A Crisis of Competence

As the dust begins to settle, both Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in the UK are contemplating their imminent leadership changes.

So, you can well imagine an army of potential superstars waiting in the wings, right?


There is of course no dearth of volunteers for both posts, though both parties are afflicted by a malaise that we in the business world recognise only too well.

Where cabals form and those in power encircle themselves with acolytes to the exclusion of others. The disciples garner the patronage of promise, while the remainder are left grasping hot air in vain attempts to sharpen their wit and hone their skills.

This points to policy punctuated by privation of progressive ponderings, the strangulation of creativity, and a succession of zomboid seat-warmers sucking themselves dizzy on the oxygen of the echo chamber.

And the assembling parade of rising stars has more of a rising damp feel to it.

Already, the Labour front-runner, Rebecca Long-Bailey, is a protégé of eminent and imminent outbootee Deputy, John McDonnell, and her favoured Commons delivery style is head-down, reading off a script.

They might as well rock up at Reed and hire a temp.

Her candidacy is reportedly buttressed by Richard Burgon, as Deputy and running mate. You can envisage the direction of travel for the next five years if that, or any other similar selection is made.

Still, maybe it is time to let Burgons be Burgons.

Einstein used to say that madness could be expressed as the practice of repeating the same things over and over again and expecting the same result.

Of course, the Lib Dems hit their crisis point earlier in the year. And in their own quirky way, did opt for a temp, albeit a piss poor one. Now the Head Prefect has had her badge taken away, their likely way forward may well centre (pun not intended) on an interim leader, until they can find a safe seat for Chuka Umunna.

Let’s hope that this is not misunderstood, and somebody hires and interim consultant – then they’ll be even more screwed. Milked and bilked before they can say tuition fees.

But seriously, as it stands, an external hire is probably the only option, as the Lib Dems have appropriated the ghoulish pallor of the business that never invested in any internal development and now has to report back to the shareholders.

The next shrieking issuette for both parties is that change in politics, like change in business, rarely goes well unless it is strategically planned.

You can amputate the old guard and even supplant them with de jure grands fromages who are ostensibly mature and full of flavour. But the real competence that achieves results will emanate from the operational effectiveness of day-in-day-out decisions and activities.

And you don’t get that from a serving of crackers.

Remember the first 100 days of the Cameron/Clegg coalition and the 20-odd U-turns on all manner of seemingly on-the-hoof policy articulation? VAT on hot sausage rolls and all that malarkey. I still recoil at the high-cringe point that a UK government could be out-manoeuvred on tax policy by a retailer, who the following day installed microwaves, so that customers could heat up their cold snacks post-purchase.

You can blame Tony Blair for all that, having seen off a succession of Tory attempts to re-group and re-structure.

For more devastating examples, look at the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Absolutely the right change, but with the prompt removal of incumbent rulers, generations of organisational expertise at all levels also disappeared in a puff of rubber tyre smoke. And they’re still picking up the pieces (cue Average White Band).

You’ll see the same circumstances in commerce when key employees suddenly leave. Companies are then caught with ankled trousers, having lazily dined out on the former’s expertise for years and having done precious squat on succession planning. You then get 3-people-sized icebergs and an avalanche of brown snowballs hurtling down on you, Indiana Jones style.

The Lib Dems will however get some breathing space because they they’ll float off and sob their psycho-federalist baby tears into the shoulders of their puppet masters in Brussels. Out of sight, out of mind.

For Labour though, they are Her Majesty’s Opposition and have nowhere to hide. In terms of decisions, they’ve got some biggies right round the very next corner.
But it will come down to a choice between continuance of incompetence, or something more revolutionary (and this time, not in the USSR sense, either).

You see, for the past 4 years, all the internal workings of the Party have been super-Corbynised. All the processes, procedures, committees, and key appointments all geared to furtherance of the Corbachev dream.

So, a leadership sticking plaster won’t help the gangrene, even if they were a credible player. They’ll need to reduce their Corbyn footprint.

They’re going to need a wholesale upheaval. It will be a Gargantuan endeavour to revamp the party, but at least they may be able to dust down the Kinnock-Smith blueprint for the road to social democracy from the 1980s.

Those were the days when Labour removed the student union politicos, planned for power, and nurtured a whole plethora of shrewd and competent political operators. This of course provided 3 General Election wins and more significantly, the only 3 from 11 in the last 40 years.

Labour’s cat has now unravelled through 8 lives and needs to proceed gingerly and not nonchalantly flick at the bulldog’s balls.

Because another election debacle of the like just witnessed, and it will have a rump presence at Westminster, not just a shower.

The conclusions are clear. All institutions need to plan for success, by investing in the development of people and processes. Rely on back-slapping sycophants and lickspittle acolytes, and your feelgood canister will run out of gas during a bitterly cold winter.

As a wise man once said, if you piss in your pants, you only stay warm for so long.

So, with legs-a-stinging, it’s a standing, cold start for the left and centre-left and 0-60 in 10 years.

Fasten your conveyor belts.

unsplash-logoSarah Kilian

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