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Editor’s letter – Lead them out of the wilderness

It’s tragic when a once-mighty organisation goes through a slump so severe that everyone wonders whether this is the beginning of the end.

For us, it’s distressing when that same group turfs out the numbers man – a highly intelligent, strategy-minded, perhaps a little too self-confident numbers man – just as he’s on the threshold of assuming control, ready to restore that organisation to its former glories.

It’s perplexing when the organisation then seems to turn for salvation to a man – another former numbers guy at that – who is regarded as being at least partly responsible for the current crisis. Add in accusations of an “eggs in one basket” strategy – and, just to keep things interesting, the looming presence of the larger-than-life personality who once made the organisation truly great, but then lost grip of the levers of power. There’s even the danger of relegation to the second division.

So farewell, then, Marconi’s John Mayo, an FD of the Warburgs school, hello again George Simpson, an FD of the old British Leyland school. And farewell, too, shadow chancellor Michael Portillo, welcome back Ken Clarke – who was a chancellor for real.

Funny how support for both Marconi and the Conservative party – at the polls, in the City – has sunk to once unimaginable levels. Funny how both have been accused of foolishly focusing on just one or two key issues – telecoms gear, “save the pound”. Both the Tories and Marconi are haunted by once-great leaders – both ennobled, both supposedly retired, both widely regarded as “president emeritus”.

Marconi and the Tories are deep in the most important leadership crises they’ve ever faced. The next leaders will not only have to prove the intellectual rigour of their respective strategies, but make them appealing to the voters and investors who have deserted them. The Tories no more want to see the Lib Dems become the official opposition than Marconi wants to get kicked out the FTSE-100. As we see it, the Marconi job is maybe just a little easier than the one on offer at Central Office.

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