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    Secrecy and leadership. The case of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations

    Worthy, Benjamin and Heide, M. (2019) Secrecy and leadership. The case of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations. Public Integrity , ISSN 1099-9922. (In Press)

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    Abstract

    Openness is essential for democratic leadership. It represents a moral commitment and an instrument for increasing trust and legitimacy. However, secrecy can still aid leaders by safeguarding their power and policies or preserving their reputation. This article examines Theresa May’s attempted use of secrecy around the UK–EU Brexit negotiations to protect her power, policy, and reputation between 2016 and 2019. While this approach appeared successful initially, over time, the counter-pressure for openness reversed its benefits. By the beginning of 2019, it was clear that May’s secrecy had limited her power, undermined her policy, and ultimately damaged her reputation. The analysis ends by drawing comparisons with Donald Trump, whose efforts to conceal his actions have produced the same counterproductive results. The case study illustrates how secrecy can create political space and bolster a leader’s reputation in the short term; however, over time, secret-keeping encourages leaks and greater scrutiny, exposes policies, and damages reputations, especially in increasingly transparent governance systems such as in the United States and the UK. Context is key, and secrecy surrounding high-profile, controversial issues, such as Brexit, is difficult to preserve. It can prove particularly damaging when it is tied to the leader’s reputation, as in May’s case.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis, available online at the link above.
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Brexit, leadership, legitimacy, secrecy
    School: Birkbeck Schools and Departments > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Politics
    Depositing User: Ben Worthy
    Date Deposited: 20 May 2019 14:43
    Last Modified: 16 Aug 2019 22:04
    URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/27588

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