With today’s publication of the revised clauses, we’re slowing inching towards a resolution of the anti-Israeli cable contract. But we’re not there yet and the biggest obstacle to closure is the ongoing refusal of Transport for London bosses to apologise for the cock-up.
For some reason TfL clings to its line of merely rewriting the contract “to avoid any confusion” even after their own Chairman said the clause in question ‘was completely wrongly drawn up” and “plainly inappropriate”.
This is a good example of the TfL mindset of never being wrong. It’s also helpful evidence that its bosses are overpaid for the level of accountability they actually have to shoulder when working under the shadow – and behind the shield – of a directly elected Mayor.
Here’s a TfL commissioned report which establishes a “peer group” of private and public sector counterparts with whom their bosses are to be compared when setting renumeration.
It provides some interesting insights into how TfL sees itself. But the whole concept of benchmarking requires that bodies and posts are comparable in every way – including accountability and responsibility.
Yet does anyone really think that executives at a private sector firm would have escaped culpability for accidentally agreeing to further an illegal trade embargo?
Public and shareholder pressure would have provoked an immediate apology and it’s pretty likely at least one person would have lost their job too.
Yet at TfL the officer class is ignoring its Chairman’s own clear condemnation of their failings and seeks to blame the international headlines on thicko outsiders who simply confused themselves.
When people target their fire and anger over this at Boris they’re helping some of the UK’s highest paid civil servants escape responsibility for their failings.
As I remarked before, it’s ludicrous to expect Boris to wake up thinking: “Hmm, I must remember to call TfL and remind them not to accidentally sign any anti-semitic contracts or unilaterally declare a trade embargo.”
TfL’s bosses are sufficiently well paid not to hide behind the Mayor and let him soak up the criticism for their error.
We do not employ Mayors of London to read contracts. TfL has an army of in-house and external lawyers who are paid to read them and to flag up problems. As their head consul seems to accept, that didn’t happen here and we deserve, and need, to know why.
But while to the annoyance of many I disagree with claims the whole row is down to Boris and his famed lack of attention to detail, I do think he’s to blame for not ensuring TfL apologises and, if necessary, sacking the bungler responsible.
That said, the biggest culprits remain TfL’s bosses and between them they need to discover some backbone, issue a clear and genuine apology and learn a long overdue lesson in humility.