Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, and the Great Financial Crisis: Leadership traits and policy responses

Original Article

Abstract

Gordon Brown’s management of the Great Financial Crisis was one of the few successes of his premiership and was seen as a distinctly personal triumph. Yet, in the aftermath of the crisis, Brown’s leadership led to a damaging split on economic policy with his Chancellor, Alistair Darling. To explain the role of Brown and Darling in the crisis and its aftermath, this article uses quantitative content analysis of speech to develop leadership trait profiles of both men. Both leaders score high in proactive beliefs; Brown especially had great faith in his ability to shape economic matters. Brown scores consistently higher than Darling in the use of power imagery, whilst the Chancellor maintained a significantly more complex worldview than the Prime Minister. Although many factors contributed to the turmoil and ultimate demise of the Brown government, the personality of the Prime Minister, and the clash of policy beliefs and decision-making style with his Chancellor, played a key role. This indicates that explanations of economic crises should include analysis of the policy preferences and decision-making styles of the leaders who manage them. Further, studies of the leadership styles of political leaders, which usually focus solely on the predominant leader, should instead examine interactions and conflicts amongst the several personalities at the top of a government.

Keywords

Great Financial Crisis leadership styles Prime Minister Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown Alistair Darling 

References

  1. Ahlquist, J.S. and Levi, M. (2011) Leadership: What it means, what it does, and what we want to know about it. Annual Review of Political Science 14: 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aitkenhead, D. (2008) Storm warning. The Guardian (29 August). http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2008/aug/30/alistairdarling.economy.
  3. Barnes, L. and Wren, A. (2012) The liberal model in (the) crisis: Continuity and change in Great Britain and Ireland. In: N. Bermeo and J. Pontusson (eds.) Coping with Crisis: Government Reactions to the Great Recession. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 287–324.Google Scholar
  4. Bermeo, N., and Pontusson, J. (2012) Coping with crisis: An introduction. In: N. Bermeo and J. Pontusson (eds.) Coping with Crisis: Government Reactions to the Great Recession. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 1–31.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, G. (2010) Beyond the Crash. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  6. Cuhadar, E., Kaarbo, J., Kesgin, B. and Ozkececi-Taner, B. (2016) Comparisons of Turkish leaders across different institutional positions. Political Psychology Feb 2016 Advance online publication.Google Scholar
  7. Cuhadar, E., Kaarbo, J., Kesgin, B. and Ozkececi-Taner, B. (2015) Examining leaders’ orientation to structural constraints: Turkey’s 1991 and 2003 Iraq war decisions. Journal of International Relations and Development. Feb. 2015 Advance online publication.Google Scholar
  8. Darling, A. (2011) Back from the Brink. London: Atlantic.Google Scholar
  9. Drezner, D. and McNamara, K. (2009) International political economy, global financial orders, and the 2008 financial crisis. Perspectives on Politics. 11(1): 155–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dyson, S.B. (2006) Personality and foreign policy: Tony Blair’s Iraq decisions. Foreign Policy Analysis 2(3): 289–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dyson, S.B. (2007a) Alliances, domestic politics and leader psychology: Why did Britain stay out of Vietnam and go into Iraq. Political Psychology 28(6): 647–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dyson, S.B. (2007b) Text annotation and the cognitive architecture of political leaders: British Prime Ministers from 1945-2008. Journal of Information Technology and Politics 5(1): 7–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dyson, S.B. (2009a) The Blair Identity. Manchester: Manchester University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dyson, S.B. (2009b) Cognitive style and foreign policy: Margaret Thatcher’s black-and-white thinking. International Political Science Review 30(1): 33–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dyson, S.B. (2014a) Leaders in Conflict. Manchester: Manchester University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dyson, S.B. and Raleigh, A. (2014b) Public and private beliefs of international political leaders: Saddam Hussein in front of a crowd and behind closed doors. Research and Politics 1(1): 2053168014537808.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dyson, S.B. and t’Hart P. (2014) Crisis management. In L. Huddy, D.O. Sears and J.S. Levy (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 395–422.Google Scholar
  18. Finlayson, A. and Martin, J. (2008) It ain’t what you say… ‘British political studies and the analysis of speech and rhetoric’. British Politics 3: 445–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Foley, M. (2009) Gordon Brown and the role of compounded crises in the pathology of leadership decline. British Politics 4(4): 498–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Garnett, M. (2011) Cash for quotations. The memoirs of Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair. British Politics 6(3): 397–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gamble, A. (2009) British politics and the financial crisis. British Politics 4(4): 450–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gourevitch, P. (1986) Politics in Hard Times: Comparative Responses to International Economic Crises. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Greenstein, F.I. (1967) The impact of personality on politics: An attempt to clear away underbrush. American Political Science Review 61:629–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hall, P.A. and Soskice, D. (eds.) (2001) Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hay, C. (2010) ‘Things can only get worse’ The political and economic significance of 2010. British Politics 5(4): 391–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heffernan, R. (2005) Exploring (and explaining) the Prime Minister. British Journal of Politics and International Relations 7(4): 605–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hellwig, T. and Coffey, E. (2011) Public opinion, party messages, and responsibility for the financial crisis in Britain. Electoral Studies 30(3): 417–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hermann, M.G. (1980) Explaining foreign policy behavior using the personal characteristics of political leaders. International Studies Quarterly 24: 7–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hermann, M.G. (1984) Personality and foreign policy decision-making: A study of 53 heads of government. In: D.A. Sylvan, and S. Chan (eds.) Foreign Policy Decision Making: Perceptions, Cognition, and Artificial Intelligence. New York: Praeger, pp. 53–80.Google Scholar
  30. Hermann, M.G. (1987a) Leaders’ foreign policy role orientations and the quality of foreign policy decisions. In: S.G. Walker (ed.) Role Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 123–140.Google Scholar
  31. Hermann, M.G. (1987b) Assessing the foreign policy role orientations of Sub-Saharan African leaders. In: S.G. Walker (ed.) Role Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 161–198.Google Scholar
  32. Hermann, M.G. (2005) Assessing leadership style: Trait analysis. In: J.M. Post (ed.) The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 178–214.Google Scholar
  33. Johal, S., Moran, M. and Williams, K. (2011) The future has been postponed: the great financial crisis and British politics. British Politics 7(1): 69–81.Google Scholar
  34. Kaarbo, J. (1997) Prime Minister leadership styles in foreign policy decision-making: A framework for research. Political Psychology 18:553–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kaarbo, J. and Hermann, M. (1998) Leadership styles of Prime Ministers: How individual differences affect the foreign policymaking process. Leadership Quarterly 9:243–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Keegan, W. (2012) Saving the World: Gordon Brown Reconsidered. London: Searching Finance.Google Scholar
  37. Kille, K.J. and Scully, R.M. (2003) Executive heads and the role of intergovernmental organizations: Expansionist leadership in the United Nations and the European Union. Political Psychology 24:175–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kindleberger, C.P. (1989) Manias, Panics, and Crashes (rev. edition). New York: Basic Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kindleberger, C.P. (1986) The World in Depression 1929–1939. Stanford, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  40. Krugman, P. (2008) Gordon Does Good. New York Times. October 12th http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/13/opinion/13krugman.html?_r=0.
  41. Mandelson, P. (2010) The Third Man. London: Harper.Google Scholar
  42. Minsky, H. (1986) Stabilizing an Unstable Economy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Pauly, L.W. (2008) Financial crisis management in Europe and beyond. Contributions to Political Economy 27: 73–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pettitt, R.T. (2012) Me, myself, and I: ‘Self-referencing’ in Labour Party conference leaders’ speeches. British Politics 7(2): 111–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Preston, T. (2001) The President and his Inner Circle. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Preston, T. and t’Hart, P. (1999) Understanding and evaluating bureaucratic politics: The nexus between political leaders and advisory systems. Political Psychology 20(1): 49–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Political Psychology (2000) Symposium on “Issues in assessing psychological characteristics at a distance” 21(3): 511–602.Google Scholar
  48. Rawnsley, A. (2010) The End of the Party. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  49. Renshon, J. (2009) When public statements reveal private beliefs: Assessing operational codes at a distance. Political Psychology 30(4): 649–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rhodes, R.A.W. (1995). From Prime Ministerial power to core executive. In: R.A.W. Rhodes and P. Dunleavy (eds.) Prime Minister, Cabinet, and Core Executive. London: Macmillan, pp. 11–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rohrer, S.R. (2014) What makes a Prime Minister great?: A leadership trait analysis of the effectiveness of British Prime Ministers from 1902 to 2004. Research & Politics Nov 2014, 1(3).Google Scholar
  52. Seldon, A. and Lodge, G. (2011) Brown at 10. London: Biteback.Google Scholar
  53. Sigelman, L. (2002) Two Reagans? Genre imperatives, ghostwriters, and presidential personality profiling. Political Psychology 23(4): 834–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Skidelsky, R. (2009) Keynes: Return of the master. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  55. Suedfeld, P., Guttieri, K. and Tetlock, P.E. (2005) Assessing integrative complexity at a distance: Archival analysis of thinking and decision making. In: J.M. Post (ed.) The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 246–270.Google Scholar
  56. Suedfeld, P., Tetlock, P.E. and Ramirez, C. (1977) War, peace, and integrative complexity. Journal of Conflict Resolution 21(3): 427–442.Google Scholar
  57. Tanyel, T. and Preston, T. (2001) The personality and leadership style of President Khatami: Implications for the future of Iranian political reform. In: O. Feldman and L.O. Valenty (eds.) Profiling Political Leaders: Cross-Cultural Studies of Personality and Behavior. Westport: Praeger, pp. 57–77.Google Scholar
  58. Thain, C. (2009) A very peculiar British crisis? Institutions, ideas, and policy responses to the credit crunch. British Politics 4(4): 434–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thain, C. (2004) Treasury rules ok? The further evolution of a British institution. British Journal of Politics and International Relations 6(1): 123–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Theakston, K. (2011) Gordon Brown as Prime Minister: Political skills and leadership style. British Politics 6(1): 78–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Thies, C. (2004) Individuals, institutions, and inflation: Conceptual complexity, central bank independence, and the Asian Crisis. International Studies Quarterly 48(3): 579–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Van Esch, F.A.W.J., Swinkels, E.M. (2015) Making sense of the Euro crisis: The influence of pressure and personality. West European Politics 38(6): 1203–1225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Van Esch, F.A.W.J. (2015) A matter of personality? Stability and change in leaders’ beliefs during the Euro-crisis. In: D. Alexander and J. Lewis (eds.) Making Public Policy Decisions: Expertise, Skills and Experience. London: Routledge, pp. 53–72.Google Scholar
  64. Weber, B. and Schmitz, S.W. (2011) Varieties of helping capitalism: Politicoeconomic determinants of bank rescue packages in the EU during the recent crisis. Socio-Economic Review 9: 639–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Winter, D.G. (1987) Leader appeal, leader performance, and the motive profiles of leaders and followers: A study of American presidents and elections. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 52: 196–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Winter, D.G. (1992) Personality and Foreign Policy. In: E. Singer and V. Hobson (eds.) Political Psychology and Foreign Policy. Boulder, CO: Westview, pp. 79–101.Google Scholar
  67. Winter, D.G. (1993) Power, affiliation, and war: three tests of a motivational model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65: 532–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Winter, D.G. (2003) Personality and political behavior. In: D.O. Sears, L. Huddy, and R. Jervis (eds.) Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 110–145.Google Scholar
  69. Woll, C. (2014) The Power of Inaction: Bank Bailouts in Comparative Perspective. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Young, M. and Schafer, M. (1998) Is there method in our madness: ways of assessing cognition in international relations. Mershon International Studies Review 42(1): 63–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

Personalised recommendations