If you’ve been following the news on the antics of News International employees, you probably are aware of the inappropriately close relationship between the company and senior officers of the Metropolitan Police. Given the apparent reluctance for the force to investigate allegations of crime by News International, you might be suspecting corruption. But I have another explanation.
Oh, I think corruption at all levels is likely. Officers being paid for illegal access to information is virtually confirmed. But at higher levels in the Met, I’d be surprised if it was anything so crude. I don’t envisage brown envelopes stuffed with cash (as mentioned in Tory politician Neil Hamilton’s court cases), but frequent hospitality and little gifts, combined with the perception of being considered important; that’s a kind of constant, niggling corruption too.
It’s a strategy that works best with when the subjects are insecure, but self-important; and I think that’s what happened. The two senior officers who resigned, Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner, were claimed to have been successful and eminent policemen, but the facts as exposed in parliamentary committee hearings and by investigative journalists suggest otherwise. It looks to me as though these two were not remotely competent to fill their senior posts.
And that’s not surprising. In a satirical, but deadly serious management manual published in 1969, Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull put forward the eponymous “Peter Principle”, which argues that, in a heirarchy, people are promoted until they reach their “level of incompetence”, the job for which they have inadequate skills or aptitude, and there they stay. I spent a working career in heirarchical organisations, and not only do I firmly believe that the Peter Principle is true, I don’t see why it shouldn’t apply right to the top.
The Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner were easily outsmarted and played by News International’s unprincipled executives: wined, dined and included in “high society” gatherings. (Look up “love bombing”.) Being inadequate individuals, their behaviour was modified, allegiances re-aligned, and News International was able to carry on with impunity.
Being elected isn’t quite the same as being promoted in a heirarchy, but the body of a party’s elected MPs is strongly heirarchical. Are David Cameron, George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt really any good at their jobs? Or were they just easy meat for News International?