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27 May 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:19am

The new leader needs to be a team player as well

We must learn the lessons of our defeat.

By Bob Ainsworth

If we want to get back into a position where we can challenge the new Tory-led government, we need to be prepared to rethink our policies and learn the lessons of our defeat, by listening to the sometimes sobering messages we received from the electorate.

We need a leader able to project his or her personality and present our policies in today’s media environment. All this is true — but we also need a leader capable of building a team, inspiring loyalty from colleagues, and one genuinely open to ideas.

When I was first elected to parliament 18 years ago, one of the many things that struck me and that I still feel now is how the Labour Party, the party of collective action, can, at MP level and above, behave in such an individualistic way. It’s hard to find good teamwork in practice and I have never thought that we, as a party, were any better at working as a team than the Tories, despite our core values.

Yet, despite the increasingly presidential style of political leadership in our country, teamwork is essential.

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We all know this and yet we have not practised it well in government. Yes, there has been discipline and there has been restraint, and many have bent their own views for the collective good, but collective, effective teamwork has not been the order of the day.

Time pressures are a good excuse, the complexity and size of government a good excuse, but they are still excuses. How can you reach good decisions if you don’t genuinely share them with colleagues? How do you get the best unless the whole team feels involved and has some ownership? And when times are hard, how do you get the depth of loyalty you need, if you haven’t inspired it by your own actions over time?

So, as well as the presentational skills that we know we will need, and in addition to delving into the detail of the policy beliefs of the different candidates, we must look for a person capable of building and leading a team, able to inspire loyalty from close colleagues, and who gets the best from people by including them in discussion before articulating the response to any situation. Look for those qualities when you vote.

Bob Ainsworth is MP for Coventry North-East (Labour)

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