I was really impressed with the idea that Dickens' 200th birthday was being celebrated by the Culture Secretary distributing selected copies of Dickens' books to each of the Cabinet members. I wonder if they will read and learn from them?
However, I would like to build on that notion and have a national vote for 'must read' books which all potential MPs should read. If elected, they could then give an assurance, when taking their seat, that they have read the 'nations recommended book' and, as part of their maiden speech, explain the lessons they have learn from the book which they will carry with them.
I'd expect most have already read Machiavelli's 'The Prince' but how many have picked up on the need to surround themselves with good advice, which isn't the same as 'reinforcing advice'. My recommendation would be David Owen's 'The Hubris Syndrome'. I constantly find myself suggesting to others that they read it but I have yet to meet anyone who tells me they have. So why would that be my recommendation?
Owen looks at the political leadership of Bush and Blair. He recognises that in their ascendancy they surrounded themselves with, and listened to, excellent advisors. Listening to that advice made a major contribution to their rise. The trouble was the higher they rose, the more they believed they were right instinctively - it was their 'gift'. Eventually they off-loaded those who provided advice they didn't want to hear and surrounded themselves with those who reinforced their own opinions. Owen's view is that was their downfall.
What is the relevance to the current Cabinet? Well if there is a cacophony which suggests the direction is wrong, perhaps you should listen - at least you can blame the others if it goes wrong anyway! Think the economy and NHS reforms, and you'll catch my drift.
But what about procurement advisors? Are we still taking advice which doesn't support our own ideas, or are we more inclined to look for reinforcement? And when we are giving advice, do we prefer to reinforce or give contrary advice when that is appropriate?
The more I think of it, the more I think the 'nations must read' should be for us all. There's a bit of give and take advice in us all, isn't there.