I’m getting into the Alistair Campbell Diaries at present. What the diaries show, of course, is that leadership anywhere at any level is a fairly scrappy business and the ‘great leap forward’ is usually illusory.
But there are exceptions. At the moment, I’m with Tony Blair’s move to scrap Clause 4 in his first Conference speech as leader of the Labour Party. This was an attempt to make a radical break with the past. It was a high-risk moment of daring – and it showed the distinction between symbol and substance, so important in Ireland. The less daring said, ‘But Clause 4 is only a symbol’ – why risk all the conflict which will result? Our instincts are to go for substance and let symbol look after itself. But sometimes, I suspect that that opposite is true.
Other moments of leadership daring which I respect?
Michael O’Leary of the dreadful Ryanair went out in the week after 9/11 and bought 140 new Boeing planes at knockdown prices – because nobody would ever fly again.
Nelson Mandela put on a Springbok rugby shirt – symbol of white South African manhood – to present the cup in 1995. Yes – symbol again.