Patronage – Is It a Double Edge Sword?
“It has always been the same”, “They are all the same”, “Corruption is the name of the game” and “Why are they all self –serving and only in it for what they can get out of it”?
These are all statements you will hear whenever a group of people are asked what they think about those who get involved in politics and is sadly symptomatic of the cynicism and in some cases downright hostility demonstrated when discussing politicians.
The problem is of course that there is evidence to support the public perception, from those who are seen as being completely out of touch with the reality being faced daily by the majority of people to those who are seen as seeking power not for what they can do but to promote their own self-being and esteem.
The scandal over the MP’s expenses still lingers on in the minds of many and was such a disgrace and betrayal of the public that it should.
The problem is that wherever you look there appears to be a systematic and systemic patronage system of maintaining power in the political world based not on aptitude or ability to do the job.
You only have to look at the coalition to see that in George Osborne and Danny Alexander we have in charge of the treasury two MP’s who have no qualifications or experience whatsoever in economic or business management, and yet they are in charge of Business UK.
Patronage as Brian Binley MP for Northampton South quite rightly points out results in leaders surrounding themselves with ‘YES MEN’ that not only excludes those who have experience but perhaps more importantly stifles debate and innovation which in turn undermines the Democratic process.
I have been fortunate that in every avenue of employment I have had since leaving school, leaders and managers have promoted on the ability to deliver the tasks required of the role.
I cannot imagine when working either for the National Coal Board, Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Prison Service how the objectives would have been achieved if it had been based around promoting those who senior people identified as being willing to be subservient in order to ‘climb the greasy pole’ rather than on ability.
It meant that in taking decisions difficult choices had to be made but in a mature and professional world people accepted it as necessary to ensure objectives are met.
The problem with political patronage is that ability is sacrificed to ensure that control is maintained by either promoting individuals or the promise to promote, which along with status invariable also brings with it financial rewards.
What happens of course is that those who see their ambitions thwarted, or at least believe they have been then become the real opposition to those in leadership positions.
It is for the electorate to decide if at the local level politics operates on the patronage model.
An example may be to look at the people who are assigned to different roles and how often they appear to be speaking on their areas of responsibility.
The public may then start to ask,
”What do they do” especially if they are never heard from.
It is the major problem with patronage, a problem that if the people promoted are not capable then how do you keep them away from the limelight and prevent problems occurring which can only be achieved through a totally controlling stage-managed strategy.
The big question is,
“What happens when things start to go wrong”, and the public start to ask what and who is in charge and responsible.
I should say at this point how amazed I am at the democratic process Northampton Labour adopts in selecting all roles with members having a vote for those they want to represent them
It is a system that makes patronage very difficult.
People are however justified to some extent in being cynical when they see patronage being used to the detriment of providing the front line services they want and deserve.
All I can say is that, and naturally some will quote Mandy Rice Davies who said “he would say that wouldn’t he”,
“We are not all the same”