When you're in a guddle, make a plan!


So, we find ourselves in a post referendum world in a position we couldn’t have imagined only a few short weeks or months ago.  A significant majority of our elected representatives, our MPs (and for that matter our elected European representatives, our MEP’s) don’t believe that leaving Europe is the right thing to do.  And yet we have had a referendum in which a narrow majority of the 72% that turned out voted to leave.  Many of those who voted to leave were genuinely against Europe but it is clear from the post mortem that has been going on since the “morning after”, many others felt this was an opportunity to protest about… well, anything and everything.  And both sides of the debate behaved badly in the campaigns leading up to the referendum, one spelling out apocalyptic doom and the other promising sunlit uplands with no path to get there.  For some people where we find ourselves is in a brave new world where new things might be possible, for others it’s a scary mess.

It’s fair to say that, whatever direction we go in from here, there’s going to be a lot of hard work, some unpalatable decisions and a fair bit of pain.  So it’s all the more galling that many of the dramatis personae of the drama that has unfolded have decided to leave the stage when the going gets tough.  Given the way that politicians have been behaving in the last couple of weeks, you would think that the most important thing to do right now as a nation is to naval gaze and sort our political parties out.  But surely our biggest priority right now is to address the herd of elephants in the room; what are we going to do about the raging uncertainty we have created over Europe.

It’s a hard question to answer, but that’s no reason to duck it, and of course, I accept that we do need to establish a proper chain of command very quickly. It’s handy that things have turned out such that that we can move forward with a new Prime Minister sooner rather than later.  I don’t think I could have borne three months of faffing.  More importantly I think it would have been bad for Britain

Because uncertainty paralyses people.

Should I take on new staff if experts tell me there’s a recession coming?  Should I, as an international business leader, start switching jobs away from Britain to other countries?  Should I buy that house/car/refurbishment/steel processing plant/whatever?  I can understand a high degree of annoyance across Europe (surely unhelpful when you think of the negotiations to come) because our uncertainty creates uncertainty elsewhere.

So what’s the answer?

I used to have a member of staff based in Edinburgh who had a brilliant phrase for such situations: “When you’re in a guddle [mess], make a plan”.  We all have moments in our lives when it’s not clear cut which route to take.  My experience in life is that when things are like that you can probably make whichever direction you choose work out well; given enough energy enthusiasm and hard work.  “An ounce of execution is worth a ton of strategy”, to quote another former work colleague.

We are in such a situation now.  We need a plan.  I take my hat off to the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, who is getting on with making decisions.  Whether its “Hard Brexit” (a hard line on immigration, with limited trade concessions), “Soft Brexit” (a softer line on immigration with preservation of our advantageous trading links), or “Back around the Buoy” (a further referendum or mechanism which leaves us still in Europe) we need our politicians to step up the plate and lead like they have never led before.

In Current Affairs


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