Napoleon once recommended that you should never interrupt your enemy while they’re making a mistake.
There are some in Westminster who think Labour leader Keir Starmer has adopted the same battlefield principle as he surveys his enemies deployed on government benches opposite.
Prime minister Boris Johnson, who has lately become fond of pointing out that “data and not dates” informs his strategy, this week published a 60 page recovery roadmap that looks a lot like a timetable.
Anyway, whatever you call it, his attempt to organise an orderly return to normality is already under pressure from backbenchers, businesses and families with holiday plans. All of them are pressing for things to be sorted in a matter of weeks rather than months.
It is said that Starmer is relying on Johnson’s past form to prevail and for another under-cooked, oven-ready solution to become discredited.. The result will be a huge public backlash and all the opposition leader has to do is sit back and let it happen.
Well, he might be right about the first part but, let’s be honest, there's absolutely nothing that’s happened over the past year to suggest the PM will be held even vaguely accountable by the majority of punters. Nor are political opponents likely to reap any kind of electoral benefit.
The truth is that this is now a UK government in possession of its very own “get out of jail free” card.
Public opinion doesn’t really count for much, and as for recent court rulings of illegality, all we got was a few ministerial shrugs and not so much as a sacrificial permanent secretary offered up for the chop. Meanwhile, most of the national media helpfully continue to look the other way, hoping to catch a glimpse of Megan Markle
It may not have fully dawned on some folk but even if the recovery bandwagon loses a wheel or two, Downing Street can simply continue doing what it damn well likes, primarily because parliament has given them that ability.
Moreover, in the unlikely event that things turn really nasty among impatient tory backbenchers, there’s still an 80 plus seat majority that will come in handy.
Masterly inactivity may be the tactically correct thing, according to Labour strategists, but it hasn’t achieved much to date.
It’s also worth noting that Napoleon made his observation at a place called Waterloo and in terms of winners and losers at least, there’s a distinct risk that history might be about to repeat itself.
Why we don’t have square wheels
Someone picked up on the column item I wrote about last week about change. They shared an image of a sign bearing the motto: the most dangerous phrase on the planet is “we’ve always done it this way”.
The sender was a bit taken aback when I said I didn’t agree.
It may be cool in some parts of business to sign up to such progressive thinking but I’d also suggest that just a small amount of research can occasionally show how there’s a very good reason why things have arrived at a particular configuration - like round wheels, for instance.
It’s all too easy to label those who don’t automatically sign up to change as dinosaurs. Yet, not only did they successfully inhabit the earth for about 165 million years, they also showed extensive adaptability and it eventually took a global environmental disaster – not of their making – to bring about their extinction.
Humankind on the other hand has been around for just over one percent of that time and is currently taking a very active role towards its own demise – having driven nearly seven hundred other vertebrate species into extinction.
In other words, the most dangerous thing on the planet is us. We may not have ended up with square wheels but that doesn’t make us clever. Here endeth the rant.