To my surprise and pleasure I received some positive feedback from my previous blog, the one in which I paid tribute to our retiring local LibDem MP Norman Lamb. Several people took the trouble to tell me that is was good to see something positive said about a political opponent. Perhaps this is what Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn meant when he made his plea for a kinder, gentler politics.
This aspiration, articulated almost exactly four years ago, has, of course, been totally ignored in practice. Politics has taken an unpleasant turn with stories fabricated and motives impugned on all sides. Both major parties have saddled themselves with unsuitable leaders, neither of whom is interested, let alone capable, of building consensus; both are happiest delivering market place oratory to the faithful. Over the last week it has been the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who has chosen to show the worst aspect of his character with a display of bombast that has descended into the ridiculous.
On Sunday, in a newspaper interview, Boris Johnson vowed that the UK would leave the EU by aping the behaviour of the Marvel character ‘The Incredible Hulk’. For those who are not into comic books, Bruce Banner, Hulk’s physically weak alter-ego, morphs into a huge green-skinned giant when angry. According to our Prime Minister: “Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them”and “Hulk always escaped no matter how tightly bound…that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31stand we will get it done”.
Such childish macho-talk takes me back to a bizarre interlude in my working career. For six years I was head of human resource development at what was probably the UK’s worst-managed investment bank, and that really is going some. After the changes in the financial and regulatory system introduced at Big Bang in 1986, our home-grown firms were unable to compete with the onslaught from US competitors. The domestic response was to throw money at the problem and hire more and more highly-paid and ultimately unsuccessful managers – a bit like an over-resourced struggling football team
The most egregious example was our appointment of a new Deputy Chief Executive whose arrogant self-belief and crude management style led to resignation of some of the more thoughtful staff. See the obvious parallels with our two major parties? I couldn’t afford to resign so I simply tried to keep my head down. Unfortunately, our new boss decided we needed a programme to recruit MBAs, a subject about which he knew nothing. I was given the job of investigating the feasibility of such a scheme.
My investigations rapidly revealed that it was not a runner. Our business areas were hostile and, given our reputation, no-one any good would wish to join us. ‘Never let your boss receive bad news as a surprise’is a standard management maxim so, when I saw the Deputy Chief Executive who was taking the escalator, I moved alongside him and gave him the news. His response was to turn to me, put his face about three inches from mine, and deliver the following motivational message: “It’s going to f***ing happen and you know why it’s going to f***ing happen? Because I say it’s going to f***ing happen and I when I say things are going to f***ing happen round here, they f***ing happen. Get the message?”.
So, what did happen, or, in short, “Did it f***ing happen?” Unsurprisingly the answer is “No it f***ing didn’t”. Our macho manager left the organisation shortly afterwards and I often wonder what happened to him. Most probably he went in to psychotherapy or personal life style coaching; certainly, that is where many of his ilk ended up.
Later this week I will summon up the energy to attend my local Labour Party. I have put forward a motion that unequivocally supports the Remain position. I am not deluding myself that a motion agreed by a group of people in North Norfolk will make the least bit of difference. It is simply that we should all be prepared to do whatever we can, and for heaven’s sake, let reasonable argument prevail over crude sloganising.
leftyoldman blogs will appear occasionally as the Brexit battle continues and the shape of post Brexit politics emerges. If you would like to receive email notification of future blogs, please press the ‘followleftyoldman’ button on the left hand side above. I continue to tweet at @eugrandparents.