Does Mrs May’s Cabinet decision-making processes reflect a wider malaise in UK corporate governance?
“The cabinet has not discussed, let alone agreed, precisely what kind of relationship with the EU the UK should be seeking” writes James Forsyth in The Spectator (2 Dec) and he made the same point at a panel discussion on a review of 2017 and a preview of 2018 hosted by DLA Piper in London recently.
During the Q&A session at that event I asked him, from the floor, if he agreed that the decision-making reforms recommended in The Chilcot Report after the Iraq war have not been implemented in Cabinet.
Chilcot called out the negative role “sofa” decision-making processes played in Mr Blair’s approach.
Mrs May doesn’t use a sofa, we hear, but neither does she appear to make full use of the boardroom either. But to be fair to Mrs May, is she not doing what many Chairs and CEOs do “up and down” the country: that is to pay scant attention to the Noddy basics of good corporate governance?
These basics include a) meeting regularly b) a democratic agenda and open discussion including welcoming and hearing contrary opinions c) a decision which everyone backs, and if they can’t they must resign.
How many boards do you know that come anywhere near that standard? Few, I assume. And yet we expect our politicians to behave in a manner we eschew.
Whether in the Cabinet Room or The Board Room the cost of ignoring basic corporate governance is potentially catastrophic.
The Iraq example is well documented, and when historians come to write the story of Brexit – or if, as some believe, a public enquiry into the manner in which the Referendum was conducted – I suspect that the decision-making processes in Cabinet will become a subject of scrutiny.
For example, and whether you voted Leave or Remain, I’m sure you would have expected a) a meeting of the Cabinet to come to a shared view on the future relationship with the EU b) a decision on how to address the DUP and Dublin issues and an agreement with those parties c) and these steps would have been taken shortly after the Referendum because the equivalent of a corporate risk register would have flagged those issues then.
Please let me know if you can think of any part of those basic expectations that are unreasonable. If you can, I can’t.