NEW POLL: Could a job-share leadership work?

by Stephen Tall on March 2, 2008

Susan Kramer has set up a fascinating ‘What if?’ today, with her revelation on the BBC London Politics Show that she wishes she had contested last year’s Liberal Democrat leadership election – as a job-share with one of her fellow female MPs:

I actually feel quite guilty because, you know, we had a leadership election in my political party, and what I should have done, and dammit, I didn’t, was get together with another woman and the two of us put together a joint thing. … I thought about it too late. You look at the job and think ‘Who on Earth wants to give their life to this particular role and give up family?’ Well, we should have done it, as a joint thing, that’s the answer, and set an example.

It’s a fascinating thought – for example, would a Kramer-Goldsworthy ‘dream ticket’ have swept to one side the ambitions of either Nick Clegg (supported by Julia Goldsworthy) or Chris Huhne (supported by Susan Kramer)? It would certainly have transformed the race.

But would it have, could it have, worked? After all, our party has recent history of a job-share in the leadership; and the ‘Two Davids’ model isn’t, I suspect, one which we’d wish to repeat. Now, of course Messrs Owen and Steel were from two distinct, though often overlapping, political traditions: social democracy and liberalism. Susan and her running mate would doubtless have been much more in harmony.

Even so, practical problems would have remained. The macho political media would have been absolutely desperate to drive a wedge between the two leaders, to show how impossible a job-share at the top really is.

And, I have to say, my personal experience of seeing job-shares at the very top of organisations is not wholly positive. Different leadership styles can result in mixed messages. Accountability is not always as clear and transparent as when one person is full-time. Work-load is as often duplicated as shared.

But am I being old-fashioned: is my response that of a bloke without family responsibilities?

Well, here’s your chance to have your say in our new poll: “Do you think a party political leadership can work as a job-share?” Yes or No? See the right-hand column of this page to vote.

Result of last poll:

We asked: “Were Lib Dem MPs right to walk out of the House of Commons [last week] in protest at the refusal to debate the party proposal for an ‘EU – in or out’ referendum?”

By a fairly overwhelming 2-1 majority you backed the Parliamentary Party’s stance:
• Yes – 218 (67% of all votes)
• No – 107 (33%)
Total Votes: 325, Poll duration: 26th February – 2nd March

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No comments

I do support the general idea but as leader of the Lib Dem party? People are already confused easily by who our leader is…

by Jo on March 2, 2008 at 4:51 pm. Reply #

No. One of those ideas that should never have been concieved. Just no.

by asquith on March 2, 2008 at 4:58 pm. Reply #

An interesting proposition but in reality one that could never work in today’s society.

Leadership is exactly that, a singular focal point to rally around on policies, causes and issues.

To dilute the leadership would lead to splits, favouritism and utimately a return to the wilderness for our party.

by Gerrard on March 2, 2008 at 5:11 pm. Reply #

Those of us with long memories remember the problems we had when we (then as the SDP-Liberal Alliance) had two leaders before. The party voted overwhelmingly for merger and a single leader as a result.

by Al on March 2, 2008 at 5:26 pm. Reply #

Speaking as a Tory, Kramer’s comments are more interesting in what they tell us about her innermost thoughts about the Clegg leadership. I’m delighted that thus far he has failed to make the sort of impact we’d feared and the Lib Dem mess over the Lisbon Treaty is I believe evidence amongst other things of some fairly uninspiring leadership. Is that really Kramer’s message today?

by Steve Garner on March 2, 2008 at 6:05 pm. Reply #

Steve, you should look to your own inaffective leadership before commenting on what is a discussion point.

Speaking as one who believes in capitalism with a social conscience, your party ought to be more concerned about why this principal is no longer best represented by the Tories.

If you start with ‘cameleon’ and ‘changing with the wind’ this will give you a head start on your fellow conservatives.

by Gerrard on March 2, 2008 at 6:11 pm. Reply #

I think it is a good idea. There is no reason to be concerned about 2 leaders having different points of view than there is 2 colleagues in the shadow cabinet having different points of view.
The only problem might be that they would find the job becoming a full time one anyway as they would be doing more.

by Geoffrey Payne on March 2, 2008 at 6:54 pm. Reply #

It could be said that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had a job share, and it was certainly very successful from an electoral perspective; whether it delivered good government is another matter, but it was no barrier to popularity (indeed, it may have allowed both men to appeal to audiences who would have naturally disliked them).

by Rob Knight on March 2, 2008 at 7:09 pm. Reply #

Daft idea, and one already being used against us.

by sid on March 2, 2008 at 7:47 pm. Reply #

Even the Greens recognise this is a bad idea – what’s Kramer playing at? We have too much leadership by committee in the party as it is, without us attempting to boldly go in two directions at once.

by Peter Bancroft on March 2, 2008 at 8:11 pm. Reply #

Susan clearly does not read my blog.

by Jock on March 2, 2008 at 8:13 pm. Reply #

I want to say it’s a good idea out of sheer commonsensical feminism (the sort I don’t mind endorsing). But I echo Geoffrey’s concern about a suppose job-share becoming de facto two full-time jobs.

Also in tactical terms, if I may speak cynically, I think it would have been the wrong thing, too much of an “alt” stick to beat us with unless we had fantastically and obviously good reasons for preferring SK and whoever over anyone else. Which I think in this instance I personally wouldn’t have.

by Alix on March 2, 2008 at 8:14 pm. Reply #

It’s not a serious suggestion though. People say all kinds of daft things, it’s what they do that counts; when she had the chance to stand, she didn’t.

My guess is that she is simply using a political example to talk about an issue which is something that she regards as a generally good idea – job sharing. This is often the case with people’s opinions – being generally in favour of an idea but somehow rather less in favour of actually doing it themselves (to borrow a theme from the post office closure thread). It’s easy enough to say “wouldn’t a job share have been a good idea” when there’s absolutely no prospect of there being a leadership election in which this scenario might arise.

That said, there are probably plenty of scenarios where job sharing does make sense, and I can’t fault Susan Kramer’s support of the general principle.

by Rob Knight on March 2, 2008 at 8:18 pm. Reply #

Do we have anything to learn from the debates that the Green party have recently just had?
I personally think the Greens were wrong to imagine that having a single leader will bring them more media interest and be easier for people to understand (most ordinary people just assumed that “principal speaker” meant leader, and probably didn’t realise there were two of them). However, there were perceived failings in the system.

@ Steve Garner – given your leader’s comments on women in the cabinet today, do you have any views relevant to the discussion? (To mirror your snide aside, I’ll just point to Andrew Lansley’s comments on health spending and snigger)

by Grammar Police on March 2, 2008 at 10:06 pm. Reply #

Sorry, but this is absolute bonkers. David and David were effectively a job share and it was made an issue of to the exclusion of policy. Don’t go round giving the press irrelevant things to talk about instead of the issues.

by Joe Otten on March 2, 2008 at 11:41 pm. Reply #

Thank God Spitting Image isn’t still on the go – another two-headed party leadership woudl have given them plenty of ammo. I think Kramer’s comment were rather more of a dig at Clegg’s performance (understandably) than any real regret that she didn’t go for it herself.

by Andrew B on March 3, 2008 at 12:00 am. Reply #

I’ve got an even better idea: if the leadership rotated between all the MPs then if each of them had it for a month they could all be leader over a 5 year parliament. Or if it was a fortnight the Lords could have a go too.

by tony hill on March 3, 2008 at 9:15 am. Reply #

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