News and comment from
Roy Lilley

All, in one go...

Am I being a Cassandra to say; the next election is probably Keir Starmer’s to lose.

If he can get a front-bench that looks mature and ready, he just has to keep raising a quizzical eyebrow and provoke BoJo into making more exaggerated claims.

Between now and the next election, we are likely to see Covid go through three, perhaps four cycles of come-back. 

BoJo's bet the nation on a vaccine, a wager that's turned into a desperate gamble. I doubt we will have anything reliable until late next year, perhaps the year after.

The damaging arguments between Number 10 and local Mayors, over Covid lock-down, will corrode politics and feed the rhetoric of a north-south divide. BoJo’s hard won red-wall seats will desert him.

Political promises are like biscuits, once they are broken, they can’t be repaired.

Bojo's discovered he couldn't cope with 'no'. The public said 'no' to lockdown compliance', the Mayors said 'no' to his deals, Europe said 'no' to his brinkmanship. All he had was bluster, bungs and bullying. He needed the skills of a leader.

All he has is the bravado of a showman

The economy will be up to its ears in debt. Interest rates will be on a knife edge. Unemployment in the high teens. HMG’s plans for retraining people for jobs that do not exist will go the way of so many HMG plans.

Poverty and health inequalities will be entrenched, ever deeper.

The compounding factor is Brexit. Businesses are unprepared. Many, already crippled by Covid, with little in the way of reserves of cash, credit or stock, will be left with exhausted leadership and few prospects. 

It looks like we’ll be living in monochrome and as Churchill discovered, no one will vote for more of that. 

Stephen Covey, in his book, The Seven Habits of Successful People, tells the story of a group of people hacking their way through the jungle. 

He writes; 

‘… the leaders… climb the trees… survey the landscape and point out the direction of travel, to reach… the goal. Managers are the ones who ensure the team has access to a supply of sharpened machetes to enable everyone to make progress.’

To follow through on Covey; we have no direction for either Covid nor Brexit and no tools to fix either. Ipso-facto, government can neither manage nor lead.

The conventional approach, to managing priorities, is:

  • make a list of the tasks,
  • figure out what’s urgent and what’s important;
  • assess and value competing priorities;
  • start on the toughest task, first;
  • be nimble;
  • and know when to let somethings go.

In our nation’s predicament none of that will work. 

Urgent and important are merging into dire and desperate, vital and crucial. No amount of nimble footwork is going to unpick the competing priorities and none of it can be let-go.

Are we are attempting too much? It was Sir John Harvey-Jones, the first TV management guru, who said, no organisation can cope with more than three objectives. The same applies to managing the nation.

The economy, the infrastructure, commerce, services, civic society and its people will not cope.

Managing too much, there are five mistakes;

The first; leaders who say things such as; ‘if we think we can do it, we can…’ this is leadership without objectivity and is dangerous.

The second; for leaders to believe change is independent. It seldom is. It is interdependent. Very little stands alone. Covid is inextricably bound-up with Brexit and both are entwined with our nation’s future.

Third; what looks simple and within a budget, turns into a money-eater. Stop covid-spread… lock down. Simple, but it comes with a bill for billions.

Forth; the unexpected gets tangled up with urgent and urgent seizes the priorities, that become, urgent-priorities. In the end everything is urgent and becomes an unmanageable set of priorities. Ugh...

Fifth; believing, fixing-the-symptoms, solves the problem. Sorting the symptoms of Covid ignores the impact of long-covid for people, services and the nation. Brexit, building lorry-parks won’t stop the economic consequences reverberating for years.

Leaders often think managing big budgets or juggling a lot of balls, is a sign of machismo and success. It is more usually a sign of immaturity and lack of experience.

To cope with C&B change we need to fix the tax structure, benefits entitlements, social inequality, public services, T&T, vaccines, NHS capacity, workforce, national productivity and there is no time.

It is a government's job, just like a manager's job, to take away pressures and worries. Not add to them.

Usually, change impacts on discrete groups and can be planned, designed and managed. 

C&B change impacts on everyone living in every corner of the UK, young or old, rich or poor and no one in their right mind would attempt to manage all that, in one go.
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