This morning I got a call from a director at XXX, a big retailer that was hit hard (and unfairly) by the "Fake Britain" programme last year, orchestrated of course by the Skipton Mafia (FIRA, Clarkson Textiles, etc). He talked about not wanting to follow FIRA any more, instead to take a lead in improving safety and traceability. He said that FIRA has been telling everyone that the new match test is Steve Owen's "pet project" but he thinks that's probably because they didn't think of it. Which is exactly what H of DFS said to me too. We had a good talk and he's going to come to the stakeholder day. He said it was refreshing to talk to someone who understands the industry, chemicals, etc. Which is another great piece of stakeholder management on my part of course but another that Bridget and Phil will make sure doesn't appear on my annual report.
I had a long talk with Steve in which we reflected that these people (B & P, Chris, Susannah) don't know how to think. Steve said they listen to our words but they don't hear what we're saying, only what they want to hear. He gave the example of the recent phone call he'd had with Bridget (who was trying to get him to agree to support her requirements at the upcoming FW6 meeting). [Note: FW6 is the British Standards Institute's working group on furniture flammability, that Steve was and is the Chair of.] He told her that he would be impartial, as he needed to be as Chair, but she just didn't hear him. I said that's because she lacks integrity and the ability to be impartial and therefore doesn't recognise it in anyone else. Because she's a senior civil servant she thinks that automatically provides her with those qualities but anyone with actual integrity will easily spot her as manipulative and reacting badly if she doesn't get her own way.
There was another example of this in Phil's internal note yesterday, telling us about his recent trip to BSI, and including the email he'd had back from them afterwards. [Background: Bridget and Phil manipulated the Department's official response to the 2014 consultation, aiding industry in blocking/delaying changes to the Regulations by getting the Minister to agree that more work would be undertaken by BSI. The slight problem they faced was that no more work was actually needed. Nevertheless, they'd badgered BSI management into agreeing to hold a meeting of FW6 at which, they hoped, more work would be agreed upon. Phil's meeting that I'm describing here was to in effect seal the deal. I was of course the Department's expert on the Furniture Regulations but I don't think anyone reading this will have too much trouble in guessing why Mr Earl didn't invite me along to the meeting.] According to Phil it was a "success"; then again, I have this nasty habit of looking a bit closer at the details . . .
First, he tries to imply that BSI management will tell FW6 about our August deadline but looking at BSI's email that clearly hasn't been promised [and indeed never came about]. Second, he records their conversation as if everything he wants has been agreed to but it hasn't; it's been "acknowledged", to use BSI's word – one that Phil should spot as the kind he often uses to the very same end. Thirdly and crucially is what isn't mentioned:
- Why the f*ck did BSI management remove the August deadline from the papers they sent to FW6 about the upcoming meeting? (A much clearer sign, surely, that they don't intend to meet it.)
- Why the f*ck didn't Phil ask Steve what he thinks? He is after all the Chair of FW6. Well, I think we know why: Steve would have told him where to go if he'd suggested in any way that Steve might like to compromise his impartiality, and would have made sure that unlike with Bridget, Mr Earl definitely heard him.
Overall, then, it's the usual half-witted half-fix, intended to preserve their backsides for a few more months when they hope something, anything, maybe the civil service Sir Humphrey shaped fairy, will save their bacon.
Finally, the main thing Phil has failed to mention is why he doesn't want to personally attend the FW6 meeting despite his great "success" in setting it up to suit his – sorry, the Department's – needs.
Because the one big truth which they are all studiously avoiding is that it is Terry who will have to stand in front of FW6 and guests and single-handedly deal with all their technical questions and all the sneaky tricks from FIRA and FRETWORK and Sir Ken Knight for a couple of hours or so. Phil and Bridget will be safely hunkered down in our headquarters and while Chris [Knox, my line manager] has been told to attend, there is no way she will actually face the music [in the event she failed to turn up until lunch time when all the hard questioning was over; something about a "family matter"]. She has agreed however to draft the lines-to-take that I'm supposed to use at the meeting. Which should be very interesting since a truthful line would be something like: "Terry's management f*cked up, are misleading ministers and now doing anything they can to cover their backs. Oh, and at least one of them is probably on the make."
Just to make it more interesting for her, I've told her that I am not going to say anything that isn't true. Wish I'd taken a picture of her face: first, white with fear, quickly turning red with mock anger at my insubordination.
Also today, I received an email from the PA for Martin Donnelly [Permanent Secretary to the Department; head honcho civil servant. I'd written to him requesting that he do something about the fact my managers were putting the entire country at risk and in such a way that could greatly embarrass the Department.] Apparently, he can't intervene because that might prejudice my Civil Service Code case. That's very considerate of him but I wrote back requesting a meeting with him and pointing out that no one, including him, has done anything about my point that the Department's process in handling my case is prejudicing it for real, i.e. because Susannah Simon has been allowed to appoint the case officer even though Susannah is Bridget's manager, one of the people my case is against, and who clearly could be implicated in any findings against Bridget, and of course Bridget is Phil's manager. I'm not holding my breath that Donnelly will do anything mind you [he didn't].