Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Cameron and Apologies

I read in various newspapers that following then spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May over the Islamification of schools in Birmingham, Michael Gove was "ordered to apologise to the Prime Minister and to Charles Farr, a senior official at the Home Office".

I find this amazing. The fact that some unknown Civil Servant, believed to be the Cabinet Secretary, can order a cabinet member to make an apology is weird and to my mind throws considerable doubt on Cameron's abilities as a manager.

That aside,  how can you order somebody to apologise?
Surely a person who is ordered to say "Sorry" is unlikely to mean what they say and show genuine remorse for what they have done, and thus giving such an apology becomes a totally pointless activity. Indeed, a reluctant apology is more likely to make things worse, the one giving it resents having to do so and the one receiving it knows that it has no meaning.

But why didn't Cameron sort out the problem himself? When I was working, arguments between my staff were fortunately few and far between, but when they occurred, I had to sort them out and would have considered myself a failure if I'd had to call upon the Personnel (now HR) Department for assistance. It meant, of course, that I had to make a judgement of who was in the wrong, but that was all part of the job. Invariably I got the matter sorted out and things settled down. Certainly, I wouldn't have even thought of ordering either party to apologise, either to the other or to myself, that was left entirely up to them.

So why didn't Cameron do anything himself, after all he has far more power over members of the cabinet than I had over my staff. He could get rid of them next time the cabinet is shuffled whereas all I could do, in the limit, was to issue a formal warning or mark them down in their annual reports. To my mind this shows up Cameron more than Gove or May; a good manager should have realised that trouble was on the way and taken preventative action. Even then, when trouble occurred, why did Cameron off-load the problem to a Civil Servant? He's the boss, for goodness sake. Why not "I want you both in my office at 9 am in the morning without fail"? That's how things are done in the real world!

From my point of view, this whole affair shows how weak or lazy Cameron is. He is unwilling to face the realities of dealing with his cabinet appointees and delegates the matter to a Civil Servant. I remember reading Churchill's war memoirs and somewhere he wrote that on occasions he had "to knock heads together" when there was squabbling about priorities. I simply don't understand how someone can get to Cameron's position without the ability to manage staff - more to the point I wonder who would lead this country and inspire confidence if we had a real crisis.

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