Saturday, May 08, 2010

Teaching our rivals how to negotiate

The past day or so has been astonishingly educational and, regardless of the outcome of the various negotiations, I think that we can be pretty proud of the way in which things have been handled.

The Parliamentary Party and the Federal Executive appear to have carried out their responsibilities without leaking or public dissent, despite the pressure that they are under. The media have been kept up to date with events, so that the public are reassured as far as is possible, and nobody is making outlandish or outrageous demands. It all seems to be pretty professional.

Our potential partners appear to be having problems though. I have already addressed the issues that Conservatives are facing, but it is equally true that there is no obvious process by which Labour activists are being engaged. There are reports that senior Labour figures are attempting to influence Liberal Democrats, and there are a number of calls for a coalition of progressive forces. However, there isn't a clear sense that these are official moves, or that they even represent the view of the Labour Party as opposed to individual initiatives.

How will Labour sell a coalition to their own members and activists? Given the fairly poisonous nature of the relationship between the two parties in local government, and the views expressed by the likes of Frank Dobson that Liberal Democrats are basically untrustworthy, it looks like a tough sell.

With Gordon Brown going home to Fife, a valid question is "just who is in charge of the Labour negotiating team?". Indeed, who is actually qualified to negotiate on behalf of the Labour Party? And whilst, for the timebeing, that may not be immediately important, the time may come when it becomes critical...


Laurence Smith said...

I've never heard about something like teaching your rival how to negotiate. At one point, I was thinking, are you crazy? But once I got to read the whole article, I think that everything's clear to me now. I am currently working on my negotiation skills. Do you think it's possible for you to post a step by step tutorial on how to negotiate?

Mark Valladares said...


An odd question, but I'll assume that you're attempting sarcasm - correct me if I'm wrong.

The point I'm making is that, as a Liberal Democrat member, I know that there are safeguards against a deal that doesn't have the support of the majority of the Party, that there are people designated to represent my interests, and that there are a publicly-known set of principles to be applied in reaching a decision.

In many ways, that makes the task of our negotiators much easier.

If you are a member of either the Labour or Conservative Parties, can you share that confidence? Who protects your interests as an activist, a councillor or a Party officer? And therefore, how do your negotiators know that the deal they are offering will stick with their own side?

I believe that Party activists, regardless of Party, should feel that they are more than mere leaflet delivery machines, that they have a sense of shared ownership in the key decisions that their Party takes. But I also think that each Party should address that in a way that suits their political philosophy.