Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are You a 'Why' or a 'When'?

This lunchtime I attended the Political Studies Association awards lunch. Rather disgracefully, they decided not to have a Politician of the Year this year. I can't remember what excuse they gave but it was a pathetic one, as several others on my table agreed. By doing that they tarred all politicians with the same brush and implied that not a single one had achieved anything worthwhile this year. In that case, why didn't they cancel the whole event. Some of the awardwinners were Heather Brooke (Campign), David Davis (Backbencher), Robert Peston (Journalist), Newsnight (Broadcast Programme, Gerald Scarfe (Satire) and also Tony Wright for Parliamentarian of the Year.

He made the best acceptance speech and coined a new version of Tony Benn's signposts and weathercosks analogy. He divides politicians into two: those who ask 'why' and those who ask 'when'. He explains it by saying that some politicians are more interested in asking why something is being done or why something is being said whereas others tend to concentrate on when they are going to get promoted or when they are going to get a job.

So, what are you? A Why or a When? Perhaps that's a question all aspirant politicians should consider, and if they come up with the wrong answer, they ought to ask themselves if they are going into politics for the right reason.


Sir Inglegram said...

Hmmm. I think this is just sillily simplistic:


When will Britain leave the EU?

When will the electorate learn that Labour governments just end up in bankrupting the country.

Perfectly good "when" reasons for entering politics. There are billions more.

Jon Harvey said...

Good point Iain - I like it.

I earnestly hope for the day when all politicians will rigorously focus on the evidence and produce policy that matches it rather than whatever daft headline appeared in the papers a few days previous.

My question would also be - are our political leaders round or square?


Anonymous said...

I honestly think I would be a Why. (Having an interest in ideology from an unhealthily young age will do that to you). Having said that, I am not above asking politicians When The Hell they are going to do what they promise at election time. They never seem to hear me through the TV screen.

Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like most of the Why folks stay out of politics and hide behind print, safe from the tyranny of expectation, fast-tracked aging and public salaries.

Demetrius said...

But when should I ask why?

Anonymous said...

Most definitely a why - which is why I crossed the floor on Newham Council from Labour to the Conservatives...

Didn't do me any bloody good though!

Cllr Peter cairns (SNP) said...


As one of the few open politicians here I am definitely a Why man.