The end of May: why Theresa May was a rubbish leader

It’s harsh to say that Theresa May has been the worst Prime Minister in my lifetime, but it’s also true.

It’s not fair, because she is also the Prime Minister who got handed the most difficult gig since World War II.

In more benign circumstances she might have outshone the likes of John Major or Alec Douglas-Home or Ted Heath or Jim Callaghan … but we’ll never know, because she got handed a burning platform of toxic crap by a fractured party, and was expected to lead a divided nation through a potentially disastrous policy that she had opposed.

Would Anthony Eden or Harold Wilson or Gordon Brown have done any better?

Theresa May

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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overlong and outdated, this story is interesting to read because it was, and is, so influential on politics and – to a lesser extent – on organisational leadership, but it doesn’t really stand up on any other basis.

It starts quite well. It’s well-written and I enjoyed the early chapters about the challenges of running a railroad in 1950s America. However, the story soon deteriorates into a nonsense argument between the heroic industrialists who are talented and achievement-orientated, and the fake straw men who are spineless, stupid and corrupt.

The philosophical premise that informs this (and Rand’s theory of Objectivism) is so damn clumsy it gets quite infuriating.

The central argument is so simplistic and loaded it insults the intelligence. The good guys are hard-nosed, hard-working, focussed, and clever. They unashamedly make money and don’t apologise for it. So far so good; no problem with that. What they go on to do is reject most human relationships as unnecessary – Dagny Taggart, the most human of the “good guys” (who I quite fancied), at least admits she needs butch and uptight Hank Rearden in her bed and doesn’t mind saying so – Rearden, who needs a good slap if you ask me, insists (and insists!) that he’s only doing Taggart for his own pleasure and does not give a jot for hers. This seems very important to him. She sees this as a good thing.

Someone needs therapy.


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The Seven Deadly Sins: not the ideal place to look for workplace motivation

I have to say these comments reveal a fairly unpleasant, careless elitism that somehow suggests we should give up on a whole swath of fellow citizens

That was UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who went on to say:

To talk about us as if we are a sort of breed of dogs, a species I think he calls it …

We are a species Nick, and a breed of dogs isn’t a species … I’m not clear on what the danger of using this sort of language is …

the danger is …

… go on …

…if you start taking such a deterministic view of people because they have got a number attached to them, in this case an IQ number, they are not going to rise to the top of the cornflake packet

He was talking about Boris Johnson’s speech at the Centre for Policy Studies last week (see here for the full text in the Telegraph).

I think most people would agree that a Huxley-esque world where everyone in our species knows their place, and no-one can fight for a better position in the Cornflake packet, is a bad thing … but what made me consider this appropriate fodder for this blog was Boris’s decision to trumpet the glories of envy and greed as good workplace motivators.

… some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity

As David Lammy (Labour) said:

It’s extraordinary for a mayor … to think it’s all right to glorify greed – a greed that has brought a banking collapse and caused misery and hardship to many …

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Team of Rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns-Goodwin

I don’t like to include book reviews in this blog because I don’t like writing book reviews, but I had to make an exception for this gem: “Team of Rivals, the political genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I have a special interest in this period of American history due to my love of Mark Twain. I am drawn to the excitement of opportunity and newness, and the challenge of building a nation on great principles such as government by the people for the people, and on freedom and opportunity.

It was a time of truly great men – and I mean men, not sure women always had such a great time (and I will now follow up on two more greats, Frederick Douglass and Ulysses S Grant, for starters), and Lincoln’s own story is one of remarkable resilience and resourcefulness in the face of a terribly bleak childhood on the harsh Illinois frontier.

Lincoln’s genius was combining this determination with his humour, kindness and wisdom, to not just bring the fledgling and divided Republican party with him on issues as controversial and divisive as war and slavery, but to bring an entire nation with him (or at least the northern Yankee part).

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