There but for the grace of God, goes God

When Sir Winston Churchill was asked what qualifications a young man or woman required for a successful life as a politician, his answer was simple:”It is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”
I’ve been pondering those words of wisdom since the new mayor’s elected in Victoria and Saanich came post-election lumbering onto the public stage with promises of “changes” for their people.
Victoria’s Mayor Lisa Helps boldly pronounced her first change in the way things were going to be done at Centennial Square by declining to swear an oath of loyalty to “the Crown”, the symbol of office worn by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It was old fashioned, she said, unnecessary and time for a change.
It was noted the shiny gold necklace, a historic “chain of office” always worn by duly elected mayors, polished to perfection and cascading over her shoulders for the occasion, remained in place. A symbol of continuity of a form of government, historic, old fashioned, unnecessary, but apparently worth preserving.
Mayor Helps appeared to wear it with pride but I’m not sure whether it was for proud, old fashioned, desirable tradition, or because it looked great with her dress.
Over in Saanich newly elected but not yet sworn in Mayor Richard Atwell had a brief conversation with his municipality’s chief administrator, told him to clean out his desk, work out his severance pay and go find another job.
Mayor Atwell’s thunder and lightning entrance was justified, he said, by his election campaign promise to do things differently if elected. He certainly did that and showed little regret even after council issued a formal, unanimous, statement divorcing it from the new mayor’s decision.
Maybe Mayor Atwell’s haste to prove he could make unpalatable decisions with “change” his only reason, will be tamped down a little as 2015 unfolds and his council members remind him that votes are taken on all Council issues and that majority decisions rule not the mayor.
With those kind words I leave our two new mayors – and all other new politicians – with a few words of wisdom from my favourite philosopher Dr. Laurence J. Peter whose book Peter’s Almanac is one of my treasured, if slightly battered, possessions.
Senior readers will remember him for The Peter Principle which made us laugh while learning a few truths about life. Here are two of Dr.Peter’s Peter Principles for people over-savouring victory at the polls.
Peter Principle 1: In a hierarchy individuals tend to rise to their level of incompetence.
Peter Principle 2: The cream rises till it sours.
In other words as a newly elected member of any kind of governing body, don’t get too proud or you may end up like Sir Stafford Cripps, a brilliant English politician in many ways but always emanating a feeling that he thought himself a little better than anyone else.
As Cripps walked to his seat in the House of Commons one day Churchill growled to a neighbour: “There but for the grace of God, goes God.”
In 2015 I hope our new mayors can remember they may be captains of their civic team, but remain single members.


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