Turbulent cabinet reshuffles, be they shadow or otherwise, are not always a stroll in the park. Tony Blair, the New Labour St. Paul, famously bungled a cabinet reshuffle in 2003. The former premier was ripped to shreds for appointing John Reid, a Scottish MP with a Scottish constituency, to run the health service in England. In 1981, a botched re-shuffle prompted the Guardian to declare Margaret Thatcher ‘a diminishing force’, a prediction that was proved somewhat wide of the mark.
So Jeremy Corbyn can take heart as his fellow politicos and members of the press savage his latest attempt to re-order his team. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be drawn from Corbyn’s trials. The fact that the re-shuffle dragged on for a number of days and resulted in barely any movement within his top team suggests that his power as a manager, as the chairman of the Labour Party’s board, is limited to say the least.
The Labour leader’s failure to remove Hilary Benn from shadow foreign affairs, for example, despite Benn’s barnstorming speech in the Commons, which barraged Corbyn’s own opposition against the bombing of Syria is a case in point. Corbyn also failed to remove Maria Eagle who has consistently contradicted the leader’s position on the renewing of Trident, the UK’s nuclear deterrent. Corbyn appears to be a manager who simply cannot manage, a man who cannot impose his own vision on his own top team.
Many within the HR community would argue that disagreement is to be encouraged. It broadens debate and it encourages the airing of new ideas. It can also act to speed up the diagnosis of problems within an organisation. Of course ego will sometimes get in they way, it certainly will in politics and it will, more than likely, play a role in the boardroom too.
Instead of allowing emotion to cloud reasoned argument, disagreement should not always be considered disloyalty, it should instead be viewed as an attempt to improve an organisation.