I have often been asked recently whether it is possible for the Occupy Movement outside St Paul’s to turn their protest into a negotiated outcome? The answer is probably not, since some key ingredients for a successful negotiation are missing:

1. The Occupy protestors don’t appear to have a defined outcome in mind. Any effective negotiator will tell you that it’s important to set a goal during the planning stage of the negotiation, or at least a bottom line – otherwise it’s impossible to assess whether or not you have been successful. The Occupy protestors express a range of sentiments – including a desire to change the perceived amoral imperative which drives the banking and financial world and which they hold responsible for many of the western world’s current economic problems. However, there is not just one sentiment involved, and there is certainly no consensus around what the desired result of their protest should be. Recent woolly demands on the Corporation of London to remove “secrecy practices”, and establish a “truth and reconciliation commission” to examine allegations of corruption” do not seem to constitute a considered or practical outcome.

2. Equally the Occupy movement is not organised to the point where it has a representative authorised to negotiate, or even a negotiating team. Effective negotiations depend on there being one authorised representative who can speak for each side, or an organised team who share tactics and strategy. Occupy has none of these characteristics. One might equally say the same of the financial institutions which are the subject of Occupy’s attention. Who are “they”, and who would Occupy negotiate with on “their” side, were such intuitions minded to have a negotiation?

3. This really leads on to the next point, that in any negotiation there can only be a successful outcome if each side wishes to negotiate. Is that the case here? Many participants in “Occupy” appear happy to protest. Protesting is simple, stimulating, passionate and action-orientated. Negotiating is normally more cerebral and rational – and can be complicated. It is sometimes much easier just being “against” something rather than having to negotiate a solution. At the same time there is absolutely no evidence that those against whom Occupy are venting their anger have the slightest wish or inclination to negotiate about anything.

4. Finally, negotiation can only work if each side has something they can give away in order to achieve a settlement. It follows from the lack of organised infrastructure on either side of this debate, that this pre-condition for negotiation is not fulfilled either. On what would Occupy “compromise”?

The Occupy movement on both sides of the Atlantic raises provocative moral questions about the aims and activities of our financial institutions – and it may well grow in support and volume as the basis of such financial institutions continues to erode and the recession and its attendant financial crisis unfold. The more these events directly harm the economic prospects of ordinary people, the more you can expect their voices to be raised in protest. But we are a long way from that protest being turned into an issue which can be negotiated.