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Gordon Brown’s Leadership Woes

June 5, 2009

As each day passes, Prime Minister Brown sinks deeper into the quagmire of public scorn. Despite several of his cabinet ministers exiting this week and the notoriously bloodthirsty British press sharpening its knives as to moves in for the kill, the PM doesn’t seem to be getting the message. Brown was never elected as PM, taking over from his once-upon-a-time buddy Tony Blair, with whom he had made an under-the-table succession deal.

Brown’s stubbornness will not only damage the Labour Party’s standing for years to come, but more importantly it will hurt the UK economically during a global recession. Self-delusion comes at a very high price.

I can share a Canadian example of the effects of narcissistic political behaviour on a populace. During the 1980s, while I was living in New Brunswick, Premier Richard Hatfield’s long reign of power steadily weakened. Rather than pass the reins on to a successor, Hatfield declared that New Brunswickers “…voted me in; they will vote me out.” And indeed they did. Hatfield ran against a political newcomer – the now legendary Frank McKenna (currently vice-chair of TD Financial), who was well known as a criminal trial lawyer. McKenna’s ethical approach to hard work, intelligence and charismatic leadership proved overwhelming to Hatfield’s flat campaign and deteriorating public reputation. The result was McKenna winning all 55 seats in the New Brunswick Legislature.

One promise McKenna made when he was elected in 1989 was that he would only remain as premier for 10 years. A decade later, almost to the day, Premier Frank McKenna resigned as leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party, passing the reins to one of his ministers.

Now that’s showing leadership and integrity, while keeping a political promise.

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