This Summer I spent three weeks in Canada working with 12 Armoured Infantry Brigade HQ (12X HQ) helping to deliver a major exercise. The team at 12X HQ is excellent and working with them was both fun and enlightening, it also got me thinking.
12X HQ is not unique in either structure or professionalism, all British army deployed HQ are made up of a command element and a number of staff branches. These are the G1 branch responsible for personnel matters, G2 for intelligence and security, G3 for current operations, G4 logistics, G5 planning future operations, G6 communications & IT. There are others but I won’t list them all because it is the G3 and G5 branches that the Conservatives could learn the most from.
Dealing with things which are both important and urgent is a core skill of any leadership team. What the best organisations do is get good at dealing with the important but not yet urgent issues too.
Back in 2002 I gave a speech from the main stage of the Conservative party conference highlighting the many natural synergies between the Conservatives and Britain’s ethnic communities. It was a very well received speech, there was a real desire to broaden the appeal of the party and win the support of black Britain. Twelve years later we are still looking at the same issue and can’t claim to have cracked it.
We have a very clear and effective plan for the forthcoming General Election with our 40:40 strategy but we have heard nothing about who we will put forward to replace Boris in City Hall or what we will do to regain the council seats we’ve lost over the last couple of years. Gavin Barwell has done some great work looking at the electoral impact of UK demographic change but we could do with whole team looking at this.
Nailing these longer term issues isn’t easy because there is always an election on the near horizon which demands the attention of the CCHQ team. There is always a now battle, what the army calls “current operations”, the preserve of the G3 staff branch. What we need is a team of people, as experienced and expert as our current campaign team, but focussing exclusively on “future operations” a CCHQ G5 branch.
Clearly the G3 and G5 branches influence each other but the long term planning team are free from the distractions of the daily cut and thrust of political combat, unfussed by the daily news cycle. The output from the G5 also steers the work of the G1 and G4 branches. Getting the right people, properly trained, well resourced and in the right place for the 2020 General Election takes time and the deployment plan should already exist.
I have never worked in an organisation that didn’t moan about Head Office and I don’t subscribe to the “everything that comes out if CCHQ is wrong ” narrative but we do need to get better at identifying and dealing with the challenges that are over the horizon. Setting up a CCHQ G5 branch would help.