Letter: Hothouse training does not produce good leaders

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The Independent Online
Sir: Sir Douglas Hague ('We must make tomorrow's leaders today', 8 November) argues (as the second headline put it) in favour of a 'specially trained political elite to cope with the pressures at the very top', involving the use by our leaders of 'multi-disciplinary teams' of specialists. In the same article, however, Sir Douglas correctly states that 'hyperspecialism is our disease'. He cannot have it both ways.

The dangers implicit in hyperspecialism - particularly of isolation and narrowness - are apt to lead the usually good men and women who form those elites to disregard the truism that no democratic society can preserve its long- term health where, because of complexity and distance, its very organs and processes are a closed book to the majority of its citizens.

To illustrate this thesis, consider the way in which Westminster and Whitehall (let alone Brussels) handled the Maastricht legislation. The few specialists who understood what was at stake were by and large not much interested in sharing that knowledge with the wider public, who were incapable (they asserted) of coping meaningfully with a referendum. Not merely that, but it was deemed unnecessary until very late in the day to so much as publish an English version of the treaty, and even then without index or commentary and at a price ordinary mortals could not afford.

In the end, an uncomprehending and alienated public will not be frog-marched down an unfamiliar route to an unknown destination and will become unleadable.

Yours truly,

ANDREW PHILLIPS

Chairman

Citizenship Foundation

London, EC1

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