What May the future hold?

What May the future hold?

Theresa MayToday (July 13th 2017) The UK has a new Prime Minister. Theresa May has emerged as PM after the recent bloodletting in the Conservative party following the EU referendum.

It’s worth reflecting on the last few weeks in British politics. Now I know this has been done by many people in many ways, but I’m interested in looking at these events from a leadership perspective.

In this blog post, I will focus on the events in the Conservative party. Who is our new PM and what are her values? I will look at the Labour party in a separate post.

By definition, leadership is about persuading people to follow you. There is a debate about how our next PM was decided upon. In the end, May was the last woman standing, as previous candidates to lead the Conservative party fell by the wayside, either through their own choice or that of their party. So, actually, nobody has directly chosen May to be PM. That said, it is within the constitution and May feels she has sufficient mandate that she has stated she does not feel the need to call a general election to get one. Although May made a speech on Monday outlining her philosophy, nobody actually voted for it! All of this presents May with her first challenge; how to inspire people to follow her.

UK politics has undergone a seismic shift over the last few years

A profile in The Guardian describes May as “unpredictable and moralistic”. She  is also seen as a detail person and someone who struggles to delegate. Think micromanagement. This attention to detail is going to be important going forward, especially in leading the negotiations for “Brexit”. Don’t be surprised if May takes her time in appointing the cabinet; in common with many politicians, she displays the cautious low emoting analytical style. Relatively risk-averse, it is more important to get it right than it is to get it done quickly. In social types terms, May is definitely more task focused than people focused. She is described as hard to get to know, sharing little personal information. She is not interested in gossip. This could be either the driving style or analytical style. It is the measured delivery and softer tones that suggest the latter for me.

May has also given us some insights into her values.  One  analysis  reviewed her only campaign speech, last Monday, just before here last rival, Andrea Leadsom, dropped out of the contest. Three themes emerged;

  1. to govern for “everyone, not just the privileged few”
  2. to unite the party and the country
  3. to negotiate EU withdrawal successfully

All 3 points highlight May’s priorities, but it is point 1 that gives the most insight into her values. May is a believer in “One-Nation Conservatism”and point one is an effective definition of what that is. It will be interesting to see how this belief is translated into action, and this is vital if she is to meet the aspirations of points 2 and 3.

UK politics has undergone a seismic shift over the last few years. The surprise with which the Brexit win was received confirmed that large parts of the population have become disillusioned with the norm or the “establishment”. It started with the rise of UKIP and the coincidental fall of the labour party since 2010. This led to the first peace time coalition government in generations. Labour responded by moving more to the left. The two leading political parties are further apart in their philosophies than they have been for 40 years. In the 1990s they competed for the centre ground. Now, they fight from the flanks.

UKIP was mistakenly believed to appeal only to the right, but their rise in the last election and the success of Brexit (their only policy) has shown that actually they really appeal to frustrated blue collar workers in rural and northern areas, as well as the more hardline right.

If Theresa May is to unite the country, the government she leads will have to negotiate these shark infested waters. She appears to want to step into the void that was vacated by labour (the centre ground) but this will put her at odds with her own party.

Here is her first speech as PM

In the next part of this discussion, I will look at what is happening on the left, and how the civil war currently being fought in the Labour party will almost certainly see the party split in 2.