Monday, 7 August 2017

Negotiators are born not made

About 40 years ago I used to lecture on courses in Liverpool attended by shipping and major industrial companies, British Steel etc  who chartered ships for their business. These ships  were bulk carriers of oil, coal iron ore, cement etc. They were chartered either by voyage or by time and the complicated written agreement which had many many clauses covering many contingencies was called a charter party. In the good old days the charter party was torn raggedly in half with one half going to company that chartered the vessel and the other half to the ship owner. and at the settlement date was put back together to make sure it was all kosher and no clauses had been added by either side. Most of this business was done on the Baltic Exchange in London.

The most popular part of my course however was an evening visit to the Everyman Theatre for a risque show, meal and lots of booze. At these informal drinking sessions I gleaned a few nuggets of information I found useful. One was that a few people were very good at negotiating these charters but most were hopeless, especially lawyers .This was the view of the senior management of those paying for the charter. Ask how Onassis a huge ship owner got so rich? His people were very good at driving a very hard bargain with the likes of many now defunct industrial companies. Negotiation is a talent you are born with. It cannot be taught was my conclusion. Put a bureaucrat up against a a guy who has real negotiating talent honed by years of experience and the bureaucrat gets fleeced.

Now look at this piece by Tory boy Pierce himself

Its an excellent piece covering the Europhile civil servant, Sir Tom Scholar, now Permanent Sec at the Treasury who is pulling Hammond's strings. He is the Sir Humphrey and Hammond the Jim Hacker of the Government . Those who watched , "Yes Minister" will know who usually won that contest and will recognise my casting as accurate. The BBC frequently repeat these contests on day time TV and they are as true today as they were when they were made over 30 years ago.

Its a long piece well worth a read with some great quotes

"The Chancellor, it seems has forged an unhealthily close relationship ship with Sir Tom" a bit like a puppet on a string. Most chancellors are thick and are prisoners of their very clever civil servants. Only Nigel Lawson in my lifetime had the brainpower to overcome them and run the Treasury the way he wanted. More worrying he is seen as a push-over by the EU failing to stand up for Britain when he was head of Cameron's negotiating team that failed to renegotiate anything. But in the Civil service failure is rewarded only success is punished and in June 16 Scholar was appointed head of HMT and Permanent Sec. The great British electorate made a more factual based assessment of Sir Tom's  non success in the Referendum. Never mind Sir Tom is safe in his job and the only way to get rid of him at HMT is to promote him to Cabinet Secretary,

At this point you should read Tory Boy's scathing account of Sir Tom's negotiating failure with the EU.

What is worrying is that Sir Tom is still in charge of HMT. He has to be sidelined pronto and re-employed counting paper clips.

David Davis may not be the best negotiator we have but he must be better than Scholar and Hammond. He should recruit a born  negotiator from outside the Civil Service who really believes we can succeed brilliantly outside the EU. Employing a recruitment consultant is the obvious way.  Put he or she in charge and make Sir Tom report to them. That might even persuade Sir Tom to resign before he does more damage to our country. Some hope!

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