In his first speech to the Labour Party Conference as its leader, Sir Keir Starmer has promised to win back the trust of voters and urged the party to “get serious about winning”. Meanwhile, Anoma Jayawickrema, director of Sandhurst-based florist, Lady Flora, appeared on the Leaders Council podcast to champion her leadership model, which she likened to that of a parent rather than a boss.
Leadership in Focus
Sitting down with the Leaders Council’s Matthew O’Neill, Jayawickrema shared her view that good leaders should not impose their leadership upon others and make it clear that they are a leader or figure of authority.
Elaborating on her opinion, Jayawickrema said: “I feel a good leader does not make others feel that they are the leader. One of the best qualities a leader should embody is that of a mother. A mother does not act as a leader to their children, they facilitate, they do not lead as such.
“I tend to take the approach of being a parental figure to my staff and empower them to do things rather than commanding them. You are then helping them to manifest their own inner strength rather than imposing yourself on them.”
Providing an example of this leadership strategy in action, Jayawickrema added: “Leadership in my business is very collaborative. We talk a lot and have recently worked together on starting a letterbox delivery service through the Covid-19 pandemic. I did not decide in my capacity as leader that this would be the direction we would go in and order everyone to get on board. Instead, we had a discussion to help build the idea up, decide what we could offer and maximise the offering through all of our contributions, and I encouraged my staff to share their ideas and empower them.”
Reflecting on the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on the business, Jayawickrema revealed that she has already seen sweeping changes within the sector.
“We were closed for three months following the initial lockdown in March and reopened in mid-June. Some of our staff were still on furlough as of August and we have found that we do not have many corporate clients coming in anymore given the fact that a lot of office-based businesses are still working from home.
“It has already changed our industry massively. Pretty much all our sales are now online because of the lack of High Street footfall. Five to ten per cent of our sales are now cash, with card and online purchasing now dominating not just in our store, but across the sector.”
The prime minister’s statement to the Commons on Tuesday will have put paid to any hopes that the industry had of High Street footfall increasing over the coming weeks, as the government reversed its guidance to once more begin instructing office workers to work from home wherever possible. Florists, along with many other city and town centre businesses relying on passing commuters for trade, may now be left facing a challenging winter period.
Sir Keir Starmer has said that the Labour Party will work to win back voters’ trust and must “get serious about winning” as he made his first speech to the party conference as leader.
In the speech, which was broadcast online from a nigh empty room in Doncaster after the planned party conference in Liverpool was cancelled, Sir Keir said that prime minister Boris Johnson was “not up to the job” of running the country and criticised his “serial incompetence” in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: "It makes me angry that, just when the country needs leadership, we get serial incompetence.”
Conceding that Labour had deservedly been defeated in the 2019 general election by the Conservatives and that the party had to be “brutally honest” with itself, Sir Keir called on voters to “take another look” at Labour.
“We are under new leadership”, he said.
Calling on voters in Labour’s traditional heartlands who had voted Conservative in 2019, Sir Keir assured that the Labour Party “loves this country as you do”.
He added: "When you lose an election in a democracy you deserve to. You don't look at the electorate and ask them: 'what were you thinking?'."
Sir Keir then emphasised that Labour becoming a “competent, credible Opposition” was “not enough”, vowing that “never again will Labour go into an election not being trusted on national security, with your job, with your community and with your money. That's what being under new leadership means.”
The Holborn and St Pancras MP then promised that Labour’s policies for the next general election “will sound like the future arriving” and “won’t sound like anything you’ve heard before”.
Sir Keir used the address to reiterate calls for “properly funded” public services and investment in skills and training, while calling for action to curb climate change and close gaps in education inequalities.
The Labour leader also promised that he would work “hand-in-hand” with the private sector and trade unions to generate “high quality jobs”.
Sir Keir was also clear that he sought to leave the Brexit debate firmly in the past, and that Labour will not be a party that “keeps banging on about Europe”.
He declared: “Let me absolutely clear, the debate between Leave and Remain is over”, before calling on the PM to agree a trade deal with the EU or “fail Britain”.
On the future of the Union, Sir Keir said that his party must “make the case much more persuasively that we achieve more together than we do alone to stop the [Scottish] Nationalists ripping our country apart by design, and to stop the Tories dismantling it by neglect”.
Leadership in History
On this day in 1973, the second general election of the year in Argentina was held, which saw Juan Perón return to power.