17 August 2008

Advice for Gordon 2

The trouble with being a doctor is that if you have a sick patient you just have to do something. Dr Grumble can still remember when as a young doctor desperately breathless patients would grip his wrist tightly as they pleaded for relief. Sometimes there are worried relatives looking on. Sometimes you are on your own. Only you can save the patient. It's frightening for the patient. It's frightening for the doctor. But you can never show it. For the patient's sake you must look calm and confident. But that may not be at all how you feel.

Now there may be some decisions that are a bit like that in politics but quite a lot of political decisions can probably wait. The country doesn't stop when politicians take their summer break. Nobody dies. The wheels of government go on turning. If politics was suspended for six months the world would still go round. What does that tell you, Gordon? It tells you that doing nothing is not such a bad option. Doing nothing is difficult. It's difficult in medicine. But sometimes it is the right thing. It must be difficult in politics. But just as in medicine it can be the right thing to do. Knee jerk policies are almost always bad. So, Gordon, please avoid them. Not many problems can be solved with a new law or a knee jerk initiative. But quite often that seems to be what prime ministers think. Of course it's all you can do there in Number 10. But remember, Gordon, doing nothing is an option. Avoid knee jerk decision making? Can you think of any examples, Gordon? Remember your reflective practice.

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