The Politicians Guide to Making Bad Decisions | THE POLITICUS

The Politicians Guide to Making Bad Decisions

No. You haven’t misread the title. As a politician, you do need to be able to make suitably bad decisions. At first glance this may seem an easy thing to - after all how difficult could it be to make a bad decision? However, bearing in mind that this is one of the core capabilities of any politician, you should ensure that you get the procedure right. I will now outline it for you in words that even a politician can understand.

Most bad decisions might appear to be made in a rush as knee-jerk reactions to specific events. This is not the case. Much like ‘overnight successes’, such decisions are the result of long and tortuous hours of work. Government departments have spent too many of their productive hours trawling through reams of information including mind-numbingly boring technical reports, submissions from interested parties, the latest conference proceedings, and numerous letters from members of the public. They do this because it has been brought to their attention that there is potentially a problem in the future and the government should have a policy to deal with it before it occurs. They want to be prepared. This sounds like a good idea - and it is.

They then write copious amounts of briefing notes, contentious issues briefings, discussions papers, white papers, and also green papers. Then they realize that they are out of their depth, and commission consultants to review all of the information they have been reviewing for the last three years. The consultants then take a large amount of cash to pretty much repeat back what the government departments have already found. Nobody is any the wiser about what needs to be done.

It is about this time that the general public become aware that there is a problem and that the government has no way to deal with it.  This is the cue to insist that the relevant government department provide you with an instant response. At this point somebody in the bureaucracy will provide you with a range of options, ranking them in order of likely success and cost. It is a law of nature that the best one will be the most expensive.

Once you let the public know what the options are that the government is considering, you can then sit back while debate rages for months and the problem gets steadily worse. All this time the press will be writing stories about dithering government, incompetent government, and possibly even corrupt government. You should ignore this.

When it becomes apparent that everything is coming to a head, you should then say that there is a need for compromise. All of the relevant interest groups can be asked to provide their priority actions and these can be considered by a specially formed steering committee or working group. This will take at least a year.

Finally, it will be time to make your decision. And this is where the skilled politician can come to the fore. The metaphorical clamoring at your door will be deafening and you’ll need to concentrate very hard indeed get to an appropriately bad decision. It is time to take each lobby group’s submission and put them in a table. This wastes a bit of time but at least gives you the impression that you are making progress. You will then realize that you can’t please everybody and throw them all in the bin. You should stare in panic out of the window for a while and then call in your staff.

Being loyal staff, they will identify the least practical and most expensive options and then combine the two. They will direct you away from the common-sense outcome and down an ideological path that has been proven to be a failure in numerous other countries.

This will provide you with the perfect platform for your bad decision. As the pressure builds you can prepare for the grand announcement. At no stage should you get your staff to look into the long-term impact of the decision, and you should ignore the numerous notes from your government department that are trying to make you aware of the impacts of your decision. After all, these will be become apparent in the fullness of time and there is no need to upset people just yet. If you are lucky, there will be another Minister in charge once the full effects of your bad decisions become apparent and start causing trouble.