Far too much gets written and said about leadership. Untold volumes of books and learned articles gather dust on shelves; countless biographies, autobiographies and profile pieces attempt to present a forensic analysis of the inner workings of the leader’s mind and character, and to define the must-have qualities of the Great & The Good. So, let’s for once just keep it simple, shall we?
The Labour Party needs a leader who has the right values and instincts, strong communication skills, solid experience and a deep understanding of the fact that we must now make a definitive break with the past, and move on from the tired old debates about Old versus New, Blair versus Brown.
We need a leader who knows that the Labour Party only succeeds when it offers itself to the British people as both a helping hand when they have fallen on hard times and as a launch-pad for their future hopes, dreams and ambitions.
We need a leader who rejects the false choice between fairness and aspiration. Ask the start-up entrepreneur or the CEO of a FTSE 100 company what makes his / her business tick, and the response will be clear and unambiguous: a happy, healthy, skilled up and productive workforce. Ask anyone who’s on the minimum wage where they’d like to be six months from now, and the response will be equally clear: on the living wage, and building for my future.
Labour needs a leader who can paint a bold and inspiring picture of the sort of country that Britain can be. A country where a rising tide lifts all the boats, where hard work is fairly rewarded; where cohesive communities are the bedrock of our economic dynamism; where our economy is based on a balanced and sustainable growth model; where there’s a sense that we’re truly all in this together; where we have courage in the face of globalisation, and confidence in our engagement with the world. This is the sort of country that we all want to live in, regardless of whether you’re on a zero-hours contract, on the minimum wage in the public sector, managing a small business or running a multi-national corporation.
We need a leader who marries compassion with hard-headed competence, because we know that as we race to the top we must ensure that nobody gets left behind. Indeed, we will only win the Global Race if we re-create a sense of shared national success and purpose: there has to be something in it for everyone.
Labour needs a leader who can get the tone and content of our story right, and who is just as comfortable in a room full of CEOs as she is in a school, hospital or Brussels summit.
I believe that Mary Creagh is that person.
I first met Mary in Brussels over 20 years ago when she was a leading light at the European Youth Forum, and I remember being really impressed by her energy, drive and ambition. She went on to spend two years at the London Enterprise Agency and seven years teaching and advising MBA start-ups and mid-size company owners at Cranfield. I’ve chatted many times with her about the challenges and opportunities facing the UK’s business community, and she gets it. She understands what a successful company looks like, she knows what the UK has to do if it is to compete in today's fast-moving world, and she has some great ideas about the role that government can play to support our wealth creators.
Mary is also steeped in real-world experience in the public sector, having spent seven years at the coal face of local government. She has a back-story that enables her to engage effectively across sectors, regions and communities. We need a Leader who can draw on her wealth of experience from the board room to the civic centre, and who can stand tall at the Despatch Box against a Prime Minister who is a product of the PR industry and the Westminster village.
All four of our leadership candidates are outstanding communicators, deep strategic thinkers, and undoubtedly able to lead us back into government in 2020. We will all throw our full support behind whoever wins this contest.
But there’s something about Mary...