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Azelle Rodney

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On 30 April 2005 Toby Long, one of the Met’s most experienced firearms officers shot dead Azelle Rodney. The following year the Crown Prosecution Service concluded that there was not enough evidence to support a case against him. That appeared to be that. But Azelle Rodney’s mother continued to campaign vigorously that this was an example of a police execution of a black. Eventually, a public enquiry was set up in 2010 under Christopher Holland (a retired judge from the Queen’s Bench Division) and reported in July 2013.

Holland held (para 19.9, page 55) that he had to decide:

(1) Did E7 (the code name used at that time for Toby Long) have an honest belief that Azelle Rodney posed a threat to himself, or to other police officers?

(2) If “yes”, was the threat such that it was then reasonably necessary for him to shoot at Azelle Rodney?

(3) If “yes”, was E7’s actual shooting a reasonable response, proportionate to the threat?

He answered (section 21): Yes, No, NA.

Holland had the benefit of more evidence than had been available to the IPCC enquiry shortly after the shooting. In particular, video evidence allowed precise timing of the 8 shots fired by Toby Long. His analysis was as follows:

(a) Why shoot? … I cannot .. rule that … opening fire was a disproportionate response. That said, there remains a concern. Why did the situation differ from those hitherto experienced by him and his fellow officers: the visible threat of a G36 (his impressive gun) held “in the aim” serving to achieve dominance so as to obviate the need to fire?

(b) first shot … did not hit Azelle Rodney – that said, it did underline the threat implicit in E7’s G36 held in the aim.

(c) second shot (0.22 seconds later). Well aimed, as taught, at “the central body mass”, this is on target so as to hit the right upper arm of a man sitting upright, facing forward with his hands down. Whatever the earlier perception of threat, it is plainly now “neutralised” and shooting be at an end.

(d) third and fourth shots (successively 0.24 and 0.22 of a second later). Aimed towards the back of a disabled man then twisting downwards – one shot going into the back and downwards; the other probably penetrating the rear nearside window in close proximity to E3 [a colleague who was now outside the vehicles]. Justification escapes me, not least because E3 self-evidently no longer needs static cover.

(e) fifth and sixth shots (successively 0.22 and 0.21 of a second later) Two shots accurately aimed at the vicinity of the right ear – in military terms “a double tap”. These could only result in a fatality and did so. I find that E7 saw Azelle Rodney collapsing before he fired these shots, and I do not accept his account that he fired these shots because he saw Azelle Rodney upright and apparently not affected by the earlier shots. No justification proportionate to the essential objective of deterring Azelle Rodney from raising a weapon occurs to me.

(f) seventh and eight shots (successively 0.72 and 0.21 of a second later) Again, well aimed “double tap” shots into the vertex of a dead or dying man – and then after the first and only pause. Obviously, there is no justification.

The conclusions of this report caused some public disquiet, particularly as they came only a few years after the disastrous shooting of Menezes in Stockwell tube station, on which I commented extensively here, here, here, here, here, red mist, log book, inquest, inquest(2), inquest(3). Part of the reason for so many posts was that new evidence kept emerging as the drama rolled on.

There was one essential difference between the two cases: Menezes was wholly innocent, whereas Rodney wasn’t. But there were plenty of similarities – flaky intelligence passed to the firearms’ officers and treated as gospel – and the apparent descent of the “red mist”. That is an SAS term for the way that inadequately trained soldiers (and others) get carried away when they start shooting. Shooting in a precise, disciplined way takes a vast amount of training, and many people, perhaps most, never achieve it, no matter how much training they get. It is not necessary for most military operations, but it is for most police operations, because most – and indeed sometimes all – of those around you are innocent bystanders, whom you must avoid shooting.

In any case, the upshot was that Toby Long, who by now had retired from the police, was put on trial for murder at the Old Bailey in June 2015. A month later he was acquitted by a jury on a majority verdict.

I intended to write about the case after his acquittal, but I was unable to make up my mind on the case. Had Holland been wrong? Was it reasonable for Long to shoot and kill Rodney? Or was this just a classic case of the traditional reluctance of juries to find the police guilty of crimes when they are apparently trying to protect the public?

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Then last week there was a 45 minute documentary on Channel 4, which I caught on the Catch-Up service. It turned out that Long had known the two firearms officers who shot Menezes well and at one point he vigorously defended them.

I found him a sympathetic character. He had obviously found his trial a considerable strain, and he still believed that he had done the right thing. The problem he thought was the (completely incorrect) intelligence he had been given that the guys in the car were armed to the teeth with machine guns which could fire a thousand rounds in a few seconds.

I was left feeling that justice would not have been served by convicting him. The fact was that although he had been one of the Met’s most senior and experienced firearms officers, he was not really up to the job. He was not capable of thinking in a sufficiently cool, calm way in a crisis. Whether that was lack of training or simply his personality is hard to tell.

There is an interesting passage in Holland’s report where he expresses the view that part of the problem is that no one outside CO19 dares to criticise or critique their operations. That sounds plausible to me.

Of course, it is also true that the numbers of people wrongly shot and killed by the UK mainland police is extremely small, so it is maybe not worth expending scarce resources on trying to push the number down further.

I also find it a little bizarre how upset criminals’ friends and relations can get when they are wrongly shot. In this case, the shooting also fuelled claims that the police are prejudiced against blacks and hence more likely to kill them – for which the evidence seems slender (unlike the current situation in the USA).

Pensions Regulator

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[Lesley Titcomb (55), the Pensions Regulator, giving evidence to the joint Select Committee enquiry into BHS. After a classics degree from Oxford and ten years with Ernst & Young, during which she qualified as a chartered accountant, she has spent the rest of her career as a regulator, mainly with the Financial Conduct Authority and predecessor bodies.]

Does the Pensions Regulator have the legal authority to order Philip Green (PG) to hand over hundreds of millions to make good (or help make good) the deficit in the BHS pension scheme? This simple question seems to be surprisingly tricky to answer.

Let us start with a few basics. The relevant statute is the Pensions Act 2004 and the relevant powers are “Contribution notices” (CN) under sections 38-42 and “Financial support directions” (FSD) under sections 43-51 (both in Part 1 of the Act dealing with the Pensions Regulator).

FSD may be made “in relation to … a scheme if the Regulator is of the opinion that the employer in relation to the scheme is … insufficiently resourced” – s43(2). It may be “issued to one or more persons”” – s43(4). But “the Regulator may issue such a direction to a person only if … the person is at the relevant time a person falling within subsection (6)” – s43(5). “A person falls within this subsection if the person is: (a) the employer in relation to the scheme; (b) an individual who … is an associate of an individual who is the employer … ; or (c) a person, other than an individual, who is connected with or an associate of the employer” – s43(6)

In other words, an FSD cannot be issued to an individual where the employer is a company. PG is an individual and BHS is a company, so this power is irrelevant.

Well, not quite. Most people, I imagine, assume that whatever he says PG has de facto control over the assets of the offshore trust which he claims is nothing to do with him and to whom the dividend was paid. A trust is not an individual. Of course, trying to enforce a judgment against an offshore trust is far from straightforward. If the Pensions Regulator pushed hard enough, interesting questions could arise if PG admitted that the trust was a sham or it was proven despite his evidence to be a sham. He might then escape a FSD under the Pensions Act, but would of course open himself up to UK taxation and to criminal charges (“cheating the Revenue” etc).

In practice PG is probably correct in assuming that the Pensions Regulator has no appetite for that kind of expensive and complex litigation.

On the other hand, a CN looks more promising.

“The Regulator may issue a notice to a person stating that the person is under a liability to pay the sum specified in the notice … ” – s38(2). “The Regulator may issue a [CN] to a person only if: (a) the Regulator is of the opinion that the person was a party to an act or a deliberate failure to act which falls within subsection (5); (b) the person was at any time in the relevant period … a person connected with, or an associate of, the employer; (c) … the person … was not .. an insolvency practitioner …; and (d) the Regulator is of the opinion that it is reasonable to impose liability on the person to pay the sum specified in the notice” – s38(3). “An act or a failure to act falls within his subsection if: (a) the Regulator is of the opinion that the main purpose or one of the main purposes of the act or failure was (i) to prevent the recovery of the whole or any part of a debt which was, or might become, due from the employer in relation to the scheme under s75 of the Pensions Act 1995 …, or (ii) otherwise than in good faith, to prevent such a debt becoming due, to compromise or otherwise settle such a debt, or to reduce the amount of such a debt which would otherwise become due; (b) it is an actor which occurred, or a failure to act which first occurred … on or after 27 April 2004 … ; and (c) it is either (i) an act which occurred during the period of six years ending with the determination by the Regulator to exercise the power to issue the [CN] in question, or (ii) a failure which first occurred during, or continued for the whole or part of, that period.” – s38(5)

A CN can be issued to an individual such as PG. The reference to PA 1995 s75 is to a much amended section about the insolvency of a pension scheme, so the basic argument would be that the disposal of BHS was an act one of whose main purposes was to avoid liabilities to the pension fund. The dividends extracted from BHS would be relevant in assessing the amount of the CN.

However, the issuing of the CN has to be approved by a committee and has to comply with the general law. PG is likely to challenge it in the courts and the case would be fairly complex and hence somewhat uncertain in outcome.

One also has to put the issue of pension funds into context. I have commented somewhat tangentially on this in past posts: here, here, and here.

Briefly, the actuarial profession was guilty in the twentieth century of arguably the greatest ever collective failure of any profession ever. Goodness knows how, they failed for decades to blow the whistle on the pensions mess. Indeed, as my favourite accountant (a now retired technical partner from KPMG) is fond of pointing out, the failure was so great that the auditing profession was itself guilty of failing to blow the whistle on the actuarial profession.

Of course, the worse the mess got, the harder it was politically to do anything about it. To give Tony Blair credit, he did at least begin the process of coming to terms with it all and starting to raise the retirement age, although the measures to date are ludicrously inadequate given the scale of the problem.

In particular, it was impossible to give the Pension Regulator sweeping powers. The potential carnage amongst leading companies was too great. So it was a deliberate fudge.

The oral evidence of Lesley Titcomb on 9 May 2016 to the joint hearings by the Work & Pensions and Business Innovation and Skills Select Committees describes clearly how the Pension Regulator works. She did not have an easy ride. For example, at Q131 she faced:

You took 17 months to receive a plan. That plan had a 23-year recovery period, which sounds like it is twice the average. Your response was to “open a recovery plan case”. The fund had a £200 million deficit, which was growing, but you did not think it “required proactive response”. When you go after someone who has a fund that does not have enough money in it, your first question is, “How much can you afford?” You are not much of regulator, are you?

But she came across as a tough and experienced regulator doing the best she could with limited resources. Being browbeaten by PG is clearly not easy to cope with, but she shows no signs of caving in. Apparently she hopes to reach a decision on what to do by the end of 2016.

[Enthusiasts should read the entire 31 pages of oral evidence. Others might focus on QQ 99, 112, 116-8, 130-2, 134-5, 143, 161, 171-2, 174-5, 178, 182-3]

John Griffith-Jones

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Educated at t’other place (= Eton, for any readers who are not Old Wykehamists), John Griffith-Jones (62) joined KPMG in 1975 (two years after me, although I never met him when I was there) immediately after getting his BA at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. After 11 years in audit, he had 15 years in corporate finance. Those were the years when the big accounting firms were struggling to establish themselves as rivals to the more established City corporate finance houses. They never rivalled the top City investment banks, but they did eventually acquire a substantial number of smaller clients.

In 2006 he moved into senior KPMG management, becoming senior partner of the UK firm in 2006 and joint chairman of the European firm in 2007, staying until 2012.

So he was the top guy when KPMG covered itself in ignominy over the HBOS audit and the “Crosby affair”. Naturally as a KPMG alumnus from the era when KPMG trained us both and was still a great firm, I took a close interest and wrote extensively about the Crosby affair in a series of articles. KPMG, KPMG(2) and put on inquiry covered the basic story on KPMG’s role. A further four articles, FSA(1), true & fair (1), true & fair (2) and true & fair (3) went into the critical concept of “true and fair” and the (slightly less inglorious) role of the FSA.

Connoisseurs will recall that the infamous James Crosby managed the archetypical hospital pass: he left HBOS just before the hurricane broke to a job as deputy chairman (ie a senior non-executive director) of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), then the body regulating the major banks, where he stayed until 2009.

Amazingly after that scandal, someone decided to appoint Griffith-Jones as deputy chairman of the FSA in September 2012 where he stayed for 7 months until March 2013, becoming (the following month) chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the successor body to the FSA, except that it lost the regulation of the major banks to the Bank of England.

I have tended to focus on HBOS, because it was for me the absolutely inexcusable worst case, but there was a string of other disasters. Here is a useful summary from Ruth Sunderland writing in the Mail a year ago. After looking at the Co-op Bank, she goes on:

The standard line of defence for auditors when one of their clients falls into the swamp is that they cannot be expected to detect every little problem, and that management is ultimately responsible.

Well, up to a point. This was the audit of a bank that had taken over a building society in the aftermath of the credit crisis, when most of them were riddled with bad debt and the only mergers in town were rescue deals.

One might have expected the auditors to have displayed just a smidgen of scepticism.

Not least because they received more than £3m for audit and other fees from the Co-op Bank.

Co-op is far from the only blot for the merry audit tickers at KPMG. … It audited HSBC, where the books were laced with money-laundering and forex cheating. It audited parts of Bank of New York Mellon, which was fined by the FCA for failing to ring fence client assets.

It audited HBOS … Hells bells, it even audited Fifa. Now, given that the Big Four accountants have a virtual monopoly on large company audits, there is a one in four chance that KPMG would have been checking the books in any given corporate disaster. Even with those odds, the firm does seem to have been auditor to the corrupt, the incompetent, the near-collapsed and the scandal-ridden on a remarkable number of occasions.

She goes on to demand that KPMG be held to account by the Financial Reporting Council(FRC). I was ahead of her there. A few years ago I went to see Hector Sants (then the CEO of the FSA) to complain about the egregious behaviour of KPMG on HBOS. He explained how the FSA had taken a whole series of steps to improve communications between auditors and the FSA, but pointed out reasonably enough that KPMG was regulated by the FRC, not by him. I felt a little foolish since the establishment of the FRC had completely passed me by, but I duly went off to see them.

The guy in charge turned out to be a most amiable former under-secretary at the Department of Trade & Industry (or whatever it was then called). He had trebled or quadrupled his salary by moving to this outpost, and I soon grasped why the DTI had not wished to retain him as a high-flyer. He duly explained that the FRC also regulated the actuaries and was responsible for oversight of corporate governance generally. He arranged for me to see the head of the division responsible for regulating auditors.

To be fair, this individual spent about 4 hours seeing me. I went through everything, the egregious behaviour of KPMG, the fact that a window was now open for getting further powers if they proved necessary etc etc. But it was a complete waste of time. He had been a partner at KPMG for many years before taking up his new assignment and clearly had zero interest in behaving in an ungentlemanly way towards his old firm.

I knew it was hopeless when he ended by moaning that they were in the middle of various public consultations. They had noticed that almost the only responses came from employees of the major accounting firms, who had obviously been well-primed on what to say. Could I possibly respond to the current surveys in a more critical way. That might give him some ammunition for some changes.

Public theatre

Devotees of this column will be familiar with the idea of security theatre: you introduce measures which are of little use in promoting security but which convince an ill-informed public that you are protecting them.

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We now apparently have a generalisation of the concept in public theatre. I met it over the weekend whilst reading the splendid report by Kevin Dowd for the Adam Smith Institute.

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Dowd is in the Business School at Durham University and clearly knows his stuff on stress-testing. He is also no mean stylist. His report is a joy to read. Unfortunately it is nearly 200 pages, so few will actually read it.

The interesting question is how to get top officials in the Cabinet Office and Treasury to focus on it, which they clearly should, either to understand why it is wrong, or to fix the problem he identifies. Public theatre is all very well, and arguably has real value when bank confidence is at stake, but it is not sufficient.

Durham Business School

Here is most of the (surprisingly short, 330 word) executive summary:

This analysis of the Bank’s stress tests suggest that they are undermined by a string of fatal flaws. These flaws include reliance on a single, insufficiently stressful, adverse scenario and their use of extremely low pass standards and inadequate metrics. The stress tests lack credibility because of conflicted objectives, and because political pressures on the Bank and the Bank’s own institutional self-interest create incentives to engineer a pass result. The stress tests are also counterproductive in that they create new systemic risks that are invisible to everyone’s risk management systems.

The unreliability of stress testing methodology is confirmed by their appalling track record overseas. The relentless message was that the system is sound and policymakers were often lulled into a false sense of security. Again and again, individual institutions (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the United States and Dexia Bank in Europe) and even entire national banking systems (Iceland, Ireland, Cyprus and Greece) were signed off as safe by stress tests only to collapse shortly afterwards.

Nor is there a single case where regulatory stress testing has ever proven to be of any use by warning of an impending build-up. Instead, stress testing has repeatedly offered false risk comfort by blinding those involved to the real dangers they were facing.

An elementary analysis of the UK banks’ capital positions then shows that the UK banking system is actually very weak – a conclusion that the Bank of England’s ‘rocket science’ stress tests completely missed.

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[Steel engraving, Battle of Beachy Head, by Jean Antoine Théodore de Gudin, 1802-80]

It is interesting to look at the recent history of officials at the top of the Bank of England. The post of deputy governor goes back centuries to the founding of the bank in 1694 to fund the rebuilding of the navy after its defeat by the French at the Battle of Beachy Head (1690). Wikipedia has a complete list. For almost all of that time there was just one. The last sole deputy was David Clementi (67), appointed in 1997. An Old Wykehamist, he is the current Warden (appointed 2008). In 1998, the post was split and he was joined by Mervyn King (68), an academic who had joined the Bank in 1991 as chief economist. In 2003 King became Governor and continued until July 2013.

As far as I can tell, George Osborne did not like him, because he was insufficiently pliable. He tended to listen to the arguments – from anyone, dustman or Chancellor – and was extremely difficult to sway once he had made up his mind, except by convincing new arguments. The ideal Governor, one might think.

The year before King moved up, David Clementi was replaced by another Old Wykehamist, Andrew Large (74) who was Clementi’s predecessor as Warden. King was replaced by Rachel Lomax, my favourite economist.

In 2006, Andrew Large was replaced by John Gieve, whom I knew well decades ago when we were both junior officials in the Treasury. He was appointed, not because of his somewhat inglorious tenure as permanent secretary at the Home Office, but because of his years as deputy secretary in the Treasury dealing with banking. The idea was that in the event of a crisis, he would be the key link-man between the Treasury, the Bank of England and the (then) Financial Services Authority (then responsible for regulating banks).

In due course, Rachel Lomax was replaced by Charlie Bean, who was somewhat in the King mould. In 2009, when the worst of the banking crisis was over, John Gieve was replaced by Paul Tucker a long-serving Bank of England official who had joined shortly after getting his degree in maths and philosophy at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was widely tipped to succeed King, but Osborne apparently felt the Bank had let him down and recruited someone he saw as a star from Canada, Mark Carney. Paul Tucker left shortly afterwards to become a Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School.

Meanwhile, the Financial Services Act 2012 created a third Deputy Governor (responsible for prudential regulation). Andrew Bailey, another long-serving Bank official, was appointed as the first such Deputy Governor in July 2013 and served until he moved last month to become CEO of the Financial Conduct Authority. He has been succeeded by Sam Woods, a private sector type from New Zealand who joined the Treasury in 2001 (?).

Paul Tucker was succeeded by Jon Cunliffe, a long-time civil servant who moved to the Treasury in 1998 and held various positions (mainly on the international finance side) ending up as a second permanent secretary before a couple of brief spells outside the Treasury (including a year as permanent representative – ie ambassador – at the European Union). Charlie Bean was succeeded by Ben Broadbent in 2014.

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I know little about the career paths of economists. Broadbent (51) did his undergraduate work at Trinity Hall, Cambridge and then had a three-year stint as an economic adviser at the Treasury (so not a mainstream Treasury official). He then had a short stint at the Bank of England before getting a junior academic job at Columbia Columbia. At the end of his three years there he got a PhD from Harvard (I do not know how that works – maybe part of it was that he was a Fulbright scholar) and joined Goldmans for 11 years as an economist. Quite what he has been doing since 2011 apart from being a member of the Monetary Policy Committee, I am unclear. Maybe something at the London Business School? Does all that add up to a golden career as an economist to match Rachel Lomax? I have no idea.

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[photo courtesy of DfiD under Open Government Licence]

Also in 2014 a fourth Deputy Governor (for Markets and Banking) was created and Nemat Shafik (about to be 54 later this week) was appointed. She is another economist – born in Egypt – who has made a career largely in international organisations until she was appointed permanent secretary of DfiD in 2008. At first sight her Bank appointment looks bizarre, but maybe I am missing something.

So who exactly is currently responsible for avoiding another banking crash? I am only too familiar with buck-passing between organizations, but this welter of reorganisation seems to leave ample scope for buck-passing within the Bank. With which of the four current Deputy Governors does the buck stop?

John Cunliffe is responsible for financial stability. In the relatively recent past more than one of our major banks was lending recklessly in a way that broke all basic banking principles. That was, in fact, a major cause, perhaps the major cause of the banking crash (in the UK, as opposed to the USA, where derivatives were more important). So who is responsible for stopping that happening again? Is it Cunliffe? Or Sam Woods, the Deputy Governor for prudential regulation? Or Alex Brazier (one level down, the executive director for financial stability strategy and risk)?

The answer seems to be that a committee is responsible: the Financial Policy Committee, whose recent report and July press conference I will look at in a future post. The Governor and three of the four Deputy Governors are members (ie all except Nemat Shafik). It seems to have 11 members (1 Governor, 3 Deputy Governors, the CEO of the Financial Conduct Authority, a Treasury official, and 5 other members). I suppose on basic Parkinson principles (see the Parkinson’s Law: the Pursuit of Progress, 1958, Chapter 4) a committee of 11 can work, but I am left nervous.

[The four external members (included in the 5 other) are: Clara Furse (60), Phillips & Drew, UBS, then CEO London Stock Exchange 2001-9; Donald Kohn (74), USA, Fed Board of Governors 2006-10; Richard Sharp (60), JP Morgan 1978-84, Goldman 1985-2007; Martin Taylor (64), former CEO Barclays.]

Linda Margaret Homer – enough is enough

It is time to stop the now amply discredited practice of hiring top civil servants from outside Whitehall.

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[photo courtesy of Cargoking]

Born 4 March 1957 (age now 59), Linda Homer read law at UCL after being head-girl at Sir John Leman High School. For those (like me) who had never heard of it, the school motto is “Disce aut Discede”, which presumably they copied from Winchester College. It was founded in 1631, merged into a grammar school in 1914, which in turn became a comprehensive in 1971. JL’s original foundation of 44 pupils has grown to about 1400. LH would have been 18 in 1975, so presumably it was a grammar when she joined but almost immediately made the transition.

After UCL she joined Reading Borough Council and qualified as a solicitor in 1980. She rose through the ranks and moved to Suffolk County Council as chief executive in 1998. In 2002 she moved to be chief executive of Birmingham City Council.

In 2005 she joined the Home Office as head of the IND, which later morphed into the UK Border Agency.

For an account of the disastrous Brodie affair, from which no one emerged with credit, see my 2011 post, although it did not mention LH’s role.

In 2010 LH moved to the Dept of Transport as permanent secretary. Then at the beginning of 2012 she moved to HMRC as “chief executive”. I am not sure where this ludicrous title came from. I imagine it stemmed from the difficulties of reconciling the different traditions when Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue were merged into a single department.

She was awarded DCB in the New Year’s Honours List and retired early on a generous pension.

I have not yet researched matters in any great depth but at first sight it is hard to see anything over the last decade which she has not comprehensively botched.

There is something to be said for promoting people out of the way. That was part of the Peter Middleton story. He was (by Treasury standards) not quite good enough, but he grasped one thing with great clarity: that he had had to have Rachel Lomax one rung underneath him. She was one of the most brilliant economists I have ever met. More important she also had a real gift for explaining economic issues simply and clearly. PM coasted upwards on her work, was made permanent secretary (1983, age 49) and left 7 years later to become a City worthy.

LH was not perhaps as obviously stupid as Richard Broadbent, another disastrous import, but she managed to do substantially more harm.

The gory details – already well-publicised thanks to various select committees – will have to wait for later articles. My immediate concern is to stop this folly. Public service and capitalism are fundamentally different. By the time you have got to 50 or so, most people have developed a “cast of mind” from their experiences over the decades. Few can successfully make the transition to a totally different environment.

LH, of course, came from local government, not the private sector. Surely that is a reasonable career path? Unfortunately not. The central government machine is totally different from the local government one. Experience with one does not help with the other.

Another critical issue is that to operate effectively in Whitehall you have to know the people. More precisely, you have to know the large majority of those in the “open structure” (ie permanent secretaries, deputy secretaries and under-secretaries – although some clown decided a few years ago to ape the private sector by giving those below permanent secretary silly modern titles, like “director general”, “chief executive etc”). You need to know that X is fine, but has her limitations, whilst Y is simply a clown, so you will have to go over his head, or deal with Z one rung lower. Moreover, there is a whole set of procedures for dealing with various things that can come up, which outsiders simply don’t understand (and which are nowhere written down).

So whether LH is highly competent, but failed to get adequate support, or whether she is simply a clown is somewhat beside the point.