“Theresa May’s political career has been written off many times but she has now surely run out of road. This week she will meet with the executive of the Conservative Party’s backbench 1922 Committee who will press her for a date for her departure as prime minister” wrote the London Times last Monday. Her party is divided, and many of her senior ministers are openly campaigning to succeed her. Such personalities as Dominic Raab and Jeremy Hunt are unashamedly openly campaigning, which must be rather embarrassing for Mrs. May.
A heading in last Friday’s Times caught my eye, “Rudd unimpressed by parade of wives” and wants the parade of wives and partners to stop. Seemingly Amber Rudd, a loyal Conservative minister, has had enough of the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, telling interviewers that his wife, Lucia, who was born in Xian, China, is the “perfect partner to help him build relationships with foreigners because she herself is foreign”. But no sooner had Mr. Hunt said this than Dominic Raab paraded his wife who “as a Brazilian” would likewise be apt for the partner role in Downing Street. She, he claims, would have voted to leave the EU.
There are at least ten to twelve leading Conservatives interested in Mrs May’s job, and they are like a pack of wolves surrounding an injured animal but none of them are willing to make the final kill. Some want Mrs. May to carry on until some form of Brexit is passed through Parliament; others are willing to lead the country into a ‘hard’ Brexit. Indeed the silence for Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsome and other contenders is deafening. Nobody wants to be blamed for axing May. As Rees-Mogg said, “I have never known the Tory Party in this position”. But what type of leader will any of these people make?
It is genuinely difficult for many people to understand why Mrs May stays in Downing Street, when Conservatives “seem to conjure up new ways to humiliate her”. But there is a simple answer to Mrs May’s plight, and it is called ‘self respect’. Each one of us has a desire for recognition. Consciously or subconsciously, we place a certain dignity on ourselves and we value this. If people belittle us, it offends our sense of justice, and indignation follows. When someone does not give us, the recognition we feel we deserve, we can feel angry. Mrs May is human like the rest of us, and doesn’t want to leave Downing Street until she has accomplished something tangible i.e. Brexit. It is not stubbornness that keeps her in Downing Street, but a natural desire for respect and recognition as a person of some value in the face of belittlement from her colleagues. Until the Conservatives give her respect and recognition, she will remain in office or leave in the most humiliating manner.
Then, on the other side of the House, there is Jeremy Corbyn, who also wants Mrs May’s job. He is an old fashioned ‘left winger’ who thinks the EU is a capitalist club and that the UK is better out of such a club. His route to Number 10 Downing Street is by way of a general election, but Mrs. May won’t call one. He really doesn’t want to compromise, and is very reluctant to agree to a second people’s vote, even though many in his party seemingly want one. So what are we to think of Mr Corbyn as a leader?
For the last thirty years and more, our bookshops have been full of books on leadership. Every week I receive from Harvard Publications a list of their new publications, and inevitably every few weeks we have their latest leadership book hot off the press. The amount of angles that academics, consultants and other authors have taken on this subject seems inexhaustible. But what is clear is that all leaders, successful or not, want some form of recognition and respect.