The Return of Sir Anthony

In recent years few political historians have had such an acute and perceptive grasp of contemporary UK Politics as Sir Anthony Seldon, and we were honoured to welcome him back to Wellington on Monday 27th January.  His talk, given as part of our regular Monday evening Fireside Lecture series, focused on the Conservative party, and attracted a large audience of students, staff and parents. Speaking to the title, ‘What Leadership Means in Today’s Political Debate’, Sir Anthony (in his trademark unscripted style) offered a brutally honest review of the Prime Ministerial careers of David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, focusing in particular on May’s limited knowledge of the EU, the unwillingness to listen to expert views, and the ease with which debate was allowed to revert to tribal lines.

Widening the scope of his talk, Sir Anthony went on to explore how these traits determined and defined the characteristics of a leader and the role that leaders play in setting the direction of travel, before drawing (or not) on the expertise of others. He also stressed the vital importance of visibility and accountability before hosting a lively Q&A session, with many questions focusing on Sir Anthony’s writing and the inside sources of information he manages to access so seamlessly.

It was a fabulous evening that continued long past its scheduled end, with queues of students waiting patiently to talk to Sir Anthony and get him to sign his latest book. Speaking later, Sir Anthony said how honoured he was to be invited, how thrilled he was to be back at Wellington, and how delighted he was to see the excellent progress the school is making. He went on to say how impressed he was by the students he met and that he was “bowled over by the students at dinner and in the lecture, by their warmth, courtesy and by their very incisive questions.”

I think we all hope that we won’t have to wait so long to see him back at Wellington next time!

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