Conservative Home

« Constance Compton: The Party of foreign policy competence | Main | Stella Kyriazis: Tories for Older People »

Donal Blaney: Expand the leadership

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.

This week has seen yet another opinion poll showing that voters no longer trust politicians (although their views of their local MPs were more favourable). Much of this is, I am sure, down to the manipulation of the media pioneered by the New Labour machine. In an era of uncertainty, voters look to their leaders to lead rather than to follow the results of focus groups. Empty vessels who parrot inane platitudes and soundbites are rightly less trusted than those handful of politicians who say what they mean and mean what they say. And yet the perception is that the former are in the ascendancy.

Politics is ultimately about power. The Prime Minister this week reminded the TUC that doctrinal purity is no substitute for controlling the levers of powers and being able to enact at least some of the agenda that matters to the TUC and its members.

Politics is also about hubris. Too often throughout history, political leaders have remained in office way past their sell by dates after convincing themselves (and allowing their coterie of advisors to convince them) that they are indispensable. It happens to third rate leaders such as Blair and Prescott as well as to great statesmen such as Churchill and Thatcher. In a nation without formal term limits,
persuading political leaders to leave centre stage is very difficult indeed.

Much of the reason that political leaders overstay their welcome arises from their failure to "expand the leadership". Margaret Thatcher, while surrounding herself with true believers, failed to expand their leadership to an adequate degree such that the closest to an ideological heir in 1990 was John Major. Tony Blair likewise does not have someone in his mould ready to propel forward the Blairite revolution in a way that he might wish.

Even in volunteer politics, the leadership must be expanded. Running an organisation such as a local Conservative Association by way of a clique does nobody any good in the long run. While that clique may cling onto power for a few years, in time it will become sufficiently reviled that either the organisation will die or when the clique loses power, few if any of its ideas and achievements will be preserved or followed through.

The election of Mark Clarke as National Chairman of Conservative Future is therefore an excellent opportunity for the leadership to be expanded. Mark's experience of living and working overseas and in having had a career outside student politics will ensure that an overdue fresh perspective is brought to CF. Because of his age too, it is unlikely that Mark will repeat the errors of some previous CF leaders who sought to perpetuate a clique at the expense of involving as many activists as possible and in utilising their talents to the maximum.

As a consensual man manager and a visionary leader, I expect Mark Clarke will work with a very large number of activists of all ages, interests, skill levels and beliefs and that he will exemplify this week's Law of the Public Policy Process. Expanding the leadership and motivating and involving a wide selection of individuals ensures the greatest level of success for that leadership's agenda. In congratulating Mark on his victory, we can also be sure that he will use his charisma and drive work to the benefit of all younger activists in the Party and the many younger voters who support our values. It is a truly exciting result for an organisation that, as Ben Pickering remarked earlier this week, needs to fulfill its potential.


Previous entry in this series: Winners aren't perfect - they just make less mistakes than their rivals


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.