If there is one thing I have learned (the hard way from experience) is that it is very easy to have misplaced loyalty to some people.
Perhaps it was my upbringing with a very honest and principled military father and a mother who would have no truck with anything that was not straight and truthful.
Perhaps it was having served in the military where loyalty and commitment to those who you served with was not only essential but simply something that it would never cross your mind not to be.
Whatever the reality there are people to who you feel you should be loyal who simply will not return that loyalty and will just walk away or worse still (how can I put this delicately) sh*t on you if it serves their own ends.
Sometimes of course it may not be so much for their own ends as something even more basic – they are scared and take the cowards way out.
It has happened to me a few times in the past and especially when I was a local District Councillor in Northampton.
One example happened in 2006 when as the then Deputy Leader of the Council I attended a “budget consultation” meeting along with the then Leader of the Council, and Senior Officers of the Council held in the Guildhall.
To cut a long story short there are two things that I should explain before going on.
The first is that the Leader of the Council believed that budget consultations were a waste of time because he was going to do what he wanted anyway, and secondly that 2006 was a particularly difficult time politically in Northampton and the budget was even more of a difficulty.
Included in the consultation for example were proposals to cut the subsidy to the theatres and the possible closure of a sports centre.
The easiest way to describe the audience was that the hall was full of approximately 350 very angry people.
Anyway that’s the background (I wonder now that I’m writing this how many remember the meeting).
As I have said 2006 was a difficult time politically and the Leader was under pressure not only from the opposition who had a great deal of influence because it was a Council with no overall control and also from members of our own group who quite frankly didn’t like him at all because of his high-handed attitude.
My view was that the group had elected me as Deputy Leader and whatever my personal opinion I had to be loyal to the leader.
The meeting started as I expected it with the officers and Leader of the Council outlining the budget proposals.
It was then opened to questions and statements from the floor or as I described it at the time “a barrage of criticism from animosity alley” from taxpayers who were incandescent with anger.
It was at this point, and without any warning, the Leader turned to me and said he was leaving because he had tickets to go to the theatre and then left.
There simply aren’t the words to describe how it went down with the audience.
The question is what to do?
Do I leave it to the officers to deal with the situation which would have been unfair because all they were doing was what the administration asked them to do.
I could I suppose have said the meeting was over but instead I decided perhaps standing and at least trying to explain how the proposals had been arrived at was the best option.
I have to admit it wasn’t the best situation I have been in but interestingly some who were the most vocal actually thanked me for staying.
The Leader when I confronted him in private the following day simply took the attitude that “he wasn’t interested in what they had to say”.
Which brings me back to loyalty.
Loyalty is very much a two way street and in many ways is a form of currency which has to be distributed wisely.
What I learned from the budget issue is that loyalty to people may well come with a cost and especially if it is blindly followed (it was a good lesson because when a few years later the same man stabbed me in the back it didn’t come as a surprise).
Perhaps the question we should all ask before being loyal is who will stand by us when the going gets really tough and who will take the cowards way out and do a runner and if they aren’t going to stand by you then just walk away because loyalty to those who you know will return it is far more important.