I’m sure you’re as heartily fed up of Brexit as I am right now. It’s inevitable that long negotiations sap our strength especially when we can’t see an end. I have also found that all deals of any complexity are off at least once so the current impasse doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is the attitude of MPs. Well OK not surprise but disappoint. Instead of looking at 650 mature leaders of our nation I see 649 children squabbling over whose fault it is, being kept in order by Daddy Bercow.
But rather than moan about the absence of leadership that is so obvious even an MP (Chukka Umunna) is noticing it publicly, I would like to suggest, as a first step, that MPs get mentored. If, say, we in the Association of Business Mentors were appointed to mentor MPs, we would bring two qualities to bear:
- Experience. As the character of MPs has changed over the last 20-30 years I have observed a loss of experience. The old adage of “when you have reached the limit of your (in)competence you can move sideways into politics” is no longer applicable. Politics is now a career for many who therefore have gained little experience of what happens in the real life situations on which they are asked to legislate. Mentors can draw parallels with any of the current knotty problems so as to help to find solutions. For example:
- “The EU won’t agree and they’re bigger than us”. Many of us have negotiated deals for our SMEs with large corporations. For example I sold my family business to one of the largest building contractors in the world. Before completing the deal I told him that I wouldn’t accept less than the original asking price. By doing this at the right time and in the right way I secured the contract I sought.
- “The PM hasn’t delivered the deal I was looking for”. We have also had issues with directors who aren’t delivering. It’s often the case that blame is counter-productive and assistance is what’s needed.
- “It’s a hung Parliament and there is no-one in control”. I know the chairman of a company whose brother had an equal share and it was hard to push things through because he, like Labour and the other parties not in power, delighted on disagreeing with the chairman. But he, like Corbyn et al, had a price.
- “There’s no certainty that Northern Ireland will be treated the same as the rest of the UK because of a pre-existing treaty”. I have encountered small, determined, groups that ask to be specially treated and rely on their existing agreements to support their claims. It’s wise to listen to them and understand their position. It’s also essential for them to understand the alternative – in this case a hard border. If an agreement is to be broken then compensation will have to be made. You can’t have your cake and eat it, despite Boris Johnson’s assertion otherwise.
- Leadership skills. If you haven’t been a leader, and many MPs haven’t, it’s extremely difficult to provide the leadership to the country that is the role of Parliament (and its Executive). A good mentor (and there’s about 100 of us in the Association) has not only “been there done that and got the t-shirt” but learned what is required to lead. The fundamental point is that it’s not all the fault of those opposite. In fact blaming others is dis-empowering – it asks them to fix it whereas a leader is followed because she doesn’t blame she fixes it. Leaders search for the truth, the whole truth, from which the solution emerges. It may be complex – the current agreement is over 500 pages – but that is reality. We would encourage MPs to be leaders and seek the truth. Command of the truth is rational and calm and encourages others to follow the course even when there is uncertainty, which is always the case.
I don’t know what the outcome of these negotiations will be. What I do believe is that mentoring – in particular dealing with all the issues clearly and honestly without blame – would be a great help to anyone committed to finding a solution.