Sunday, 26 March 2017

Rumsfeld, Ryan and Corbyn....

Sometimes people say something which seems crass or stupid, blindingly obvious, naïve or even impenetrable and later on you realize that it was none of those things.

Donald Rumsfeld, then US Secretary of State of Defence said (to much mockery), “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.” The serious element of this (which has been completely forgotten) is that he was avoiding giving an answer to a question for evidence but so much has been made of the quote that it, not the issue, has become folklore – to the point that he titled his memoir “Known and Unknown”.

Even if it wasn’t intended as such in the context it was given it is remarkably perceptive. Every time I have been involved in strategy planning, preparations for crisis management it is only ever the “unknown unknowns” that keep me awake.  Maybe “fake news” will also enter the lexicons – we used to call it at best malicious gossip (based on very little if anything) or just lies!

Now I have another pearl of wisdom – from the mouth of Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Paul Ryan after they pulled the vote on the Health Bill this week and it is,  “We were a 10-year opposition party,” Mr. Ryan said in assessing the defeat late Friday. "Being against things was easy to do.”

Being against things is easy to do.  It is easier to argue against, to criticize unhelpfully than to find solutions to problems.  It is also an expression of frustration when things don’t go your way. I wonder how many of those who voted to leave the EU were just frustrated with politics, business, bureaucracy, or just life in general and they voted to leave because they were against the status quo. 

Just before the election I was told by a Trump supporter that he was voting for Trump because he was “tired of the establishment”. He didn’t know what he was voting for, only what he was voting against.

Moving closer to home – look at Jeremy Corbyn. He knows what he is against:  the total number of votes cast by Jeremy against the whip (i.e. his own party if not his own government!), from 1983 onwards is 617 or 423 depending on how you count it – see vote statistics

So he is very good at being against and although he articulates sometimes what he is for – he has no idea what is needed to make it happen.

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