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The Leadership Challenges in the United Kingdom:

 By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)

Leadership is the action of leading a group of people, an organization, a government, or the ability to do this. Organizations and/or governments are forced by various forces or factors, like resource constraints, competitive pressures, economic and political, social and, sometimes, religious and other such elements for improving the way they operate or function. A leader has to get all the people involved successfully in running the government machinery and get the best and most out of all the government departments for developing government performance. The skill, necessary for drawing the best out of the people and the government departments to achieve a common objective, is called leadership.

Leadership has been defined by a well-known American pastor, speaker, and author, who has written many books, mainly focusing on leadership, John C. Maxwell, as “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” A famous British politician and former British Prime Minister, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (commonly known as Tony Blair) defines leadership, in these words: “The art of leadership is saying ‘no’, not ‘yes’. It is very easy to say ‘yes’.” However, a globally-known American magnate (a wealthy and influential businessman; tycoon), author, humanitarian, investor and main founder of Microsoft Corporation, William Henry Gates III KBE (Bill Gates) explains the meaning of leadership from his own particular perspective, as “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower (authorize; give somebody the authority or power; allow) others.”

These days, both the two top British political leaders are faced with so many questions to answer. On one hand, the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, is haunted by the notion and visualization of a leadership challenge due to the disagreement of the Conservative Party over Britain’s plans about Brexit, like how to leave the European Union.

On the other hand, Britain’s Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is facing a huge pressure from within his own Labour Party and from outside, as well, to face the situation and resolve the anti-Semitism row for the benefit and future of the party and the country. Anti-Semitism is the hostility to or prejudice or discrimination against Jews. Anyone holding such beliefs, activities or positions, as having a dislike, antagonism, prejudice or discrimination against or treat the Jewish people cruelly, unfairly, unjustly and discriminately is known as anti-Semite.

This does not only happen in the UK, but leadership challenges take place in other countries of the world, as well. For example, Robert Gabriel Mugabe (globally known as President Mugabe) who dominated Zimbabwe’s politics for, almost, four decades and remained in power from 1980 to 2017 was replaced by Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa who became the third and present President of Zimbabwe since 24 November, 2017.

Likewise, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma (commonly famous as Jacob Zuma) is a South African politician, who served as the fourth President of South Africa from 2009 until his resignation on 14 February, 2018, and was succeeded by Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa as the fifth President of the Republic of South Africa.

In the same way, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who has dominated the politics of Pakistan for several decades, and served for two terms as the Chief Minister of the Punjab (the second largest province by area after Balochistan and the most populous province of the country) and for three non-consecutive terms as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, but a time came when he lost his political power and, thus, paved the way for Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi (known as Imran Khan), a cricketer-turned-politician of the country to serve as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan instead.

In response to her Chequers’ Plan for Brexit, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has lost the support of her several close colleagues in running the government. As a protest against her Proposals for Leaving the European Union, the Prime Minister’s key cabinet members resigned and quit their posts, assigned to them by the PM in the government. Consequently, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, resigned and stopped working with the Prime Minister anymore.

If 48 out of the current (316) Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) or 15 percent of Conservative Party’s MPs agree on writing a letter to the Chairman of the Party’s 1922 Committee, a leadership challenge will be triggered in the form of such challenge. There will be a leadership contest. If the Prime Minister wins any confidence vote, she remains in the office. If she loses such a vote’, Theresa May will have to resign and will not be able to stand in the leadership election that follows.

But, honestly speaking, taking such actions against the Prime Minister may not be beneficial and good for the image, welfare, betterment, and stability of a Great Power, like the UK, because such differences, disagreements, and conflicts are not in favour of the country. If all the politicians of the country put their differences, vested interests and personal gains aside and decide to help the Prime Minister in handling the Brexit process appropriately, sincerely, honestly and systematically, they will be able to come to a proper solution of the problem.

As being a Prime Minister and a senior politician of the country, Theresa May can and/should never compromise on the interests and well-being of the nation and the UK, as a country, for the sake of her own personal benefits, goals, and desires. So far her efforts, in regards to the genuine solution of Brexit are concerned, Theresa May seems to do her best for coming to a right decision for resolving the issue, as she will never want to lose the trust of her nation and do any damage to the country. She always looks to be confident for the successful completion of the Brexit process, in spite of facing and encountering new and numerous problems every second day, both at home and from her European counterparts.

Challengers of the Prime Minister:

The Tory Party Rebels and Opponents of Theresa May: There are many challenges faced by the Prime Minister over handling the process of Brexit. First of all, she is facing opposition and rebellion from her own party rebels due to their disagreement with Theresa May over her Chequers Plan for Brexit. As a result of her Chequers Plan, the Prime Minister saw several resignations from her cabinet. Both her Foreign Secretary (Boris Johnson) and Brexit Secretary (David Davis) quit the cabinet and resigned as a symbol of protest against the proposals prepared and presented by the Prime Minister for dealing with the Brexit process, known as ‘Chequers Plan’. Currently, Boris Johnson is one of the principal challengers of Theresa May in her bid to handle the Brexit process. The former Brexit Secretary, David Davis, is also not happy with the way she wants to deal with the situation, in association with her Brexit plans.

It is also reported by the that Senior Tories are supposedly planning to install Michael Gove, the current Environmental Secretary, as the caretaker Prime Minister, with Ruth Davidson (Scottish Conservative Party Leader), taking on the role from 2021, due to growing restlessness at the lack of progress on Brexit. Similarly, Brexiteers, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, is hotly tipped to be the Conservatives’ Jeremy Corbyn’ candidate in any future leadership election.

George Osborne (the former Chancellor-turned-newspaper-editor) and a great opponent of the Prime Minister can also pose some risk to the leadership of Theresa May, because he is a British Conservative Party politician who was a member of the Parliament for Tatton from June, 2011 until he stood down on 3 May, 2017. He has been the editor of the London Evening Standard since May, 2017 and Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) since September, 2016.

Threats from the Labour Party: Being the Opposition in the Parliament, this is a golden chance for the Labour Party to create problems for the Prime Minister and benefit from the turmoil, turbulence and uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations and undermine the performance of the Conservative Party and leadership of Theresa May, as well, and find an easy way for entering 10 Downing Street in some way.

Other Political Parties of the UK: Besides the Labour Party of the country, there are other such political parties, as the Liberal Democrats, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Irish), Scottish National Party and other such political parties that may wish to get involved in the process for benefiting themselves from the situation that exists in the country, at the moment, due to Brexit.

The European Member States and the European Leaders: Apart from challenges, differences and hardships at home, the Prime Minister has to convince the leaders of the remaining 27 European member states for reaching a deal about Brexit, too.

The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, warned on 20th September 2018, at the EU Summit talks in Salzburg that Theresa May’s plan for post-Brexit trade arrangements, simply, would not work. Likewise, Jean-Claude Junker (The European Commission President) dismissed the main point (central plank) of Theresa May’s Chequers’ Proposals and scorned the British Government’s plans for building a rival to the EU’s Galileo Satellite Project in his annual state of the Union speech, as published in The Guardian on Wednesday, September 12, 2018. Theresa May also has to convince Michel Bernard Barnier, who is a French politician and serving as European Union Chief Negotiator for Brexit since 2016.

Apart from having warnings and challenges from the European Council President, Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister has pressure from the American President, Donald Trump, too, who wants the United Kingdom to have hard Brexit negotiations with and be hard on the European Union while dealing with the process of leaving the EU and, sometimes, evening suggesting to the Prime Minister to sue the European Union over the Brexit deal.

Despite all these problems, challenges, troubles, and confrontations, as mentioned above, the Prime Minister Theresa May is still determined and confident of a positive outcome of the Brexit deal with the European Union. Although the EU rejected the proposals of her Chequers’ Plan after the EU Summit at Salzburg, yet she did not give up and defied their uncompromising and inflexible behaviour by sending them a reciprocal (done in return) and corresponding message after she came back home at 10 Downing Street. As a result, the European Council President, Donald Tusk, replied on Friday, September 21, 2018, that the EU would treat the Chequers’ Plan as a step in the right direction and admitted that a compromise – good for the EU and the UK- was still possible.

In light of having several of her qualities, like confidence, determination, resilience, strength, stamina, politeness, will power, boldness, carefulness, not to be a bully or be bullied, being quick in answering any question, being proud of her performance and humour, we can say that Theresa May has most of the characteristics, required for someone to be a leader, as an American entrepreneur, motivational speaker and author, Jim Rohn, has mentioned about the challenge of leadership in one of his quotes, as “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly.”

Bluntly speaking, Brexit is, but a colossally problematic, troublesome, controversial, complicated, prickly and ticklish issue, and not an easy task to complete successfully without making sacrifices. Most of the politicians and some ordinary people blame Theresa May for not making any progress over the Brexit negotiations, but this is not the job of only one person to do and undertake as a task. This is not the responsibility of the Prime Minister alone to deal with the current predicament and quandary, resulted from Brexit, but, as already been discussed,  this is a very complicated task and dilemma, not even for the UK, but for the rest of the European Union as well.

Thus, this must be the obligation or responsibility of every citizen and resident of the United Kingdom to participate in handling the Brexit process positively, genuinely, sincerely, honestly, efficiently and selflessly. Because the results of Leaving the European Union by the British people can hugely affect, almost, all aspects of their lives in one way or another. This is a 45-year-old agreement of the UK with the European Union since it joined the EU in 1973. Therefore, it is very significant for all the politicians, experts, professionals and ordinary people of the UK to cooperate with the British Government (specifically to encourage, guide and assist the Prime Minister), by putting their all personal interests, differences, beliefs, opinions and preferences aside, and come to a common consensus, harmony and like-mindedness for reaching and striking a deal with the European Union which the people of the United Kingdom should be proud of in the future.

If the politicians, political parties and people of the UK do not unite for a single purpose of resolving the Brexit issue, the differences among the politicians and people of the United Kingdom may strengthen the EU’s influence and dominance in the Brexit negotiations, as all the leaders of the remaining 27 EU member states have lined up against the interests of the UK that will enormously and negatively affect all the aspects of the lives of the UK citizens for a long period.

Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer, and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at or

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