Accepting Responsibility

A bit of a drift away from my normal blogs; Last night I watched a news programme on the BBC (Newsnight). The main point of discussion was the publication of a report about Russian interference in British political issues such as the referendums for Scottish Independence and Britain’s exit from the European Union.

One of those interviewed for the programme was Bob Seeley, a Member of Parliament from the Government’s side. This is not a blog about Mr. Seeley, referendums or even politics. My views, where they exist are nothing to do with what I have to say here. This is a blog about those with power taking responsibility for their actions.

Something I have long noticed is that whenever there is a major outrage about any issue in Britain, such as failings by social or health services resulting in deaths, policing faults, political scandals or bad behaviour by major corporations the top management of such bodies with control over polices, budgets or even responsibility for seeing that the day to day operation of the organisation in question usually seem to sail through. This is not to say that no one is held to account, usually those at the bottom of the ladder are hung out to dry. I am sure that this is a pretty standard reaction across the world, or at least those parts that pay some lip service to democracy.

This is not a call for witch hunts of those at the top, or a call for those lower down the ladder to escape censor when it is deserved. It is a call for accepting responsibility for your actions, or those of others you are responsible for, commensurate to your position. The ultimate example of this was the 2008 financial crash. We had, by average standards, massively remunerated individuals controlling the flows of billions of dollars across the world who justified their excesses by claiming superior decision and/or risk taking skills. The term ‘master’s of the universe’ was widely used. Yet when the crash occurred, they washed their hands of it, ‘you can’t blame us, we couldn’t see it coming, we’re just ordinary individuals.’

I could give numerous other examples. I recall being a young police officer in the U.K. when a senior officer informed us that following an expensive consultants report, the Chief Constable accepted that we had been doing certain things ineffectively over the past forty years and that they would now change. Apart from the fact that most of us could have come to the same conclusion without an expensive consultant’s report (although I understand the value of having a supposed expert report to back up your intended policy change) I was curious. I asked when the chief would be resigning, pointing out that common decency demanded that if you’d been running an organisation badly for a number of years, the least you should do is resign. Needless to say I was ignored.

Back to Mr. Seeley’s BBC interview last night. To be fair he was not personally responsible for the matter under discussion and he did not say that previous faults should not be examined. However he was very keen for attention to be focused on the future rather than the past, which strongly reminded me of senior people stating ‘lessons will have to be learned’ or ‘we will study this report carefully’ with no mention of sanction against should anyone at the top (often the speaker themselves) be found to have failed.

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