I like my morning shower very, very hot. I love to feel that flow of water embracing me, and I can stand there for as long as the water stays hot. Of course, I don’t because there is always something else to do and it is always reluctantly that I pull myself out to towel down. It was in my shower this morning that I started to wonder about the things I just couldn’t do without.
The hot shower is a sensory experience that is far more fulfilling than the thought of being clean and, so it is not really on the essential list. On the other hand, toothpaste is. The menthol freshness in the mouth is a prerequisite for a successful day.
I wouldn’t miss any of the non-basic foods. If smoked salmon was un-invented I wouldn’t care. I would probably even survive losing a slice of fresh, white bread, laced with butter and tomato sauce but, as you may have guessed that would be more difficult. I decided, in my shower that was easily solved by classing it as a basic staple and not a luxury food.
This may all sound very trivial, and of course it is, but, in the way my brain jumps around, it caused me to think about other things I really want. Just as I was lost in these thoughts I was called by Epsom hospital to let me know that a regular six-monthly treatment of an immunotherapy has been booked for December. (I will come back to the subject of the UK National Health Service which has been wonderful for me.)
If I was Prime Minister or President keeping my people fit and well would be one of my three highest priorities (the others would be providing the best education and then keeping them safe). What would my other priorities be? What other ‘staples’ would I prioritise? What would be national ‘toothpaste’ and just like smoked salmon, what would be on the ‘nice to have’ list.
And so, I have a new project that will be published here over the coming months. I am going to publish my manifesto for Government.
Once, before wall-to-wall political television coverage and, when youth led to more enthusiasm, before an election, I would insist on reading as many party manifestos as I could. I don’t that any more, but it is nothing to do with the voting alternatives. None of the manifestos give me the insights I need to make an informed decision on how to vote.
In my new task I have one clear advantage over all the established parties: I am not seeking political power. I don’t have to canvass a myriad of voter’s preferences. That does make this a great deal easier, and means I don’t have to pander to entrenched views. Whoever ‘wins’ a democratic election has not carried 100% of the voters (even in Belarus the President was only in the high ninety percent). In any population there is a spectrum that ranges from those who are totally behind everything the winner says, to those who agree mostly with the approach and finally to those who are fundamentally against everything the ‘winner’ espouses.
But, once elected a Government should work for all the people and not sectors (big business or the ‘just about manage’). Meanwhile for continued recognition, the ‘opposition’ seems always to look for and exploit those differences hoping that next time round they get into power?
I intend to address that issue as we progress but that requires that we modify our democratic system and I have a plan!! Meanwhile, i can progress unencumbered by the any political bias, agenda or need to be loved by ‘just enough’ of the population.
The 1st Principle of Government (and hence my manifesto)
My first principle is stated quite simply: Don’t give me a solution to yesterday’s problem but tell me the philosophy, criteria and process you will be using to solve tomorrow’s
Over the years I have tried, many times, to predict the future. It doesn’t matter if it is in my personal or business life I have always been caught out by something coming on my blind side. Predicting the long-term future is impossible as everything around me always changes. Fortunately, it has never been a problem because, just like everyone else, I have a set of moral values and decision-making processes that mean I can respond consistently, positively and effectively.
Before I vote for a Government I want them to set out clearly their ‘values and decision-making processes’. I want to know their vision for society in twenty or thirty years’ time and I want to know that as they make daily decisions they are moving towards that vision.
Let me tell you a story to try and explain. When I was a schoolboy and playing rugby (I hope this analogy holds good for those readers that don’t know about this great game), a recent ex Welsh fly half coached us. For those of you that don’t understand rugby the fly half is the main tactician of the side. He is often the most talented of the players and rarely one of the big oafs who plod around the ground. In the days of muddy pitches, he would often come off the field still spotlessly clean because no one had ever been close enough to touch him. In Wales, the fly half or number 10 was as close as possible to a living God.
At the start of every season, to remind us how much we still had to learn, even though we had travelled the country to beat the best, he played in warmup games to remind us just how much we still had to learn.
Our Welsh 10 was built like all the best: short, stocky and a will of the wisp. He would side step and accelerate away from any would be tacklers. The only difference from the others (or I suspect so) was that he was very short sighted and could really only see 20 or 30 yards ahead of him. But that was no hindrance. He would catch the ball behind his own goal line and accelerate, side step, swerve, duck and dive all the way up the field to score a try leaving sprawling 18-year-old boys flat on the ground as they had tried to stop him. Believe me we tried. It was not every day that you get the chance to smash a teacher into the mud.
In my final year, as captain of the team I had the chance to spend time with him and one day I asked him if he had a plan when he first caught the ball of the route he was going to take.
To paraphrase his words, he said that when he caught the ball he knew that he was always faster to the nearest patch of green, the only one he could see. And that is where he went evading all attempts to dissuade him. When he arrived at this interim destination he would look up, reassess, and then again look for a clear area and go. This he did until he scored a try. But, he said, there is a huge danger that in this approach you could end up going around and around in circles unless you keep a strong sense of where the end point is. You can never get to that line at the end, score a try, unless you always keep that goal in mind as you move down the pitch.
I tell you this story now because it seems to me that most of the manifestos I have read and the promises I hear from political parties only talk about the patches of green and they all argue about is which is nearer, and which is greener. They never tell us about the end goal. They never tell us about what it means for them to score a try.
When I put a large X on a ballot paper I am far less concerned about what the recipient will do the day after being elected but how they will react to the almost certain different set of circumstances they will face in three or four years’ time. I don’t want to vote on short term tactics, give-aways to voters in marginal seats, or headline grabbing initiatives. I want to vote for those who have and share a vision with me of their future.
I want to know how they will react to situations not yet envisaged.
I know that whoever is in power I will never agree with them on every short-term action, but if they set the solution to the immediate crisis in context of an agreed end goal, I will let them get on with it – well, at least for a time.
There is my first promise. As we progress I will describe the society I want in the long term and whenever we take short term actions the Government will be required to describe how it impacts on the long-term objectives.
I want the debate and discussion between parties to start to concentrate their debate and discussion on this long-term vision keeping the population in the examination because we won’t tolerate zig-zagging from one direction to another.
In my opinion there is a much more agreement on that end goal than you might believe.