Yesterday’s select committee enquiries revealed rather more than most media commentators seemed to think, and that perhaps says a lot about the nature of press and media comment in the UK today.
There were many fulsome tributes paid to the reputation and integrity of those on the receiving end of the interrogation, especially the senior police officers, tributes that came mainly from themselves. I use the word fulsome in its correct meaning as excessive, cloying or insincere, not in the sense used by our semi-literate journalists and media pundits. I must invoke Shakespeare yet again: Hamlet asks his mother the Queen how she likes the play, to which Gertrude replies “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”, using protest in the contemporary sense of affirm or profess.
My experience of true integrity in my life is that no man or woman of integrity ever asserts their own integrity - they demonstrate it by their actions and leave it to others to judge it.
The other fascinating aspect of the two enquiries was the way in which those being interrogated chose to interpret their managerial roles, especially in relation to decision-making, delegation and the acceptance of assurances. Without exception, they appeared to adopt instinctively -and perhaps unwittingly - what I call analogously, and with no suggestion whatsoever of criminality, some of the Mafia Godfather principles of management.
The Seven Godfather Principles of management are designed as a firewall against accountability or responsibility for personal actions to an external authority. They are not, of course, the actual operating practices or principles of Mafia Dons and capi de regime - they are designed for external perception and consumption only. They are -
THE 7 PRINCIPLES
1. I believe implicitly everything I am told by my subordinates and professional advisers, and never feel any requirement to check, cross check or verify the veracity of what I am told.
2. I delegate responsibility absolutely and completely, and any failure by the person to whom I delegate is entirely down to them, not to me.
3. I never monitor employee performance or compliance with policy or procedural directives, but I punish failure instantly when it is pointed out to me by third parties, or events leave me no choice but to recognise it. I am never, ever reluctant to blame others for failure.
4. I ensure, by whatever means possible, that I am never told anything that in any way could call my decision-making into question at a later date, or make me accountable or responsible for the actions of a subordinate.
5. When receiving advice to aid my decision-making, I require a single recommended course of action for me to take, even if the adviser has identified a range of options. I dislike intensely having to choose between a range of options, because such a choice would make me responsible, instead of the adviser.
6. I always recognise as mine decisions that produce successful outcomes. I never recognise as mine decisions that produce unsuccessful outcomes - they were, effectively, the decisions of my advisers, which I accepted because I had no choice but to do so, because I trusted the adviser absolutely and uncritically.
7. My memory is strangely and bafflingly selective - I have total recall, usually backed up by detailed documentation and contemporaneous notes, of anything that supports my decisions and my integrity, but I am frequently unable to recall matters that could call my decisions or integrity into question, I never take contemporaneous notes on such matters, and documents relating to them unaccountably disappear.
Since none of those appearing before the committee were criminals, and indeed, were people of the highest probity, reputation and integrity - we have their unequivocal word for it - we must accept that the apparent adoption of some of the above principles - inferred from their answers to questions - actually did reflect their true management behaviour and operating principles, or at least that of some of them.
But this leads me, at least, to the inevitable conclusion that, if they actually did operate in this way, they would have be grossly incompetent and unfit for the high offices they occupy, since the Godfather Principles set out above are a denial of all modern management standards of competence and accountability.
I am therefore faced with the paradox that, if I am to retain faith on the police and in the Press, neither explanation satisfies me.
Even more worrying is that David Cameron and his government appears to either want us to believe that they are operating under such principles, or worse still, actually are …
Since most journalists and media commentators are direct professional contributors, and with few exceptions, have never managed large-scale operations, we can expect little insight from them on such arcane matters - as they used to say in the auld Glesca, “they couldnae run a menage …”
I await today’s Parliamentary debate with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation.