Every week the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of the Young Britons’ Foundation,
Donal Blaney, explains one of Morton Blackwell’s Laws of the Public
Policy Process. Morton Blackwell is the Founder and President of the
Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
Politics is a nasty business. Even though one might wish that it was run along the lines of the lofty ideals which most politicians profess to embody, it cannot be denied that all too often self-serving agendas, opportunism and personal jealousies play too prominent a role. It is therefore considered that there is no such thing as friendship in politics and that any purported friendships are transitory alliances of convenience.
This week’s Law states, however, that there is a place for loyalty in politics. It provides that one should only ever trust another person in politics who has proven himself by sticking with a good cause during bad times. This is a variation on the maxim that one should only surround himself with true friends, rather than "fair weather friends".
Neil Kinnock spoke prominently this week in favour of Patricia Hewitt and Charles Clarke. Hewitt and Clarke were his former press officer and chief of staff, two politicians who had stood by what Kinnock saw as a good cause (the reform of Labour which culminated in the election victory of 1997 and for which Kinnock deserves at least some credit) during difficult times.
Much of the resentment felt by conservative activists towards the Party leadership in relation to the proposed A-List of candidates is that many of the new candidates have no track-record in working for the Party or the wider cause of conservatism. Some may view this as a good thing, a sign that the Party is trying to broaden its appeal outside the base of traditional supporters and candidates. Most activists, I suspect, take the contrary view. They would rather that those who had stuck with the good cause of conservatism should be trusted and rewarded for sticking with conservatism during its darkest hours (the last decade or so).
Like many political activists I have worked with people who have been "fair weather friends". I have also had a number of friends in politics who have stood by during my toughest times – among them, Greg Hands (now MP for Hammersmith & Fulham) for standing by me (and vice-versa) when we were both councillors in that borough, Iain Duncan Smith (for standing by me during my doomed CF chairman re-election campaign in 1999) and the likes of Dan Hannan, Eric Forth and Malcolm Pearson for helping me through the difficult times in setting up the Young Britons’ Foundation.
These are people that I know I can trust. They stuck by me in tough times. They are not "fair weather friends". You too will know who your true friends are in politics – insofar as it is possible to have true friends in politics. You will likewise know who, on reflection, you cannot trust and in whom your trust was misplaced. It would impolitic for me to name the many people in whom my trust was misplaced. But this week’s Law is an important one to bear in mind: only trust those who stick with a good cause in difficult times, not merely "fair weather friends".
Previous entry in this series: Politics is of the heart as well as of the mind – many people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care