Talent, training and development in politics

So which political party has signed up Marcus Rashford?

I’ve long wondered what politics can borrow from sports, and watching Rashford’s campaigning on child poverty brought it to mind again. Sports teams do talent-spotting, training and development well. What can politics learn from them?

I’m guessing there are three areas of this:

1) Scouting (people not even considering politics yet)
Scouting or talent-spotting. Finding the kinds of people that aren’t coming through the usual channels. People that have never thought about joining a political party, let alone standing for election. They’re out there running campaigns, organising, or leading in business or the public sector. Do political parties have people watching? Taking down names, inviting people for chats? Building up a giant Salesforce pipeline of talent?

2) Development (preparing for office, support in junior office)
What kind of training is needed for a junior politician? How does someone get the basics of governance, law, economics, stats, science; press/media training; leadership training; stress/burnout resilience; facilitation skills; public speaking… This stuff must be standard in the Unilevers of the world, does it happen in political parties?

3) Elite performance (in senior office)
How do senior politicians maintain performance in extended periods of high stress? How do you ensure a politician isn’t frozen at the point they entered office, but keeps developing and learning? How do they maintain leadership qualities, charisma, stay sane, not get destroyed by hubris? Not to get all Dave Brailsford about it, but what are the marginal gains to a leader’s performance? (Aside from deliveries of secret parcels). Didn’t Alex Ferguson advise New Labour at some point?

People talk about ‘professional’ politicians. But that suggests some kind of extensive training, examinations and qualifications. It makes it sound like there’s a Chartered Institute you join at the end, like accountants, engineers or architects. My guess is that there’s nothing at this scale. Which really isn’t great. We need good politicians — ergo we probably need talent and development programmes for them.

Perhaps the parties all already do this, but quietly? There are things like Women2Win, Bernie Grant and Jo Cox programmes, and great non-party work by Patchwork / 50:50 / Parliament Project… maybe it’s enough? Thoughts welcome…


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