West Lothian question.

Border complications

The complications implied in the West Lothian question around borders continued, as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland administrations decided to exercise their rights by departing from the Westminster policy over easing the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The first impact was border complications, with people from England free to cross the border but then having to accept different rules once across. Later, the opening up of schools became another dilemma.
Polite efforts were made to indicate shared values and goals, but tensions were to remain. Boris Johnson had the more difficult task of speaking as Prime Minister of all four nations, and sometimes for England in this current divergence of views.

The Daily press conferences

All four countries held daily press conferences. Sturgeon, Foster, and Drakeford choose to lead the meetings every day. Johnson took to team approach, with various cabinet ministers who became daily celebrities among the political commentators in MSD and internet communities.This kept him largely out of the limelight.

Towards the end of the month he gained publicity of an unwelcome kind in what became known as the Cummingsgate affair. (More in future posts).

The Sturgeon challenge

Nichola Sturgeon took on the challenge in exemplary fashion. Although facing inevitable distractors from political opponents, there has been wide consensus that her daily performances have been successful. In comparison, with one exception, the Boris substitutes have ranged from adequate to abysmal. (The exception, The Chancellor, Ricci Sunakwho had fewer opportunities to shine. However, he seems to have been favoured as a future leader of the Conservative party  by the supportive MSM papers. A future candidate for the LWD award?)

Sturgeon’s meetings took place in the early afternoon, and were covered more intensively than those of the other leaders, which did not attract the same attention outside their national news outlets.The challenge for all the leaders facing the press was communicating bad news including daily new deaths, with clarity and empathy.
Sturgeon was a convincing communicator. The train wrecks involving others were the right words came out, but increasingly appearing that they were being spoken uncomfortably from a script provided them.

In all, Nichola Sturgeon is a worthy winner of the LWD Leader of the Month award

The Four Nations Championship. Who will be LWD leader of the month?

May 9, 2020


LWD leader for May 2020, will be chosen from leaders currently engaged in a political struggle over autonomy while dealing with the Coronavirus crisis.

The dispute reminds me in some ways of the Home Nations rugby union championship.  At first this known as The Four Nations championship, before their numbers swelled to include first France, and then Italy. Finally its name changed and it became the Six Nations championship.

The original four nations championship contenders were England, Scotland Ireland (combined NI and Republic) and Wales. In politics, the matter is more complicated.

This month’s political battles can be seen a struggle between the leaders of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and England, the last represented by the Leader of the Government in Westminster.

The Candidates

The candidates for LWD leader of the month are
Nichola Sturgeon
Arlene Foster
Mark Drakeford
Boris Johnson

The West Lothian question

At the time of writing [8 May 2020] tensions are building up between the leaders representing the devolved political administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on one hand, and the leader of the Westminster Government.
There is no Parliament of England (although that has its advocates). The Westminster Parliament has representatives from England, but also from the other parts of the United Kingdom.
This is what one commentator likened to a re-run of the West Lothian question.
The original West Lothian question was about dual representation. The on-going political discussions about the Northern Ireland border have a similar core dilemma.

The leader of the month is the candidate deemed to have best managed the challenges facing them.

To be continued …

A simple lifesaving approach for social distancing

May 1, 2020




How to save lives

Here’s a way to save lives during the virus crisis, Use this simple signalling process to ensure good social distancing when passing another pedestrian. At least it avoids that left-right dance. It protects both those passing from possible infection.

The basic moves are for you to identify the way you intend to move, and signal, then indicate where to advancing passer-by should move.

Particularly useful where joggers, dog-walkers, or parents with baby buggies are approaching.

Try it out. It works. You can also make up versions of the actions you may feel more comfortable with.

The clip was shot without cruelty to the volunteers in view. 

Will Boris Johnson’s return win him the LWD Leader of the Month award?

April 26, 2020

Boris Johnson’s plucky return to take control of the Government’s anti-virus battle may not be enough to win him the Leaders We Deserve coveted award (Update)

From time to time, LWD examines leadership behaviours and awards a leadership of the month award. This month there are several strong candidates to choose from. Some argue such awards are pointless and misleading. However, the chronicling of the leaders draws attention to their actions.

The award would add further credibility to the PM’s reputation as a dynamic and charismatic leader. However, he faces tough challenges from others on the short-list.

Boris Johnson will take back control from his deputy Dominic Raab tomorrow [Monday 27 April, 2020]. Mr Raab nearly made the shortlist for his convincing ability to stick to a pre-agreed script in answer to journalists’ questions in press conferences this month. However, his answers sometimes were to different questions to those asked, which resulted in his eventual exclusion from the short-list.

The Short-listed leaders

Jacinda Arherne
Angela Merkel
Anthony Fauci
Andrew Cuomo

The results will be announced later this week.

Don’t miss it …

Update: Several new candidates have appeared on the list. But their claims are being checked.  In the meanwhile, here is more information about the shortlisted candidates

Jacinda Arherne, Prime Minister of New Zealand gained widespread approval for her leadership. following the massacre in a Christchurch mosque, and a volcanic eruption. Now she is leading a highly successful campaign dealing with the Coronavirus with similar sure-footedness.

Angela Merkel led from the front in her explanations to the German people. Her scientific background gives her an edge, she understands and explains lucidly. Unfortunately for wannabe leaders her communications are grounded in deep technical knowledge and authentic belief in her message.

“Merkel painted a picture of the greatest challenge since the Second World War, but she did not speak of war,” the influential Sueddeutsche Zeitungnewspaper wrote. “She did not rely on martial words or gestures, but on people’s reason. Nobody knows if that will be enough, but her tone will at least not lead the people to sink into uncertainty and fear.”Merkel’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is still very much a work in progress, but a poll released Friday by ZDF television showed 89 per cent of Germans thought the government was handling it well. The poll saw Merkel strengthen her lead as the country’s most important politician and a strong 7 per cent rise for her centre-right Union bloc after months in which it was weighed down by questions over its future leadership. The poll, done by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage

Trump’s medical advisor Anthony Fauci is hardly a well-known figure but he has an impressive reputation as a scientific leader in times of crisis.
A recent article illustrates his contributions and his current leadership skills.
‘Fauci was one of the first scientists to document “severe opportunistic infections among apparently previously healthy homosexual men”. His lab at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) led the charge for a cure, and he became the public face of the government’s fight to stop the virus.
Fauci has continued his life’s work, leading the effort to contain infectious diseases from Sars to Ebola to swine flu.
Working with the current president, Fauci appears to sense that keeping his job depends on keeping Trump happy. When he has contradicted Trump, he has usually done so gently. When Trump pushed the lupus drug hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure, Fauci said: “In terms of science, I don’t think we can definitively say it works”

New York’s Mayor Cuomo is currently also dealing with America’s mercurial President as he grapples with the State facing the gravest Coronavirus crisis. He appears to be resilient, with his own press conferences models of clarity and empathy.
He impresses me each time he addresses the scared citizens of New York

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of HM’s Government got off to a poor start when he announced himself having to self-isolate due the symptoms of Covid-19. With his ministers claiming he was in good health, things took a turn for the worse when he was diagnosed as testing positive, admitted to hospital and then into intensive care.
Then his brave battle turned round, he recovered, and until recently was recuperating at Chequers. He is returning to full control of the country’ s fight against the virus. However, this late return to form may be too late for him to secure the LWD Leader of the Month award


Leader of the Month is:

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand


In 2019, she was shortlisted for Times Person of the year and was spoken of as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for her leadership in the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings.

As her citation states, she gained widespread approval for her leadership following the massacre in a Christchurch mosque. Her empathy was matched with her firm actions.

Earlier this year, a volcanic eruption off the coast of New Zealand was dealt with again with effective measures combined with concern for those most closely involved.
Now she is leading a highly successful campaign dealing with the Coronavirus Crisis with similar sure-footedness.

Runners up

Runners up, but both worthy winners , were President Trump’s medical advisor Anthony Fauci, and New York’s Mayor Cuomo, both of whom showed a grasp of reality and were able to communicate it under hostile conditions.

Boris Johnson had a good month after a bad start. He fell in to the Covid-19 virus, and was hospitalised. Concerns were reported of his condition as he entered a High Dependency unit. Then the recovery to take back control of his cabinet. To add to his turbulent month, his fiancee Carrie Simonds gave birth to a baby boy. Supporters are pressing for the faithful to clap not only for the front-line heroes but the rescued Prime Minister.


Abnormal service will be resumed as soon as possible

April 18, 2020

From time to time I experience guilty feelings of a parent who has abandoned a favourite child. Leaders we deserve was my blogging pride and joy for over a decade. But times change. For personal and professional reasons I found myself preoccupied with other ventures. My blogs dwindled in frequency

Brexit and beyond
By the time of the EU referendum in 2016, I had begun expressing my new ideas through my self-published books. Seconds Out was a metaphor for Brexit, disguised as a fictional account of an evil mastermind, Lyman Groat, intent on world-domination. Groat was to reappear in The Unnamed Threat, which involved a devilish nerve-agent an accidental anticipation of the arrival of Coronavirus COVID-19 in 2019.
I began to use Twitter and then Facebook more (do join me through these sites).

Work in progress

I am currently working on a non-fictional account of the leadership issues to be found in the Battle for Brexit, currently sidetracked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Like all UK Residents over the age of 70 I have been designated a member of a high-vulnerability group instructed to stay at home in lockdown while the government decides what to do with us.
Time under lockdown is fulfilling the einsteinian principle of relativity. For example, there is no longer a differentiation between weekdays and weekends. (TGIF has only a historical existence).

Abnormal service
The fundamental question raised by LWD remains. ‘How are leaders chosen in a democratic society?’ I look forward to making further contributions through this blog, even if the service will be more limited.

Transactional Analysis: Michael Gove and Sam Curren

September 16, 2019


Saturday 14 September, 2019

Michael Gove is a frequent flyer on Brexit airlines, with a role of communicating how the journey to Brexitland’s main runway is progressing. He is all you would expect of a fully trained flight steward. Reassuring, confident, earnest, fluent…

And yet…

There something deeper behind the public performances of this ambitious politician.
What might it be? I mused.
A thought came to me while listening to two sports journalists this morning. They were discussing the brilliant bowling displays of Joffra Archer and Sam Curran yesterday, playing for England against Australia.
Archer has already become the latest hurricane-fast bowler in test cricket. His life-threatening deliveries have had more effect on the world No 1 batsman Stephen Smith than all the other plodders in the England team. Yesterday his six wickets reduced Australia to a losing position that even Smith was unable to buttress.
The commentators gave Archer due respect for another game-changing performance.
‘But we mustn’t forget Sam Curran,’ the first pundit says, ‘he bowled as well as anyone.’
‘He also brings so much freshness and youthful energy to the team’ say the other. ‘When he had those two lbw appeals turned down he looked like a little boy who hadn’t had the birthday present he was expecting.’
What, you may be thinking, has that to do with Brexit and Michael Gove? I am coming to that. The cricketing anecdote puts me into sense-making mode. A venerable form of analysis comes to mind. Personal interactions can be examined as exchanges between three states of mind, parental, adult, or child. The descriptions of Young Sam sound pretty much like parent to parent (nurturing sub-category) exchanges.
Why not adult to adult? Because That would sound more like a conversation continuing: ‘He showed his disappointment when his appeals were turned down.’
‘Yes, he would have taken the wicket of Steve Smith, which could have changed the course of the game.’
Now back to Brexit Airlines. Michael Gove is constantly operating in grown-up mode. In public, he speaks as one adult to another. This week he said ‘Our preparations for exiting the EU are satisfactory. No one will be deprived of any medicines they require.’

The concealed message

Now for the next bit of the transactional analysis. A message often has another and concealed meaning. Michael may well be playing a game, saying one thing while concealing another.
His concealed message may be ‘there, there, don’t bother yourself with all that, daddy will see everything will be alright in the end’ which seems to me more like a parent to child transaction. These transactions often often induce parent child reactions (‘don’t talk to me like that’).

Other explanations are possible

Other explanations are also possible. As one fictional politician remarked, ‘you may say that, I couldn’t possibly comment.’