Many times during our negotiation courses I have been asked a seemingly simple question.
Is everything negotiable?
For an answer, take a look at the current stand-off between the UK Liberal Democrat party and Lord Rennard. What a mess!
For those of you who have been living in a cave, or who do not reside in the UK, Lord Rennard has been accused of sexual harassment by a number of women. The accusations go back many years and have been utterly denied by the Lord, who is furious in his rebuttal refusing to admit to any misdemeanors or indeed apologise for something he says he has never done.
Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has admitted that the Lib Dems have mishandled the sexual harassment allegations made against Lord Rennard.
Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems had "not responded in the right way in the past” and he took full responsibility for a lack of "proper leadership". He defended his actions in recent days, saying it was only fair to ask the Lib Dem peer to apologise and suspending his party membership. He also claimed that media reports suggesting his wife had pressed him to act against the peer were "total garbage".
Lord Rennard is considering legal action after his party membership was temporarily suspended.
Both parties seem utterly entrenched in their positions with no sign of any flexibility or compromise available.
It seems that Rennard cannot apologise as a point of principle, and indeed why should he if he is innocent as he claims. For Nick Clegg a stand down would be tantamount to calling those women who complained liars. Against a backdrop of so few women entering politics and the endless court actions against Dave Lee Travis, William Roche and Stuart Hall, that would potentially be political suicide.
So back to the question. Is everything negotiable? Clearly not. There are situations were no amount of pressure or sanction can bring the other side to the negotiating table. Clegg has threatened and delivered on his promise to remove Lord Rennard from the party that many say he was instrumental in bringing to power. I suspect Clegg has offered the olive branch of coming back to the fold following a form of apology, again to no avail.
Rennard is apparently instructing barristers to check on the legality of his suspension.
Without interest there can be no negotiation. So the simple answer to that simple question is no.