Events, Dear Boy, Events

Published: Dec 09 , 2011
Author: Alan Smith

In the late 1950s, a journalist asked incumbent British prime minister Harold Macmillan what he considered was most likely to blow his government off course. In an answer that has gone down in history - perhaps as much for its Edwardian construction as its content - Macmillan replied, "Events, dear boy, events." This response hits at a fundamental truth. Things do change rapidly, and when one is least expecting them to do so.

George Osborne in his address to the House of Commons in London last week, must be keeping very close eye on the weather vane as the problems in the European Union and the debt storm that rages around his ears threaten to put his Governments long term plans at severe risk.

It seemed that the plan was very much to spend the first years of the new Liberal Conservative administration in austerity mode, cutting spending dramatically, reducing debt and getting the pain in early. This would lead to a reversal in bad fortune (hopefully) creating the opportunity for a feel good budget in 2014 prior to the planned general election in 2015 and a landslide win for the Conservatives or Lib Dems (or a combination of the above).

Trouble is things do not appear to have gone that way.

There appears to be a supreme lack of confidence in consumer spending. In turn this has caused a reluctance to invest by UK companies exacerbated by the poor performance of exports due to the crisis in Europe. The cuts in spending further reducing demand may be necessary, but may be throwing water on a fire that is already going out.

I am not suggesting that borrowing more to get out of debt is any cleverer. Anyone with a Barclaycard who borrows from her MasterCard to make the payments can see the flaw in that.

What I am saying is that the government, like all good negotiators, should have alternative strategies for achieving their core objectives.

Having a flexible strategy is a key tenet to developing negotiation skills. Plan D just might be more palatable. 

Alan Smith





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