Saving his own skin: Mr Mangnall and the squandering of leadership

In late February 2022, as bloody, terrifying war broke out in Ukraine and refugees fled their country, constituents across Totnes and South Devon received an unwelcome gift through their door: a four page newspaper full of puff pieces all about Anthony Mangnall MP. Produced by Mr Mangnall and his team, the headline cringingly announcing: ‘Anthony Mangnall MP Our Local Champion.’ With the brazen self-aggrandisement worthy of Vladimir Putin himself, the entire four pages were devoted to nothing but vanity ‘articles’ promoting himself and his role.  

It seems that – whilst levels of inequality have risen to crisis levels around his constituency, the devastating cost of living crisis sweeps Britain, constituents reel under a government that lies, cheats and accepts vast amounts of dirty Russian money, and an illegal war in Ukraine results in vast numbers of refugees needing compassion and urgent support – Mr Mangnall is busy: on the campaign trail to save his own skin.

It’s an open secret, the trouble Mr Mangnall is in: a failing politician, he was eventually and belatedly compelled by constituents to send in a letter of ‘No Confidence’ in Boris Johnson. The rabid Brexiteers who only voted for Mangnall because he wasn’t Sarah Wollaston now loathe him. And those who are sick and tired of Johnson’s lies all secretly believe that Mr Mangnall is one of the Conservative MPs who have quietly withdrawn their letters to save their own skin.

And meanwhile, many, many constituents have been shocked by the invisibility of Mr Mangnall over recent weeks, from his role as an elected representative who should be showing some kind of leadership. But if a man is too busy posting four page newspapers entirely written about him, and (so embarrassingly!) probably by him, he is a man engaged in one act only: saving his own skin. The rest of the world ceases to matter.

Sure, after seven days of the conflict in Ukraine, Mr Mangnall has posted one humanitarian appeal on Facebook. ONE. How many of your ‘newspapers’ have you delivered across Devon in the past week, Mr Mangnall? We need far more from our MP than simply platitudes. Although they come easily, they don’t count. Neither do pathetic retweets or blow-hard, empty proclamations of solidarity. 

We need leadership. We need politicians who are paving the way for their constituency to support refugees, leading by example in showing compassion. We need leadership that actively supports charities through personal effort in the huge drive needed to aid refugees of war abroad and those already here – refugees of any colour and from any conflict.

We need leadership in challenging the easy assumptions and cheap policies from our own government – leaders ready to question angrily and with force the dragging-of-heels over limp sanctions, the dirty money sloshing around in the Conservative Party and – who knows – money that might have ultimately financed Mr Mangnall’s no-doubt-costly vanity project. Putin would be proud of Mr Mangnall’s four-page newspaper dedicated to his own vain glory. It comes from the same place – vanity and delusion.

We need leadership in fearlessly exposing the dirty Russian money at the heart of the British building industry: the fact that many of the companies that buy, sell and build across Devon are awash with Russian money. How is Mangnall leading on that, I wonder?

Mangnall needs to explain his views on domestically produced energy and how that meets the net-zero and environmental concerns to which he claims he is wedded. He needs to make some brave statements, not hedge his bets and hide behind platitudes. Now is the time for leadership that demands mettle – something Mangnall seems to lack, for all his bluster. Many of his constituents are extremely concerned about the climate crisis: how is his leadership bridging the contradiction between energy security and that crisis? His inability even to engage in meaningful discussions on these issues reveals a man who is simply incapable of leading. 

Mr Mangnall should have been galvanised into action to support the very poorest and most vulnerable in his own constituency, not the well-off, during the rapidly developing cost-of-living and energy crises that are hitting us. But what is he doing instead?

Pushing a four-page propaganda paper about himself through people’s doors. 

Balancing the national, the international and the local takes great skill. It’s apparently why we have collectively bumped up Mr Mangnall’s salary by over two grand. He was barely worth the £82,000 a year he was paid previously – what extra do we get? At the time of writing, seven days into the conflict, apparently the £2,000 pay rise enables him to make a plea for his constituents to donate to a charity. It’s pathetic.

Mr Mangnall is an MP, lest we forget, who already has a regular ‘column’ in local publications including the Herald Express, to spread his personal aggrandisement.

And the reality is that Anthony Mangnall is an MP who can carry messages from his constituency right into the heart of government. He has an extraordinary platform, a platform that no one else in his constituency has. If used to fight for the vulnerable – in this country or others – to shine a light on corruption, half-truths and downright lies, it’s indeed a platform for ‘champions’, as he likes to describe himself in his own vanity newspaper. If not used at all, or for personal aggrandisement – that’s a dereliction of leadership. And in Mr Mangnall’s case all I can see is someone squandering the precious freedom of that platform: freedom that people are literally dying to keep hold of in Ukraine.

And all the while, the BBC’s Clive Myrie and Lyse Doucet risk their lives to broadcast unbiased eye-witness reports from the very epicentre of the conflict, demonstrating a mettle and leadership that is exemplary. They will be at the heart of a network of teams, resources and support that needs focus, leadership, integrity and bravery to run.

We need an MP who shows leadership in supporting the BBC when it’s blindingly obvious that the very last thing we should be doing is threatening its existence, as with the Conservatives’ risible and self-created ‘culture war’. 

Who controls the narrative controls the people. It’s something Mangnall knows all too well, with his grubby newspaper being forced through constituents’ letterboxes.  

And as Putin shuts down sources of independent media, everyone knows that if the BBC ends up on a Netflix funding model, the kind of news coverage we have seen would be the first to go. Defending its destruction would be unforgivable, but judging by Mangnall’s silent complicity, that’s something with which he is comfortable.

Ultimately, Mr Mangnall’s four-page vanity project reveals a poverty of thinking – which, like so many if those wielding power right now, is all about himself.

It’s a squandering of leadership.