I am sure my fellow Enterprise Britain blogger Tony Drury will sooner or later have some fun with the Wikileaks revelations by discovering one or two that may have eluded the press thus far. However the one that particularly stood out for me was the revelation that Bank of England governor, Mervyn King had criticized the Prime Minister and Chancellor, prior to their election, for their lack of economic experience and their tendency to think of economic issues in terms “of politics and how they might affect Tory electorability.”
And his point is? That it is a surprise that Dave and George thought only in terms of politics clearly reflects more on Mervyn King than our leading political duo. They are first and foremost politicians and in today’s world that means their focus is tomorrow’s headlines and staying in office. I am not saying that public service and making a good fist of running UK plc doesn’t fit with their objectives but these are likely to be secondary to their main goals.
That does not mean the current set up has a lot to recommend it. No management book would advocate the cabinet structure that runs UK plc. To have somebody with no real knowledge or experience of their departmental activities or suitable financial and management skills being expected to manage an organisation spending billions of pounds and employing tens of thousands of people seems mad when you think about it. Add to this the likelihood that they will be moved on at just about the time they have garnered a sense of understanding as to what their department is actually all about to another department and you have a system that seems totally bonkers.
OK I will accept that leadership, communication and interpersonal skills are important qualities that many politicians have. There are also career civil servants to provide some stability although senior civil servants are often be promoted based on administrative experience rather than departmental expertise. That still does not make it right.
Having said that is such a situation that unusual outside of politics? Perhaps large corporate bodies with their frequent internal reorganisations are not a lot better and these will also lack the steadying continuity that the civil service is there to provide. One of my ex-bosses noted as he departed that in his four years with the company he had had three bosses, so the law of averages dictated that he would get one with whom his face did not fit.
We are constantly told that when recruiting to fill a role in a business, we are looking for competence, aptitude and ideally some relevant skills and experience. And yet at the very top of the UK we are managed by people with little relevant experience whose main concern is and always will be getting re-elected. And you sometimes wonder why we’re in the mess we’re in?