The case for competence

Following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party Leader, I took some time out to recover from the shock and to enjoy the Rugby World Cup. I even expressed a hope that Wales could win. They didn’t. My nation played well and coped with an unprecedented number of injured players. However they lost in the quarter finals to a South African team who were better on the day: in particular the SA captain, the experienced professional Fourie du Preez, called and executed a brilliant play against a tiring Wales in the last six minutes. His was a highly competent performance.

However, this was nothing compared to the way that New Zealand played in the next quarter final against France. I was lucky enough to have a ticket for that game and witnessed the best team performance I have seen in over fifty years of watching Rugby. Not only did NZ have flair but they did not make a single mistake: they demonstrated total competence and mastery of the tasks that the needed to undertake. They were completely professional in approach and execution. I can’t see them being beaten in their next two games.

Leftyoldman (on right) with two friends at the Millennium Stadium Cardiff

Leftyoldman (on right) with two friends at the Millennium Stadium Cardiff

Let me draw across some lessons for my other main interest: Labour politics in the UK. The same week that NZ humiliated France on the Rugby field, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made a complete and wholly unnecessary cock-up: it was the equivalent of dropping an easy high ball under no pressure from a restart. The Conservatives set a trap by trying to introduce what has become know as the fiscal charter: this would introduce a statutory requirement that governments must target a budget surplus. Ignore the technicalities: this runs counter to Keynesian economics and would be an unacceptable and unnecessary constraint, and is totally impractical. . It was a pretty childish political device designed to show up Labour as the party of big spenders.

The previous Labour shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie sensibly declared the Party line to be to abstain. Not so John McDonnell. Initially he said that that the Party would be voting to support the charter and then, two days later, announced that the Party would oppose it. The justification for this U-turn, which was communicated by e-mail, was that he had changed his mind. Who knows what happened but the net effect was to demonstrate that he had not mastered his brief, compounded by sloppy communication. McDonnell showed himself to be incompetent in the very area where the Labour Party is most vulnerable to that charge. Though this particular incident will be forgotten, it could hardly have been a worse start.

John Mcdonnell

John Mcdonnell

I have decided that this will be my last political blog. I remain a Labour Party Member and local office holder. If you can’t say something nice it’s best to keep quiet but let me offer a final observation. Under the current Party leadership competence and professionalism is somehow seen as a disadvantage. Competence is seen as a characteristic of the ‘old politics ‘of Blair and Mandelson and hence should be discarded. However In May we will enter an electoral contest against highly professional and competent opponents: the SNP in Scotland. I cannot be optimistic. Is anyone else?

I will be resuming the blog, but with an entirely different focus, at the turn of the year. Thank you to all who have shown an interest.


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