On a fairly dreary Sunday evening, after dismal Sunday afternoon, on which my beloved Gunners were thrashed 8-2, I settled down for some prime time television and decided on BBC’s spy thriller Page Eight. I must admit that my ulterior motive for this was that I could miss Match of the Day on BBC1 which I hate watching when Arsenal lose, never mind thrashed!
My evening improved considerably as I watched this brilliant piece of drama unfold and I can say I fared better than Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon’s character) who retorted during an exchange with the main character (Bill Nighy),’Things are that bad, I got home last night and watched the X-Factor!’
The drama was witty, sophisticated, and well-presented without any violence at all! ‘Don’t worry, I don’t do any of that gun stuff,’ says Bill Nighy’s character. This is indeed a mean feat for a spy thriller. It was all very intelligent and very British, which made it a treat among the plethora of American (albeit very good) stuff around.
It was so intelligent in fact that it made me think about leadership qualities. Without wishing to give away the plot, the Prime Minister in Page Eight reminded me of what I thought of Tony Blair as a leader after I finished reading his book.
Very often leaders think of their power as a right rather than a responsibility and this of course can lead to a ‘God complex’ the bane of any good leader. In his book, Tony Blair presented it as a virtue, as it allowed him to do remarkable things like broker the Good Friday agreement and ‘rescue’ Bosnians and Sierra Leonians from a fate worse than death. ‘In my first term we had toppled Milosevic and changed the face of the Balkans. In Sierra Leone, we had saved and then secured democracy after the ravages if the diamond wars,’ he recounts in his book A Journey.
He thought therefore that he could apply these skills to Iraq which he thought was in definite need of ‘rescuing’. He thought it was a moral necessity, ‘So if there was a moral message to be sent about defiance of the international community, it should be sent to Iraq,’ he says in A Journey.
Of course the trouble with such certainty is that there is a danger of railroading other leaders and experts around into doing what the leader is so sure is right. In his book, Tony Blair admits he did everything possible in the face of legitimate, reasonable opposition to a war with Iraq, to make sure that his goal prevailed, even to the point of stretching the interpretation of a UN resolution to breaking point!
The result of this is now part of history and only time will tell how the story of Tony Blair as a leader will be told. One thing that is certain though is that his legacy is definitely tainted by the war with Iraq.
He isn’t the only leader who’s leadership style and qualities are called into question by the results of their leadership. The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, who released his memoirs, Back from the Brink, recently spoke to Andrew Marr about his time at Number 11. He admitted that there was no unity at the top during his time as Chancellor and rather than using his skills for the benefit of the economic health of the country, he was busy trying to avoid being pummeled by Gordon Brown….need I go on?
It seems to me that the most important quality of a leader is as a kind of Marshall, steering the best talent and consolidating all the resources available to his leadership for the greater good, rather than for personal gain or ego-tripping. The best leaders are those that serve, the cause and the people, otherwise it’s a dictatorship, from which nothing positive ever emerges.