I always talk to clients about “Purpose and outcomes“. In other words, what is the purpose of this meeting? What is the purpose of this business? What is your purpose? And so on, and so on.
It’s a good question to ask because, whilst it’s simple, it picks up an important point, namely that many businesspeople do not know what the purpose of their business is. If they did know, they would be able to market it much better.
Usually, businesspeople mistake purpose for either an outcome or something they do to achieve a purpose (an activity).
“What’s the purpose of your business?” “To make money.” Well, that’s definitely an outcome. It’s what you want to get if you fulfil your purpose. And so on.
What are senior politicians’ purposes?
So what are senior politicians’ purposes in being senior politicians? One might think that it is to improve the state of the nation. Or even to bring prosperity to each person in the country. Or some other altruistic, unarguably “good” thing or things.
I suggest it is to satisfy the needs of an over-weening ego. I argue that the purpose of a senior politician is their own self-aggrandisement and that of their friends and cronies. I am not talking about politicians who have little power and little prospect of real power, such as Frank Field or whoever becomes my MP.
This is best satisfied by attaining, and keeping, ministerial jobs—or the highest power job in the land: the prime minister.
What are senior politicians’ outcomes?
The rule is you can have only one purpose for any enterprise, but it is possible to have many outcomes. So, outcomes can include delivering what voters want (but only to an extent consistent with achieving the politician’s purpose).
Outcomes can also include:
– things which appear to be delivering what voters want (when, in fact, the beneficiary is, say, a private health provider or someone with ‘non-domiciled’ tax status)
– things which deliver what voters want when these things have no bearing either way on the politicians’ own self-aggrandisement. If voters want, I don’t know, rice pudding on the school menu every day, the senior politician will decree it so, and vilify any education professionals who resist.
There is an appearance of politicians (sometimes) delivering what they were mandated to deliver in their manifestos, but it is important to see that this is just an incidental outcome from an entirely different, far darker, purpose.
This permits them, in their moral world view, to articulate the grossest of lies without appearing to notice their own mendacity. For example, six months before the 2010 general election, David Cameron said “With the Conservatives there will be no more of the tiresome, meddlesome, top-down re-structures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS” [speech to Royal College of Pathologists (2 november 2009)]. Within days of winning the election, Cameron’s party rolled out detailed plans for the very top-down reorganisation of the National Health Service he had undertaken not to carry out, one of the largest reorganisations in the history of the NHS.
That this sort of mendacity is described by the media and, apparently, the public as “breaking promises” is to be regretted. At the time a promise is made, the promiser believes, however whimsically, that he or she is capable of delivering it. Given the complexity of, and detail in, the proposals rolled out by the Tories after the election, this policy of top-down change must have been worked on for more than six months. It was never a promise. Calling lies broken promises shows an almost collusion with politicians in not facing up to the reality of the situation.
Cameron now sees that participation in the debates * has a small chance of being beneficial to him but contains a high risk of quite bad things happening (including unforeseen consequences). So he is vacillating. He currently requires the debates to be held as long before the vote as possible; he wants as many other party bosses to join him as possible (of course that sounds democratic, and may even be democratic, but that’s not his reason for demanding it); and he is blaming the media for the (alleged) “mess”.
He is doing all he can to muddy the waters, all the while claiming “I am removing the logjam”. Other politicians can do this rather better—with Cameron, the obviousness is squirm-inducing.
In this, the media are colluding willingly. After all, the most interesting subject to the media is the media (witness all the coverage of the latest Jeremy Clarkson ”fracas” recently), so a long running story about the media which the media can position as being about someone else (politicians) is manna from heaven for them.
* these were televised debates mooted to be held before the 2015 general election.
> Purpose and outcomes
© 2015 Jeremy Marchant . last edited 26 february 2016 . image: Free images