Thursday 14 November 2019

Laws of Politics (1,2 & 3)

Looking back over the blog postings of many years, it transpires I have several times cited some of Drew's Laws of Politics - most recently this week when I cited #1 and #4, which somewhat piqued the interest of our BTL visitor Andrew.  Rising, then, to the bait on a quiet GE-campaign day, I shall regale you with the first three from the list.

Some words of introduction: I started compiling the Laws when I first became a local coucillor and launched myself into the cut-and-thrust of bitterly-fought intra-councillor disputes.   They were political with a small 'p', as Party rarely came into it.  Indeed, as a back-bench member of the ruling Group (which enjoyed a comfortable majority), most of the fighting that actually mattered was within that Group itself.  As politicians are wont to say: the people on the other side are the Opposition - the enemy is to be found amongst those around you...

At the start I was young and idealistic, like Guy Crouchback upon joining the Army in Waugh's celebrated trilogy, assuming that reasoning and sound research would win the day for the causes I espoused.  Oh dear, oh dear. 

And so I developed (a) the Laws - all highly empirical and battle-tested; and (b) 'elbows' and claws.   Old Nick.  That's me.

1. Never buy off anyone at a higher price than absolutely necessary 

This one is probably already explained suffiiciently in the previous post.  Good on Boris if he's obeyed it vis-a-vis Farage.  But many is the time I've seen it flouted - sometimes to my own advantage, when I have been the holder of the ransom-strip.

2. A high-profile move flushes out friend and foe alike 

The story went as follows.  Within my majority group on the council was an old duffer whose prime years of considerable power were well behind him (I never knew him in those days) but who nevertheless retained residual power-of-inertia: a seat on the all-powerful 'Policy Sub Committee' and the Chair of a prestigious committee.  He did nothing purposeful with the latter, being what was known as an 'Agenda Jockey' (as so many idle Ministers are), i.e. doing no more than steer through the agenda presented to him by the full-time council officers of the department that the committee oversaw, whipping it through via his inbuilt majority on the committee.

The head of the council department in question (a leftist, of course) despised the whole concept of services being provided by volunteers, and inserted into the agenda a proposal to curtail the council's use of a long-standing and highly effective volunteer group.  Said group were well organised.  I happened to know one of them personally: she approached me to resist this baleful move and, being a member of the old duffer's committee, I said I would.  When my informal approaches, first to him and then to my fellow committee members, were unsuccessful, I exercised my rights and put down a motion to the next meeting of the Full Council to have the decision reversed.

All Hell broke loose.  What was a newly elected member doing, moving against an approved committee decision?  The routine pre-meeting of the Group prior to the Council meeting turned very nasty.  As a matter of kneejerk loyalty, Policy Sub supported their man, as did the older generation of backbench colleagues for similarly conservative reasons.  However, I conducted myself calmly (though I say it myself) and it was clear there was plenty of support for my position, albeit rather quietly stated and unlikely to be in sufficient quantity to win the day (even with Opposition votes added).

Then a thunderbolt struck.  An ancient backbencher with whom I'd never had any dealings stated he'd learned on good authority that my wife was a member of the volunteers, and had a financial interest in the matter!  Utter bollocks on both counts: but I was gobsmacked, and could only stammer an unequivocal denial.  The mud, however, had been flung, and Duffer was clearly fighting back with everything he could muster.  

It came to the Group decision.  The Leader of the council, a Tory of enormous standing within the national party who really wasn't interested in local squabbles, might have ruled either way, and everyone would have fallen in line.   In the event, he simply (and fairly) asked: does Drew's motion have a seconder?  I feared the matter would fall there and then: but to my delight a very solid, up-and-coming second-term councillor said he would put his name to the motion in order to have it debated.  The Leader ruled that we were permitted to bring our motion, but equally made it clear he expected (without positively whipping it) that the votes were to be in favour of Duffer's policy.

The aftermath was instructive.  A large number of colleagues came up to me privately and expressed their disgust, not only for the episode but for Old Duffer himself and his nasty little policy.  My Motion was duly lost in Council, but in debate before the vote I took care to make my points calmly and impersonally, not even taking my full allotted speaking-time.  My seconder waived his right to speak, and I waived my right to sum up.  We didn't call for voting by name, so the motion fell simply on the louder cries of No after the distinctly fewer Ayes.  Our seemly conduct in all this was well received: we'd both evidently played the game properly.  

Duffer by contrast blustered dreadfully in the debate, even seeking from the Mayor an extension to his allotted time, which went down very badly.  He won the battle but lost everything in the end: his Chair, and the seat on Policy Sub were allocated to others at the next reshuffle (and I was promoted).

Yup: you certainly find out who your friends are.

3. Pick your enemy wisely and make a conspicuous move against him

This, you will quickly realise, is closely related to 2; the positive corollary, we might almost say.  It's to be taken as a prescription:  in order to establish yourself as a Player, positively seek out someone suitable to take on, and launch your attack.  High profile and unpopular suits the bill nicely: there's always a Duffer to be found.  

Of course, I hadn't set about him with that aim: but that's how it worked.  

To be continued:  there are seven more Laws to come ...



Anonymous said...

The New Machiavelli. ;-)

If you expanded this a bit with some more reminiscences and a few cartoons, it would make a very useful and readable paperback book.

Don Cox

E-K said...

+1 Don

E-K said...

I fear I AM that duffer btw.

andrew said...

Be interesting to see leading Politicians compliance / deviation from the rules.

'Pick your enemy wisely and make a conspicuous move against him'
~= 'Pick battles you can win'

When has Corbyn done this

Anonymous said...

There is only 1 rule in politics - win.

Charles said...

It appears to get ahead in politics the ability to lie with a straight face is a necessity. There are a few who break this rule, but they tend to be Mavericks, and not in the forefront. The worst are the people who lie by telling part of the truth. I had a boss like this for a long time, he was convinced that everyone liked him and trusted him. He had great charm and was very clever, but everyone knew him as a tricky man who you could not trust.

That is the tragedy of living for short term gain, people might ignore it if it benefits their cause, see Boris, but don’t think that people do not know and when he stops delivering, he will be toast. I doubt someone like Boris has any real friends, I wonder if he thinks that he does? That is the ultimate delusion.