Remember Hale and Pace when they were funny? This isn’t about them – but it is about Management, Organisation and Decision Making – with maybe a quick nod to Leadership.
The context? The ramshackle mélange of lawyers, doctors, local government employees, lecturers, teachers, journalists, farmers, political organisers and city types which makes up the UK Parliament.
Some of them even end up running Departments of State with massive resources and budgets which are measured in tens or even hundreds of millions. Many are unsuitable for management and even less suitable for leadership but………. with a system which promotes from within a very limited talent pool, the strangest of people rise to the sort of power which those of us who grew up in a mostly meritocratic and competitive corporate environment can only marvel at.
Four out of our five most recent Chancellors were either Lawyers or History graduates! Our present Prime Minister studied Geography. Our Foreign Secretary is an Oxford Classics graduate (that’s Latin and Greek to you and me) and our Defence Secretary has a degree in Social Sciences!
There are English graduates and Philosophy degrees. There’s a medical doctor and even a media person. There’s a statistical sprinkling of those ubiquitous Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduates but some say that PPE graduates never quite learn enough about any one subject…….ideal MP fodder!!
But you may ask ‘What has a degree got to do with anything?’
On the face of it – nothing at all….but it is Organisation and Management which run departments with Leadership showing the way…..and if there is no leadership and an inability or unwillingness to take decisions, there is a lack of progress with decisions being consigned to investigations, reviews, inquiries and commissions – which in reality are no more than misused government devices which cleverly disguise intransigence and moribund passivity into action.
The only other place I have seen such a disparate band of individuals attempting to act as a team was a motley crew of so-called ‘middle management’ in a very well-known company’s marketing department. There were graduates of every flavour imaginable – but they neither had to lead, manage nor take decisions. The corporate damage that they could inflict was negligible.
The clue as to the unsuitability of many (most) MPs to administer billions of pounds on our behalf is to be found in the type of individual who chose to study a particular subject…..but there’s more…..
So-called ‘Communication Skills’, exemplified by an ability to talk whilst being insulted is certainly not related to any ability to lead or manage and yet, it is the skill which is prized above all others.
Currently, (as always) there is talk of future reform of the House of Lords reform and hopefully that is where any reform will remain….in the future.
Before training its beady eye on the Other Place, the House of Commons would do well to pause and think about its own fitness for purpose.
Q: How many MPs work at the House of Commons?
A: About 10% of them.
The Great Dictator
Gordon Brown is perceived as a bumbling, rambling carthorse of a man who, by all accounts, 7 short days ago, was dead and buried. Keyboards were clattering, HBs were being sharpened and metaphors polished in readiness for the unavoidable event – his political death. Obits needed to be written and the “He was a good guy really” sincero-talk had to be prepared for the Newsnight tribute.
Harold Wilson was right – because here we are, one week later and PMQs yesterday saw an invigorated, more confident Brown at the Dispatch Box, admittedly still stuttering his way through the unexpected but nevertheless giving the impression of control when dealing with the choreographed and planted questions which had so obviously been crafted by the Labour Whips Office and Lord “Darth” Mandelson. David Cameron looked his usual exasperated self as Brown repeated the same answer to any number of questions but the fact remains that little damage was done and one felt that once again, the man had got away with it!
There are positive ripples flowing from the odd economist and although we are not yet in the sunny uplands of economic recovery, those elusive green shoots do appear to be trying to break through. Some economic sages even claim to have seen the so-far mythical shoots!
Are we about to leave the dark dark winter of recession and blink our way into a long hot summer of economic sunshine? No.
The banks are still in trouble but bankers continue to pay themselves huge bonuses, unemployment is rising, the country is “over-borrowed”, small businesses are collapsing , credit card companies are still charging over 20% per annum and we are governed by credibility-free Members of Parliament. Yet inexplicably, we are all feeling slightly more positive because we have enjoyed the multiple distractions of a phantom leadership challenge, a Cabinet reshuffle and mildly interesting results in last week’s Euro and Local elections. Oh yes, the sunny weather has returned and that coupled with the news that Ann Widdecombe has “reluctantly” put her name forward for the Speaker’s job is making us all smile again.
Both economically and politically we are in a fantasy land. None of us (and I include politicians) is thinking straight.
Our Prime Minister is indulging in a bit of displacement activity. For instance, he has busied himself with the two grandiosely irrelevant concepts of Constitutional and Voting reform. Why? No-one knows but the clue is probably in his own background as a historian. Socialists such as he usually see themselves as social reformers but Gordon Brown has “The Great Dictator”-type pretensions of a Constitutional reformer. He sees himself in the history books. His activities over the next 12 months will be driven by self-indulgence and a misguided sense of purpose and history.
The spanking-new Cabinet members have the air of a pack of back-parcelshelf nodding dogs and the leftover ones from the previous Cabinet appear to be burdened with a sense of fatalism and pointlessness which afflicts those who have come to terms with their own mortality and imminent death.
Brown does not need the aggravation of a Cabinet which contains the odd firebrand or original thinker. He needs “yes” men but apparently, not too many “yes” women. He is still reeling from the Caroline Flint experience – so intelligent and opinionated political totty is definitely out.
The Westminster Summer Recess is looming large and the Press will soon give its attention to Crop Circles, “Phew What a Scorcher” and the myriad other lightweight and trivial distractions of the silly season.
Could it be that events are conspiring to keep The Great Dictator afloat? Let us hope not.