Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Never give an order which you know will not be obeyed

The military have a saying that an officer should never give an order which he or she knows will not be obeyed.

The same rule applies in politics with one exception: when the person or small group who you know will disobey the order is a total liability who you are looking for a good excuse to sack.

I can see why many people, especially those who think they are in a majority within their party, who might prefer their party to speak with a united voice on a major issue such as whether to start or extend a bombing campaign, or whether Britain should leave the EU.

But we are not living in a perfect world, and there are times, particularly in an organisation which is supposed to be democratic, when it is better to let people disagree than to look, not just authoritarian, but like a weak and unsuccessful authoritarian by trying to lay down the law and having people defy you.

That's why David Cameron and Harold Wilson would both have been very foolish indeed to try to enforce party discipline on whether Britain should vote to leave what was called the EEC and is now called the EU.

Just as Jeremy Corbyn would have managed to look authoritarian, weak and hypocritical at the same time if he had attempted to whip his MPs to vote against extending the bombing campaign against DA'ESH from Iraq to Syria.

Despite all the sabre rattling by Conservative "Out" supporters I never thought David Cameron would be stupid enough to try to force them to campaign against their principles.

Of course, Corbyn did look like a total and utter hypocrite earlier today when he tried to attack David Cameron for allowing his ministers to campaign on either side in the European membership election referendum, when that is exactly what the Labour Prime Minister of the day did last time Britain held such a referendum forty years ago, and it is precisely equivalent to what Corbyn himself did by allowing a free vote on the Syria decision  a few weeks ago.

It would also be totally hypocritical if in the glacially slow reshuffle he is holding this week, Jeremy Corbyn were to sack or demote any of his front bench team for voting differently from him in what was supposed to be a free vote when, as a backbencher, he himself voted against the Labour "whip" more than five hundred times.

But so far this Labour reshuffle appears to be something of a mus ridiculus.

Classical reference alert!

This alludes to a poem by Horace including the line "Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus"

which roughly translates as

"Behold the mountain has laboured, but has only brought forth a ridiculous mouse."

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