Political leadership as statecraft? Aligning theory with praxis in conversation with British party leaders

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How should prime ministerial and party leadership be understood and assessed? One leading approach posits that we should assess them in terms of whether they achieve statecraft, that is, winning and maintain office in government. This article supplements and then assesses that theory by drawing from Pawson and Tilley’s (1997) concept of the realistic interview, in which practitioners are deployed as co-researchers to assess and revise theory. Unprecedented interviews with British party leaders were therefore undertaken. The article provides new empirical support for the framework because many of the key generative mechanisms identified within the neo-statecraft model were present in an analysis of the interviews. The interviews also allowed the limitations of the model to be demarcated. Statecraft focusses purely on cunning leadership where the aim is to maximise power and influence. This differs from leadership by conscious where the aim is to achieve normative goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-572
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Politics & International Relations
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

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