“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”  Jimi Hendrix

“Sometimes the only thing worse than listening is not listening”  George Osborne

Politicians naturally find it difficult to justify policy U-turns, but in discussing the change to the proposed restriction on tax reliefs for gifts to charity the Chancellor delivered himself of a comment which I find quite extraordinary, and which highlights once again my concern about the mindset, attitude and background of modern politicians.

50 years on this planet have convinced me that listening is a good thing. If I had to add to the Jimi Hendrix quote above, I would say: “You never learn anything with your mouth open”. My friend the networking guru Will Kintish puts it slightly differently: “You were given one mouth and two ears, use them in proportion”. The admonition I most often direct at my children is “Listen”.

Of course you have to have a quality filter on your listening, and over time you learn to listen to everyone, but take true heed only of those who are worth listening to – back to the “knowledge speaks” bit. And I am sure that politicians are bombarded with advice from all quarters, of varying quality and degree of bias. But really? SOMETIMES the ONLY worse thing than listening is not listening? 

This comes across as insufferably arrogant; the man who knows all the answers condescending to take notice of his inferiors for once. If he knows all the answers then the current performance of the UK economy suggests that he is not very good at applying them in practice. And who exactly is he not listening to? His civil service advisers in the Treasury, his cabinet colleagues and coalition partners, experts in the tax system who have far longer experience of matters fiscal than he does?

I had cynically thought that every utterance of a senior politician was cleared in advance by a legion of spin doctors, but I was clearly wrong, as I cannot believe that such a crass comment would have survived even the most cursory scrutiny. I have severe doubts about the judgement of anyone who doubts the merit of listening, and indeed dismisses it as often being the worst of all available options, and that is worrying when the man in question is in charge of the immediate destiny of the UK economy at a time of global financial crisis.

In view of some of his ill-judged tax changes, I think the best thing that the Chancellor could do is take and heed some expert advice. But then he won;’t be listening to me, will he?

 

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