Tessa Jowell and Boris speak as one: London 2012 is to be the austerity games

August 24, 2008

As the 2008 Olympics reaches a climax, interest turns to the London games of 2012. Tessa Jowell, wearing her hat as Olympics minister, and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, both send a similar austerity message. We examine the rationale for these actions

According to the BBC

According to the BBC

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell has told [the BBC] that there will be no extra money beyond the £9.325bn already allocated to the 2012 London Games

In the same week, her message was echoed by Boris Johnson, who also promised that the games would run to budget. A brave claim, which seems to me to risk offering a hostage to fortune.

The messages have the merit of being clear and unambiguous. This government is not going to risk overspending the 2012 budget. But unless communicated carefully, the impression is left that the primary concern of the government and the Mayor is to avoid any doubts of being imprudent regarding the financial implications of the 2012 Games.

Raising their game: a bit of this, a bit of that

Perhaps politicians, like Olympic athletes have to raise their game to achieve the highest accolades. The statements for me, needed a bit more ‘yes and’. A bit more acknowledgment that at present many people are interested in how London 2012 will take British sporting achievements to a level that will continue the upsurge of pride in the sporting achievements in Beijing 2008.

In other words, the leader has to be more creative in handing the concerns of an intended audience, as well as getting across a message from the leader’s perspective. A bit of ‘this is what I want you to understand’. And also a bit of ‘I understand what you are really worried about, and this is what I intend to do about it’.

Janusian thinking
Creativity is often manifest by a process which puts together two sets of ideas. Arthur Koestler called it bisociative thinking. Others have referred to Janusian thinking, implying a capacity for looking in more than on direction at once.

Images of Janus suggest the process is looking in two different and contrary directions. This matches well with the notion that the creativity of a leader involves bringing together rational and emotional messages.

The evidence is that Tessa is less able to manage such two-way thinking than is Boris.