Lacklustre leadership by the sea

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Leadership, Society, Trust

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Cornwall’s coastline has dominated the world view this week as wealthy nations gather for the G7 summit. We’ve seen photos galore of the great and good touching elbows, wearing masks, and presenting us with platitudes on all manner of issues. Despite the hard work of the UK’s government communicators to deliver this event during the pandemic, the gathering had something of a hollow ring to it and, when you look at the paperwork, there’s a real disconnect between ideas and delivery.

Growing up on the outskirts of East London, the expression my old neighbour would have used for the summit participants would have been ‘all mouth and no trousers’ – which translates to all talk and no action. From the outset, my heart went out to the people of Cornwall – trying so hard to keep COVID19 at bay but faced with an influx of so many from places raddled by the disease. From the citizen’s perspective, the antics of Boris Johnson and others during the meeting left me frustrated and annoyed as the whole meeting could – and should – have been done virtually. The cost of the event is enormous. Security is likely to cost NZD$135,883,218 and the whole event will push past NZD$200m.

In straightened times, when belts have to be tightened and resources scarce how can such expenditure be justified? Last month, the UK Parliament offered a measly 1% pay rise to the nurses who cared for the country through COVID19. I’m sure a virtual meeting would have saved millions and made possible an improved and more appropriate pay rise. Then there’s big ideas. Again, the UK communicators have done a great job, carefully preparing statements and papers every step of the way but read them through and you’ll find more platitudes than purpose.

Good communication is no substitute for inaction and the likely outcome from the summit, based on past performance, is that it will be all talk and no implementation. It will be interesting to track whether any practical improvements are made by the end of 2021 – or even 2022. The incongruity of the world’s rich and powerful making a flying visit to the UK in order to eat, drink and talk by the seaside will not have been lost on those watching – perhaps from a COVID bedside, a locked-down household, a TV screen in the unemployment office or a mental health ward.Let’s hope there were some full and frank discussions among the G7 members and their guests on the duties and responsibilities of leadership and, hopefully, such discussions prompt a refreshed approach. At least it would be a useful outcome and one preferable to the pompous posturing we’ve witnessed at this costly non-event.

Image source and credit – G7 2021 Public Images/David Fisher​