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Stephen White

“When it comes to the qualifications we demand of our president, to start with, we need someone who will take the job seriously.” Michelle Obama.

Don’t stop reading - this blog is not about Donald Trump.

In the run up to the election of a new Labour Party Leader 4 years ago, the four candidates were invited by LBC radio to quiz each other. You can see the questions to Jeremy Corbyn here. There are two points of note. Firstly, when asked if he wants to be Prime Minister he ducks the question several times, instead referring to the ideological changes he wants to make within the Labour Party.  Secondly when asked about his qualifications and experience to be leader of a major political party his answer is objectively underwhelming – before being an MP, he says, he had been a local councillor for 10 years. I don’t think it is difficult to relate those answers in 2015 to the current divided state of the Labour Party.

But my interest for this blog is not Jeremy Corbyn, but the two Conservative Party hopefuls. No doubt that they both want to be Prime Minister, although goodness knows why – everyone can see it is a poisoned chalice. But what of their qualifications for the job? ‘That nice young man Jeremy Hunt’ as my mother would say, claims that as the first PM who has been an entrepreneur his experience as a negotiator will see him through the minefield of EU politics. Plus, he has run the NHS. Charismatic and unpredictable, Boris Johnson sets his stall out on the basis of his experience as Mayor of London, which seems odd because it is as easy to point to failures as to successes during his 8 years in the job. Plus, he was Foreign Secretary for a time.

Notwithstanding these ‘qualifications’, in the hustings we have seen over the last few weeks neither contender seems to have a viable plan to push forward the Brexit negotiations with the EU. One believes the EU will react positively to the incentive of negotiating with a nice man who is business-like and easy to deal with. The other believes that the threat of no-deal will break the impasse. Oh that it were so easy.

What qualifications would I recommend? There are four elements our next PM needs to have experience of – Leadership, Realism, Advocacy and Creativity – all of which they need to have previously deployed in negotiations. Make your own mind up about which of the two is better qualified on that basis.

Meanwhile earlier this week Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, started a recruitment drive for UK trade negotiators. Mr Fox said he wanted to broaden the base of those seeing trade negotiations as a career, with no limits or qualifications required for anyone wanting to apply.

Oh dear.

Stephen  White

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