The Prime Minister's fatal mistake on Brexit was in not seeking cross-party consensus from the outset and further compounded by upholding "the will of the people" as an absolute when that "will" became deeply conflicted. It's easy to say this in hindsight, but then again it's always much easier to get it right in the first place.
The agenda at last month's LGA Fire Conference was driven by funding with fears abounding that the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review (put back from spring to autumn by you guessed it, Brexit) would give scant recognition for the added value of the Fire and Rescue Service. A strong case was made by all sides and it is an ongoing mission by the LGA, FBU and NFCC to get a fair deal. It's also encouraging to hear incoming Director of Fire and Resilience at the Home Office, Luke Edwards, say he's willing to listen and learn and acknowledge that, lo and behold, fire is slightly different from police. Well I never.
One of the key issues lies in risk versus demand with the FBU's entreaty to stop slicing the Service to smithereens based on the fact that demand is always high and reinforced by everybody else chipping in by saying that the risk is rising. The staggering costs of the moorland fires in the northwest last summer was one example served up at conference to underline this.
There is clearly a long series of case studies that points to a clear financial imperative to properly fund the Fire and Rescue Service. The difficulty comes in articulating the case and evidencing that need. The police have become well accustomed and nuanced in navigating the political turmoil of self-justification; Fire points to wholesome family values and is less than well versed in the subtle dynamics of creating a compelling narrative. FIRE magazine's a great resource in this regard, if we do say so ourselves.
If I ruled Fire I'd bring everybody together and, unlike Mrs May, who thought strong leadership meant setting her path and sticking to it, I'd do that from the outset by weaponising my favourite personal axiom: shut your mouth and open your mind!
Around the time of the 2002-2003 national dispute, I recall leaders on all sides privately, and occasionally publicly, admitting that there's "more that brings us together than tears us apart". Dame Judith Hackitt's approach to Building a Safer Future is to bring everybody together to ensure safety in the built environment: a comprehensive, far-reaching, inclusive approach that connects industry, public services and the public, giving everyone valuable input. Who'd have known?
We, meanwhile, struggle to form a unified, single voice for Fire.
A long-time bugbear of this reporter has been the gradual decimation of research and development so that all that is left is pockets of good practice with no central vision and zero funding. Bringing industry expertise together with end users produces solutions overnight and rather than that archaic, confrontational and divisive approach of creating an 'us versus them' forum: slashing public sector procurement costs against the might of market-driven industry. In case you haven't noticed, in the tiny, ever-reducing environs of the Fire and Rescue service, we're all in it together and if you look carefully, all pretty much supporting each other when it comes down to saving lives.
If I ruled Fire, I'd tap into that rich resource for starters. All together now: "Fire means Fire!"