Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner made her first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, where she pressed prime minister Boris Johnson on the shortcomings of the Covid-19 testing system amid other issues. Meanwhile, Kane McDowell, owner and head chef at Sugardough, a traditional bakery with three branches across Brighton and Hove, highlighted the importance of teamwork and cohesion within business when navigating a crisis.
Leadership in Focus
Speaking on the Leaders Council podcast, McDowell explained how the Covid-19 pandemic has proved a tumultuous time for the business, and that in his capacity as its leader, he was forced to quickly set about dispelling anxiety amid the uncertainty by carefully managing relationships with his staff and establishing clear channels of communication.
McDowell said: “Covid-19 has been a testing time. We had to initially close two of our sites and keep one open, and that was immediately a lot of uncertainty and panic from staff and customers. It has been an emotional rollercoaster during which I have had to carefully manage relationships with staff who I’ve employed for years, people who were understandably quite worried.
“On the one site we had open, we saw a significant upsurge in demand since people still needed food. We took the decision to start carrying out deliveries, including free deliveries to people who were shielding to help support the community, and that is something we are continuing with.”
For McDowell, what has been key for the business to be able to chart a course through the height of the pandemic to date is the manner that his team of staff have set about the task at hand with a positive attitude, embracing new tasks as part of their roles and working as a cohesive team.
McDowell explained: “The huge positive to take from this whole thing is that it has shown we have such a strong team. My staff have accepted what we have had to do and pulled together to get through and have got behind the plans we have put in place, embracing new roles that they have had to take on along the way.”
The lockdown period has also provided McDowell with a period of time to be able to reflect on the structure of the business.
He said: “This has been a good opportunity to sit down and reassess where we are as a business. There have been quite a few positives structurally as a result. We have now been able to reopen our other sites, and even though we aren’t trading quite as much as we were, the local community is supporting us just as we have during lockdown and over the last decade.”
Once more paying tribute to his staff for their efforts, McDowell added: “We knew we had to keep as much staff on as we could within safety parametres to avoid big queues and demand getting on top of us, so even when we were restricted to the one site, we kept everyone on and they worked hard to work under safety guidelines to keep themselves and others safe and continue providing a good standard of service. Seeing such a level of teamwork and cohesion from a leader’s point of view during this time has been great and it has been key during such a tough time.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner made her debut appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday afternoon, where she challenged prime minister Boris Johnson on the shortcomings of the Covid-19 testing system, the new restrictions limiting social gatherings to six people, and support for women giving birth during the pandemic.
Rayner stood in for party leader Sir Keir Starmer, who had been self-isolating at home after one of his children had begun displaying Covid-19 symptoms. He confirmed on Wednesday morning that his child had since returned a negative test.
Accusing Johnson of incompetence, Rayner claimed that the PM prioritised restoring grouse shooting over sorting out the testing system.
She accused the government of having "no plan" for dealing with another spike in cases, even though the country was "staring down the barrel at a second wave".
Johnson accused Labour of “carping from the sidelines” in response, saying that ministers had faced the “most difficult dilemmas of any modern government” and stood by his government's performance.
He also said that the government will continue its plans to “massively ramp up testing” and was already “testing more than any European country”.
He said: "We want to get up to 500,000 tests per day by the end of October - that is a huge, huge number."
The prime minister added that the government is launching a winter care home action plan, to ensure “care homes and their workers are protected” from a devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections.
Rayner also used the session to raise the issue that new Covid-19 guidance prevents birth partners from joining pregnant women until “the moment of established labour”, asking the prime minister to work with the Labour Party to “ensure no woman is forced to give birth without the support they need”.
Johnson welcomed the request, saying that he was “very happy to encourage co-operation” on the issue.
The SNP’s leader in Westminster Ian Blackford later quizzed the prime minister on the Internal Market Bill, saying that the legislation constituted a “power grab” by Westminster and undermined devolution.
The PM insisted that the legislation will do the opposite and see a power “surge” in Scotland, with Holyrood having new control over issues which previously did not fall under its jurisdiction.
Leadership in History
On this day in 2006, an audio tape of a private speech by Hungarian prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány was leaked to the public, sparking a political crisis in the country.
The so-called Őszöd speech was originally delivered to the Hungarian Socialist Party’s 2006 party congress in Balatonőszöd. Gyurcsány's address, in which he confessed that the party had lied to win the April 2006 election, was then leaked and broadcast by Magyar Rádió on Sunday, September 17, 2006, culminating in widespread protests.