29 July 2011 6 Comments
There has been talk for a long time about the divide between the ruling elite in the Lib Dems and the grassroots. There have been mistakes taken by those at the top of the Lib Dems, in direct contrast to Party policy. There has been a growing unease by many in the Party which has sprung new factions in the Party to rebalance the dynamic (see here or here). Others have been faced with similar challenges, some have failed while others have succeeded, and there are lessons there for the Lib Dems.
According to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Abraham Lincoln was one of the rare presidents who understood the importance of surrounding himself with people willing to disagree with him. Lincoln created a cabinet that included four of his political opponents, three of whom had run against him for the Republican nomination in 1860 and who felt humiliated, shaken, and angry to have lost to a relatively unknown backwoods lawyer. Although all shared Lincoln’s goal of preserving the Union and ending slavery, this ‘team of rivals’ (as Goodwin calls them) disagreed with one another furiously on how to do it. This way Lincoln avoided the illusion that he had group consensus on every decision. He was able to consider alternatives and eventually enlist the respect and support of his erstwhile competitors.
Since Clegg made his mistakes in the previous year by going against Party policy and wishes, he has sought to rectify them by standing up for what the Party believe in. He has perhaps not taken all the opportunities which are open to him either as a result. However, he could learn a lot from Lincoln to improve his situation and that of the Lib Dems.
There are many in the Party who do not agree with him yet he surrounds himself with those who do: Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, David Laws. While there is some disagreement between them they are very much on the same page. There are others in the Party who he could use to enhance his decision making, policy production, and strategy which would benefit him and the Party. There are 2 previous leaders who have been on the sidelines who would offer the leadership a great deal: Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell. Bringing others in who may not necessarily agree with him may offer him some valuable advice.
Doubt is not the enemy of justice; overconfidence is – Elliott Aronson
And Clegg often comes across as extremely confident in his statements, which is no bad thing, until it is the wrong decision and then we get a situation like the one we had with the tuition fees debacle. For there to be justice to the Party and those who voted for them, there needs to be multiple voices who represent these in the inner circle. Maybe this would be a good lesson for the Lib Dem leadership?