How other countries deal with the horror of a hung parliament.

Chris Game

In amongst all the election analysis on the Friday morning after the night before, there was a widely reported quote from Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission: “As far as the Commission is concerned, we can open Brexit negotiations tomorrow morning at half-past-nine.”

My first reaction was quite defensive. While kicking someone when so obviously down may not be all that un-British, surely we should be allowed time to have first go. Besides, Juncker’s own prime ministerial career hardly ended in glory, so I thought I’d make it the peg for this blog about how some other EU countries, starting with Juncker’s Luxembourg, might handle Theresa May’s little parliamentary arithmetic problem.

During the two-year Brexit negotiation, several EU states will hold parliamentary elections, any of which could produce changes of government – though not necessarily instantly or overnight, as Juncker’s jibe seemed to imply he expected of us.

Luxembourg’s elections are due next October – five years after those held prematurely in 2013, prompted by Juncker being forced to step down from his record-length 18-year premiership, having lost parliament’s support for presiding either unknowingly or untellingly over years of illegal activities by the state intelligence agency.

His Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) had been in government since 1979, latterly in coalition with the Socialist Workers Party (LSAP). The CSV again won comfortably the most seats, but the resultant government was what we might call a rainbow coalition, or ‘minimum winning coalition’ – of the smallest number of parties able between them to form a majority. This one was popularly labelled the ‘Gambia coalition’, with the participating parties’ red (LSAP), blue (Democratic Party) and green (Green Party) colours matching those of the Gambian national flag. More relevant, though, is how it was negotiated.

After a few days of election recovery and exploratory inter-party talks, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg nominated Xavier Bettel, Democratic Party leader, as formateur – literally the person judged most likely, and now with official responsibility, to form a viable coalition government.

The whole process, as Juncker knew at first hand, took over five weeks – and that with a parliament a sixth the size of the Commons. The politicians weren’t “teary and exhausted”, with “everyone knackered, new or under-resourced”, as Theresa May and her office were reported as being (Sunday Times, June 18, p.16). The country didn’t shut down, and a stable government was formed.

Likewise, following Germany’s last elections in September 2013, when Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic/Social Union (CDU/CSU) achieved its best result since 1990, with close to 42% of the vote, but finished five seats short of the 316 required for an overall Bundestag majority. Statistically, a position almost identical to that of May’s Conservatives. The difference was that the ‘Grand Coalition’ of the CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats took three months to finalise – but again without the heavens falling in.

As Juncker also knew, though, the UK is not like most EU countries, particularly those with proportional representation electoral systems, for whom coalitions and working collaboratively with one or even more ‘other’ parties are seen as natural and even positive. For our politicians – and, it must be said, media – anything short of a stonking, wildly disproportional one-party majority signifies some fearful and embarrassing systemic failure, to be somehow papered over at the earliest opportunity. My personal guess, then, is that the Commission President’s Friday morning remarks were gently mocking the political frenzy he knew May had unleashed almost as much as the PM herself.

And that was probably before he knew the best bit. How this of all PMs – whose inability to share any decision with even her own Cabinet had created this potential constitutional crisis – was about to make a desperate, unplanned, ill-considered lunge for some, any, kind of voting support from the Democratic Unionists (DUP). And to do so, moreover, before she even knew the final total of her own MPs, and with nothing remotely to match the DUP’s “12-page route map of 45 priority demands” fully prepared and waiting.

The formateur system, with its institutionalised recognition of the importance of the inter-party negotiations required to form a sound and lasting coalition, seems a sensible one, which explains why it’s also used by, among others, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Israel. Not, though, by the French themselves, because the combination of their strong presidential system and their two-round elections aims, like our first-past-the-post ones, to render post-election fixes unnecessary.

This weekend, then, we’ve have the second, or run-off, round of National Assembly elections, within a month of Emmanuel Macron being elected President, the constitutional aim, highly effectively achieved, being to give the new President and his new centrist party government a ‘double mandate’.

Last time, in 2012, support for newly elected Socialist President Hollande wasn’t as great, in which circumstances the French way is – to adapt the rugby retaliation tactic – to get your negotiation in first. It’s a kind of effective version of what the Progressive Alliance was trying for in our election: an agreement among the supposedly ‘progressive’ Labour, Lib Dem and Green parties that their candidates – of all three parties, not just the Greens – would stand aside for another progressive candidate with an apparently better chance of winning that particular constituency.

In France, Left, Right, and this time Centre parliamentary party groupings are negotiated and publicised in advance of the elections. And candidates really do withdraw prior to the second-round vote in favour of a rival in the same grouping more likely to win, while voters know in advance who their candidates will ally themselves with, should no single big party achieve an overall majority.

In 2012, the Socialist Party’s 280 seats did fall short of the 289 majority figure by almost precisely the same distance as Theresa May’s Conservatives. Hollande’s party, however, already had a Left grouping negotiated with the Greens and several other smaller parties, holding an additional 48 seats. Majority effectively secured.

Across Europe as a whole, this approach and its speed are the exception. Even so, the example illustrates the obvious lesson: whether you do your negotiations before or after you know the detailed numbers, government formation following an inconclusive election result needs, deserves and almost certainly repays time.

Chris Game - picChris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

 

The Road to A Soft Brexit

Jon Bloomfield

The election result has been a game changer. The electorate has turned down the Theresa May/Daily Mail offer of a hard Brexit and the threat of walking away from the negotiations with the European Union. The issue did not get the in-depth discussion during the election that it should have, but the result is a rebuff to Mrs. May and all her Government Ministers claiming that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal.’

The new parliamentary arithmetic means that the road is now open to negotiate a soft Brexit. That means accepting the result of the 23rd June referendum but recognising that for reasons of economics, geography, history and culture a close working partnership between the UK and the Continent is in the interests of both parties. Hence, the UK should seek a partnership and cooperation arrangement with the EU across a whole range of areas – the economy, security, culture, the environment, research – where the UK has vital interests with our closest neighbours.

Furthermore, events are pushing the EU as well as the UK in that direction. Firstly, after the latest terrorist horrors in Manchester and London, who is seriously going to suggest that the UK should pull out of its intelligence sharing and security cooperation with European police and counter-terrorism services? A handful of little Englander ideologues will object to UK cooperation because it is overseen by the European Court of Justice but that will not resonate on many doorsteps. Secondly, the disastrous performance of President Trump in Saudi Arabia, at NATO and the G7 has given renewed momentum to the desire amongst European leaders for greater self-reliance. The swift declaration with the Chinese government upholding their joint commitment to the Paris agreement on climate change after Trump’s announcement of US withdrawal is an early example. Thirdly, the election of Emmanuel Macron as the new French President adds a powerful, new political figure pushing for collective action at the European level.

Until now the main political obstacle has appeared to be migration. The May government has argued that the UK must pull out of the Single Market and the Customs Union because membership of either is incompatible with the UK controlling its own migration policy. This view is regularly echoed by EU leaders and Commission President Juncker who talk about Single Market membership requiring adherence to the four principles of the Treaty of Rome, including the free movement of labour. Yet the way to combine a migration policy that is fluid enough to preserve economic dynamism and rigorous enough to inspire public confidence lies in articles 48 and 49 of the original treaty of Rome. Article 48 states that “freedom of movement for workers shall entail the right (a) to accept offers of employment actually made; (b) to move freely within the territory of member states for this purpose.” Article 49 calls for “the achievement of a balance between supply and demand in the employment market in such a way as to avoid serious threats to the standard of living and level of employment in the various regions and industries”.

In other words, these have to be managed processes. The treaty is not a neoliberal free for all. Freedom of movement is specifically tied to agreed, contracted employment and recognises the need to balance labour supply and demand. Here is the basis for a serious negotiation between the UK and the rest of the EU.

Importantly, this is the view of Jean Pisani Ferry, the author of Macron’s Presidential policy programme and now his chief economic adviser. Nine months ago Ferry wrote a pamphlet for the influential Breughel think tank with four other senior EU policy makers entitled Europe After Brexit. The authors argue that in an increasingly volatile world, neither the EU nor the UK have an interest in a divorce that diminishes their influence, especially as the balance of economic power shifts away from the North-Atlantic world. They propose a new form of collaboration between the EU and the UK, a continental partnership which would consist of participating in the movement of goods, services and capital and some additional labour mobility, as well as in a new system of inter-governmental decision making and enforcement of common rules to protect the homogeneity of their deeply integrated economies. On migration, the Brueghel authors see it primarily from a functional, economic rather than constitutional/political viewpoint. Hence managed labour mobility is required for the interdependent parts of the European economies to function smoothly and to enable firms to transfer staff to other countries easily, but there is no legal necessity for unrestricted labour mobility. Ferry’s co-authors are policy and political heavyweights including Norbert Röttgen, the Christian Democrat Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag and Andre Sapir, an adviser to two previous European Commission Presidents. Thus, there is intellectual heft behind the case for pursuing a managed migration policy within the framework of the Single Market. Currently, the 10,000 lorries a day that pass through Dover are the most visible indicator of how interdependent the UK and Continental economies have become. That is why it is so crucial to both the UK’s and Europe’s economic well-being that this tariff-free, seamless trade is retained. There is a viable political path here for a soft Brexit and now there is also a window of opportunity.

Throughout the election Jeremy Corbyn’s team took the political initiative. He should keep this momentum and bring the new parliamentary arithmetic to bear. For starters, his Labour negotiating team should:

* bring together all MPs regardless of party who want to pursue the soft Brexit option. They should re-draft the terms of the UK negotiating position and seek to win Parliamentary approval for it.

* open informal discussions with Pisani Ferry in France, Röttgen in Germany and other key players across Europe.

Calls for a second referendum are dead. They hampered both the Liberal Democrats and the SNP in the election. But what is on the cards is the negotiation of a proper, collaborative partnership with the EU. It will be complicated and difficult but the opening is now there. Can a progressive alliance come together to take it?

 

Jon Bloomfield is an Honorary Research Fellow at INLOGOV and an expert on EU funding, European and EU issues of regional and local government who carries out research on the EU and contributes to INLOGOV’s post-graduate programmes.

Land Value (or Garden) Tax and the General Election – more Adam Smith than Jeremy Marx

Chris Game

One consequence of Theresa May delaying until mid-April her U-turn on holding a General Election was seen almost immediately – when it was decreed too late for the General, local and mayoral elections all to take place synchronously. It could have saved money and probably doubled the local and mayoral turnouts. Which in turn would almost certainly have avoided the unfortunate situations in the West Midlands and Liverpool City Region, where the new metro mayors, Andy Street and Steve Rotheram, were elected with vote mandates – 239,000 and 171,000 respectively – significantly smaller than were achieved in May last year by their respective Police and Crime Commissioners.

Another consequence of the May delay is that, with the parties’ General Election manifestos published almost immediately after the local elections, we heard – even before ‘security’ issues captured the campaign – less directly about local government than we might normally have done. Until now, that is – for I’ve prepared a micro version of the Local Government Election Manifesto Quiz that I’d previously have endeavoured to inflict on my captive undergrads. It’s based on the local government sections of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green party manifestos – with links and page references for the exceptionally keen or doubtful.

Which manifesto do you reckon (or recall):

  • mentions “local government” just twice in 84 pages (pp. 32, 81)?
  • proposes (p.103) creating a Minister for England in the Department for Communities and Local Government?
  • will introduce (p.27) a ‘presumption of devolution’, whereby devolved powers transferred from the EU post-Brexit will go straight to the relevant region or nation?
  • wants (p.94) ‘devolution on demand’, enabling devolution of Westminster powers to groups of councils working together – like a Cornish Assembly or Yorkshire Parliament – with or without a mayor?
  • would (p.74) replace Police and Crime Commissioners with accountable police boards of local councillors?
  • will encourage councils to economise by painting yellow lines where you can park?
  • wants (p.17) more empty homes brought back into use, and a trial of a Land Value Tax (LVT) to encourage the use of vacant land and reduce speculation?

The answers, apart from the Monster Raving Loony Party’s yellow paint one – just to check you were paying attention – are in the order the parties were listed above: C, L, L, LD, LD, G. Points for correct answers, none for incorrect – except the last one, for which you can award yourself points for either Labour (p.86) or the Lib Dems (p.40), as well as the Greens.

Which is one of several noteworthy things about this relatively sudden cross-party interest in land value taxation. First, it was indeed mentioned by all three parties, and in almost identically vague terms. The Greens’ “trial” was the strongest commitment – appropriately, with their Co-Leader Caroline Lucas being probably the tax’s most prominent recent parliamentary advocate. The Lib Dems would merely “consider” it, while for Labour it’s one possible “new option” in an overall review of local government funding. In no manifesto – including, I emphasise, Labour’s – is it a policy, plan, pledge or commitment. None give it more than a part-sentence, and there’s not a figure or any other detail in sight.

Which might explain why, when the respective manifestos appeared, it received effectively no media attention whatever. Until last week, when Conservative campaign headquarters was presumably tasked with fabricating something to counter the damage done by Labour turning Theresa May’s social care charge into a ‘dementia tax’. Accordingly, the nerdish-sounding LVT was frankensteined into a culture-threatening – sorry: Marxist, culture-threatening – ‘Garden Tax’ aimed at undermining the foundations of English family life as we know it. The inaptly-named ‘red-top’ Conservative-supporting tabloids were accordingly briefed and unleashed.

“Labour’s secret plans, hidden in the small print of Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto”, contain “proposals to replace council tax and business rates” with “a destructive, devastating tax on homes and gardens that a Tory analysis estimates would result in a yearly tax bill of £3,837 for an average family home in England – a massive 224 per cent increase on the current average billsend house prices plummeting, and plunge mortgage holders into negative equity.” Since when there have been daily updates in the same vein, with even Philip Hammond, in possibly his final days as Chancellor, accusing Labour of a “Marxist tax grab”.

There’s a minor irony here. The principle of land value taxation – the recognition that land’s true ‘location’ value derives less from the actions of the individual owner than from the wider efforts of the community in creating transport links, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, and the community should benefit from this ‘unearned betterment’ part of the value accordingly – does indeed have history. Far from an invention of Corbyn’s Labour Party, it dates back well beyond Marx to at least the 18th Century classical economists, Adam Smith and David Ricardo: hardly proto-Marxists. Indeed, the bearded one himself dismissed it as a distraction from the historically inevitable transition from capitalism to communism.

Others, however, have supported it, and even enthused, seeing its combination of economic efficiency and progressiveness (the wealthiest paying most) as close to a ‘perfect tax’ – which even I, as an economic illiterate, can see is somewhat overegging it. Even so, its signed-up supporters make an impressive list, including the then Liberal, Winston Churchill; economics textbook king, Paul Samuelson; Mrs Thatcher’s favourite economist, Milton Friedman; the Adam Smith Institute, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The truth is that any future review of local finance would be more criticisable for omitting LVT than for including it.

 

Chris Game - pic

Chris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

The General Election – Opportunity Nottingham Considers the Complexities of Voting for Those Facing Multiple Needs

In this post Opportunity Nottingham offer a different perspective on election coverage. They talk about the importance of listening and responding to those facing multiple needs in the run up to this election.

With the upcoming general election just weeks away, it is important that everyone who has the right to vote is given the opportunity to do so. However, for vulnerable and marginalised people, this right is not always easy to exercise. If you subscribe to the view that better engagement equals more effective policy, then surely this must begin with the democratic process?

At Opportunity Nottingham, we support one such marginalised group. Our Beneficiaries face multiple and complex needs, specifically; substance misuse, homelessness, offending and mental ill health. In order to deliver this support, we work in partnership with agencies and organisations including those in the areas of social justice, social care, housing and healthcare. Beneficiaries often have pro-longed contact with these types of services, and frequently report feeling ‘passed from one service to another’, having to tell their story repeatedly. This can lead to disengagement from services and those deemed as ‘in authority’, as people inevitably fall through the gaps. It makes sense therefore, that people facing multiple and complex needs become disengaged from the political process. Lack of trust, lack of understanding and lack of access to information all have their part to play.

After the general election was called, we had a meeting with our Expert Citizen Group (a group of people who are experts through lived experience of multiple needs) and asked if they would be voting. The response was almost unanimous. Firstly, they didn’t know how to register to vote; and secondly, they didn’t have enough knowledge surrounding the election. As a team we explored the voting process in more detail, and one of the main issues to arise, was the assumption that in order to vote you must have a fixed address. This assumption meant that many of our Expert Citizens thought they were not eligible to vote.

We also spent time discussing why it is so important to vote, particularly in relation to how policy decisions will be influenced by the electorate. For example, if there is an increase in homeless people registering to vote, politicians are more likely to make decisions around issues that are relevant to them, such as healthcare and social housing.

During the meeting two of our Expert Citizens registered online to vote, with the rest taking away the necessary registration forms to register. Evidence (if needed) that if the process, reasons and potential outcomes of voting are understood, a vote is more likely to be made.

Whilst a snap election gave us limited time to encourage registration, it has highlighted a number of ‘needs’ for the future if the most marginalised in society are to get their voices heard;

  • A need for the voting system to be understood by all of society
  • A need for voting criteria to be clearly communicated
  • A need for voting information to reach those who might not easily access mainstream media and information sources.

Research can test the value of this and, critically, identify practical ways to enfranchise those whose lives could be turned around with the right support.

Opportunity Nottingham supports individuals (Beneficiaries) facing multiple and complex needs in Nottingham City. To join the programme, Beneficiaries must be experiencing at least three out of the following four criteria of homelessness, offending, substance misuse and mental ill health. The project has two main aims; to empower those facing multiple needs to live fulfilled lives, and to drive system change and better support those facing multiple needs. To find out more email enquiries@opportunitynottingham.co.uk or call 0115 850 4128.

BA%20Team%20Four.jpg

 

This blog was jointly penned by Sam Ward (Personal Development Coordinator), Robert Eagle, Sandra Morgan, Deonne Peters, and Lee Orrell (Beneficiary Ambassadors) at Opportunity Nottingham, and Zoe Benedelow, Service Manager from SEA (Services for Empowerment and Advocacy).

May’s Conservatives: closer to a genuinely national party than Thatcher in ’83?

General Election, opinion polls, YouGov regional poll, regional variations, 1983 General election, Margaret Thatcher, Sadiq Khan

You might think, given the record of opinion polls in the 2015 election campaign, that there’d be slightly fewer of them this time. Dream on! So far this month national voting intention polls have averaged well over one a day. Of the 28, precisely none have shown the Conservatives on less than 44% – that is, over 6% higher than they managed in the 2015 election; and just one – the ‘outlier’ of those published this past weekend – put Labour behind by less than 10%, compared to the 6.6% GB gap last time.

There is an iron law in opinion poll reporting: the more eye-catching and exceptional the finding, the louder it will be reported, and the more likely it is to prove a ‘rogue’ result. Unsurprisingly, therefore, this ‘single-figure lead’ poll prompted instant speculation about whether Corbyn’s Labour could win more votes than it did under Miliband, or even increase its return of 232 MPs, which at least temporarily displaced the McLuskey-prompted ruction about whether just 200 Labour MPs would qualify as a successful campaign.

That would in fact be Labour’s worst result since 1935, worse even than 1983, when under Michael Foot’s leadership it was reduced to 209 MPs. And, while the PM may understandably wince at personal comparisons with Margaret Thatcher, and in her party’s ‘Reddish Tory’ manifesto has certainly distanced herself ideologically, it still seems most likely that it is with that latter election that, as polling day approaches, statistical comparisons will be made – starting in the second part of this blog.

The first part looks at something arguably more interesting – the regional variations in current voting intentions, as collated by YouGov in a total GB sample of over 17,400 respondents, and compared to the actual votes in the 2015 election, summarised in the central sections of the table below.

Regional%20voting%20intentions%202.JPG

The ‘headline voting intention’ that would have been reported in YouGov’s late April/early May polls – that is, excluding ‘don’t know’s and ‘won’t say’s and weighted by respondents’ self-described likelihood to vote – would show the Conservatives with a 16% lead over Labour, with the Lib Dems on about 10% and UKIP around 7% and sliding.

The modesty of the Lib Dems’ post-2010 recovery, the recent collapse of UKIP, and the performance of other smaller parties are obviously important and will be decisive in many individual constituencies. But my main concern here is the bigger picture: the variation in the Conservatives’ current lead across the regions, and the extent to which the figures support the claim that Theresa May is increasingly keen to make of her party being truly national in its appeal and support.

We’re used to seeing political maps of the UK, whether of national or local government, from a ‘geographic’ viewpoint: each constituency or council a blob of appropriate colour the relative size of its land area. Shown such a map of the 2015 election results, an innocent visitor would probably conclude that, in England and Wales at least, we’re already there: more or less a one-party state. Even London, where Labour took 45 of the 73 seats, has to be magnified to look more than a red smudge in an ocean of bright blue.

Now, though, following the local elections, Conservatives actually are the largest party in every English county and county unitary authority except Durham, and the regional YouGov polls tell a similar story. The swing of support between the two major parties since May 2015, coupled with the respective performances of UKIP and the Lib Dems, has put us on the brink of becoming, as well as just looking cartographically, a one-party state.

In under two years, one English region, Yorkshire/Humber, has swung from majority Labour to majority Conservative. A second, the North West, has seen a 14% lead completely disappear. And, most strikingly, Wales and Scotland, for decades dominated almost monopolistically by Labour, are both currently showing the Conservatives with a clear two-party voting lead.

In general, and with one big exception, the below-average 2015-17 swings from Labour to Conservative have been in the already strongest Tory areas – the South East, South West, and East of England. And the above-average swings have been in the traditionally strongest Labour areas, where they can make the relatively greater electoral impact: the North East, an early deliverer in the form of an unexpected mayoral victory in Tees Valley; the North West, May’s choice for her launch of the party manifesto; the Midlands, Scotland and Wales.

The massive exception to all this is obviously London, increasingly unmoored in so many respects, it seems, from the rest of the country. Current voting intentions don’t quite match the 44% to 35% split in 2015, and with which Sadiq Khan won the mayoralty last year, but they’re very close.

London’s real political exceptionalism, however, is shown when we start comparing with 1983 and the figures in the final columns of my table. In that election the regional voting figures in London and the West Midlands were close to identical: 44/45% Conservative, 30/31% Labour, 25/27% SDP-Liberal Alliance, and in both cases a (highlighted) 14% Conservative lead.

By 2015 that lead had been reduced to 9% in the West Midlands, but in London had been reversed to one of 9% for Labour. And over the past two years that divergence has accelerated, with the Conservatives 23% ahead in the West Midlands and Labour 5% ahead in London.

The last (bracketed) column in the table is intended to take advantage of the fact that nationally the Conservatives’ current lead in voting intentions is effectively the same as that achieved by Margaret Thatcher’s party in 1983, and to see how the different regions compare and contrast.

Headed massively by London there are four minus signs, but the seven pluses suggest that May’s Conservatives are indeed developing a claim to be a more genuinely nationally supported party than we’ve seen for at least several decades.

 

Chris Game - pic

Chris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

The Leadership Conundrum in Turkey’s District Governance – Insights from Doctoral Research

In this post Saban Akca presents findings from his recently completed PhD research into the behaviour of district governors in Turkey. His thesis is titled ‘The Complex Role of District Governors in Turkey: A Case of Sui Generis Public Leadership’. 

Turkish district governors are centrally appointed public administrators who represent the Turkish state at localities across the country. They have been charged with various and diverse responsibilities, including security and public order, and they are liable to ensure the smooth delivery of other public services. However, they have enjoyed a great deal of power in local administration for more than 170 years, their co-existence with locally elected mayors and the latter’s unparalleled and rapid accumulation of power are now hitting hard the very existence of the orthodox foundation of governorships nationwide.

After this brief introduction about the roles of the Turkish governors I am now ready to explain why I have been conducting a leadership study on them. First, it should be underlined here that the study – based on my personal experiences of the perceived inadequacy of training services delivered by the Training Department of the Turkish Interior Ministry for intern governors –aimed to examine a specific ‘governorship course’. However, the direction of the study evolved into one that focuses also on governor leadership exercises, mostly because the course is a mere mannequin of the status quo, rather than a transformative leadership programme.

The study has focused on the challenge within public leadership of reconciling the sometimes conflicting interests of the national and local state. As representatives of the Turkish state at the local level, governors have undertaken a traditional local leadership role. The research for the study has examined the ways in which different governors interpret, approach and play out their leadership roles within the districts to which they are appointed, and, in particular, the ways in which they balance the respective interests of the central state with those of the locality, as shaped by the democratically elected local government system.

Much of the research focus has been on governors as individuals – rather than as a group or as an institution. In this vein, the key research question for the thesis has been ‘How do Turkish governors, in the exercise of their leadership role, balance out their responsibilities towards the central government, as servants of the central state, with those towards the locality and the communities over which they have jurisdiction?’ In addition to that and in further elaboration of governors’ leadership characters and the effects of contingencies on their leadership, the second research question is: ‘To what extent, and in what ways, are differences in the approach of governors shaped by and contingent on local circumstances as opposed to more personal traits?’.

A case study design was devised, involving 30 district governors, selected from across Turkey, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with each to explore both the perceptions and perspectives of each with regard to their leadership role and the extent to which these differed from district to district in reflection of contextual factors.

The findings demonstrated a considerable range in perspectives on and approaches to the leadership role and in the strategies and modes of operation in the pursuit of governance at local level. At the same time, the findings also highlighted some commonalities; for example, a strong ambition from an early age amongst some to become a district governor. Similarly, there was shared recognition of the importance of the adaptability of leadership strategies to local circumstances, and recognition that there cannot be ‘one model’ for this governance role. Furthermore, the findings suggested that district governors tend to approach their role as father figures, for the district population as well as for their own civil servant employees.

Recent public administration reforms in Turkey, and specifically, moves to devolve more powers to municipalities, imply changes in the role and influence of district governors. Accordingly, the research sought to understand how interviewees were viewing these changes and their implications for their role into the future. In this respect, almost all the governors expressed apprehension and much uncertainty about future prospects.

 

Saban

Saban Akca holds a law degree from the University of Ankara, Turkey and did his master study on the European Union at the Keele University in 2011. After achieving his lawyer qualification at the Ankara Bar Chamber in 1999, he followed a career in the Turkish civil service as a district governor from 2000 until 1 September 2016.