11:00am, London time. 24 07 2019.
To look at any global news television screen at this precise moment one will see aerial coverage of Prime Minister Theresa May performing her final responsibilities in office:
- final PMQ in Parliament
- final address from 10 Downing Street
- final visit to Buckingham Palace to see Her Majesty the Queen to submit her resignation
- final wave to the cameras
all, no doubt, with a heavy heart. She did her best. Her work is done.
In parallel, an excited, freshly suited, soon to be appointed Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, waits with, no doubt, a strongly beating heart, all set to take on the role which millions across the UK and world have known he has longed for for all of his professional political life. His work is about to begin.
A generation ago, such moments of changing of the guard felt to unfold more slowly, more gently, more honourably. Saying goodbye to one leader prompted a toast, not a roast. Yet today, literally and figuratively, it can feel as though the revolving doors of leadership around the world are only too excited to feel the winds of change as the doors spins one out, one in. An idealistic assumption of times past which may in fact have been as aggressive as present? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Whatever the case, so the analysis begins, or rather, continues…
Four hours on, the process of change complete as the Royal Standard blows in the wind high over Buckingham Palace signifying Her Majesty is in residences, and having received the outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, the shift is felt. Leadership has changed.
A new chapter of the nation’s history is being written, Prime Minister Johnson is poised with pen firmly in hand, ready to start writing the story of the United Kingdom with his choice of instrument and prose. Unsurprisingly and understandably, in his creatively flowing mind, his first word will be “Finally!” His promise to the nation, clearly, confidently, with conviction, was first called out on the eve of his taking office in a self-declared campaign acronym rather overtly reflecting the ‘everyman working for everyman’, the ‘dude’, he enjoys being seen as: Deliver, Unite, Defeat, Energise. Message delivered. Acronym embedded: DUDE.
Clearly (even if ever so subtly), at times like these detail matters. Carefully, thoughtfully, often poetically and even cunningly, meaning goes beyond overtly spoken messages. Nuance can, in fact, speak louder than scripted words.
For Prime Minister May, now former Prime Minister May, she knew too well that her final words as the leader of the nation would be inscribed in the history books, her final speech her parting wish and prayer to the people who entrusted her to lead the nation through one of its most challenging times – challenges not only in politics, policies and personalities, but challenges in unity, harmony, decency and identity. Standing in front of 10 Downing Street, saying her farewell, her address would be the start of endless commentary, and criticism, of how she was able to perform in the land’s highest office. How will history judge her as a Conservative leader? As a Brexit leader? As a female leader? From whichever angle one chooses, it will be about judgment – open, unedited, colourful, sadly probably unthankful, judgment.
Former Prime Minister May’s final words were gentle, were grateful, were sincere, were without tears. Her words were clear. She is thankful to, and hopeful for, the people to whom she has had the honour of her life to serve.
As for the issue of future of the UK and its relationship with the EU, into this she refrained. Or did she?
There, in front of the iconic doorway of 10 Downing Street, she stood in her (presumably thought through) choice of departure suit: a tailored suit in distinctive blue, with a bold, chunky, gold connected-bauble (star?) necklace. Strategists could not help but smile at the choice – respectful salutes to the EU noted.
Was it a coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Now, a further four hours on, with the flag above Buckingham Palace changed back to its summertime Union Flag, nods an acknowledgement of the fact that we must, as always, keep calm and carry on. However the guard may have changed, whoever may be the next head of state, we must always ensure that we are all – each and every one of us – guarding what is, in the end, truly valued.
Today and always, ‘leader‘ must always be honoured as a verb, not a noun. For one, and for all. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019