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Donal Blaney: Effort is admirable. Achievement is valuable.

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’s Law of the Public Policy Process seems, at first glance, to be blindingly obvious. There is no point working to hard doing something (or even appearing to be doing something) if, at the end of it all, nothing is achieved. 

Effort is indeed admirable – and assuming that people in the political sphere will put in the requisite effort is a dangerous assumption to make. All too many association officers, candidates, parliamentarians and even ministers seem to confuse doing or saying a lot with the more important concept of achieving a lot. Achievement cannot, of course, be attained without effort but effort does not always result in adequate levels of achievement. 

Take as examples a host of organizations whose founders launch them in a blaze of publicity and whose leaders put in an undoubtedly high level of effort. Conservative Insight was launched in the late 1990s as a vehicle to energise conservative-inclined graduates but died within a year or two. Contrast this with the successes, decried though its aims may be, of Women to Win. 

The organization that I myself co-founded in 2003 – the Young Britons’ Foundation – can hardly have had more effort put into it by those of who saw (and still see) the need for an organization that is independent of the Conservative Party and which trains the next generation of conservative leaders. And yet while some of YBF’s achievements are substantial indeed (the three training conferences held in 2003, 2004 and 2005 are still fondly remembered by the majority of those who attended them), I will quickly concede that the levels of achievement of the organization are not yet as high as I would have liked. While this is set to change over the coming months with the rolling out of a substantial training programme in such areas as media skills, e-campaigning, debating, fundraising and public speaking, I am conscious that merely putting in effort will not guarantee the results in terms of achievement that I wish to see. 

There are many organizations in the conservative movement who deserve recognition for their achievements. Many will be honoured at the forthcoming ConservativeHome awards later this month. Chief among these are, of course, the Taxpayers’ Alliance and ConservativeHome itself. 

The TPA, ably led by Matthew Elliott and James Frayne, is leading the campaign against ever higher tax increases. In the past, of course, this would have been done by the Conservative Party itself but such is the current political climate that campaigning for lower taxes is no longer seen as desirable. Indeed maybe this is the kind of climate change that we all ought to be concerned about as conservatives? The TPA’s team of researchers works tirelessly to uncover waste of our money and then exposes it with vigour. It is not afraid to take on the Conservatives for the spineless way in which Lord Forsyth’s Tax Commission’s findings were ruled out on the same day they were published. 

ConservativeHome too is a prime example of effort and achievement marrying up perfectly. As I know that this article will have been proof-read by Sam, the site’s Deputy Editor, I can praise the foresight, drive and determination of the Editor, Tim Montgomerie, without fear of this paragraph being edited. ConservativeHome has become the central portal for all conservatives who want to know what is going on in the Party. It is a forum for debate and an outlet of information, invective and fury. Tim truly deserves the plaudits of those who rightly observe that ConservativeHome has been instrumental in holding the Party’s leadership to account and in protecting and advancing the interests of the Party’s wider membership. Mere effort would indeed have been admirable. But it is the raft of achievements – such as in respect of the Party’s A-List – that has been and continues to be so impressive. 

All of us involved in promoting conservatism – from leaders of conservative movement organizations to association officers to parliamentarians to activists – need to focus not only on effort. Effort is admirable – but at the end of the day, it is achievement that is most valuable.

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