2007 - 2021

Confederation of British Incoherence

imageThe CBI has reversed its decision to become a registered campaigner against Scottish independence with the Electoral Commission. The scale of the CBI’s failure in terms of professional governance, administrative ineptitude or the managerial incompetence required to produce such a volte face could provide a raft of juicy potential Business School case-studies: after all, what we have had from John Cridland, Director-General of the CBI in explanation of this abject failure  is a series of Grade One blunders in which; the CBI first registered with the Electoral Commission as an anti-independence campaigner, then ‘nullified’ its initial registration; was obliged to acknowledge that it made an “honest mistake”, then revealed that the registration was made by a “junior” member of staff (in London) who did not possess the authority to register, did not know that he [or she?] did not have the authority, and did not seek any higher authority.

Cridland seeks to explain the nature of the problem in a Daily Telegraph blog by Ben Riley-Smith (Saturday, 26th April). In his interview Cridland says: “What’s happened this week is that our political impartiality has been questioned. It appears that we have changed our position, changed our role, are looking to do something different going forward. We are not. We have not changed our role. That was never the purpose of registering for the Electoral Commission”. It would be fairer to say that the CBI transparently does not understand either what its role is, nor the nature of the real problem; the CBI is obtuse, and like too many of Britain’s larger institutions, possesses absolutely no capacity for self-awareness. Cridland goes on to claim that “We’re not campaigning in the referendum. We’re not a single issue group set up because of the referendum. We’re not a political party”. But of course everyone can see that they are campaigning in the referendum. Now in a deep hole, Cridland just goes on digging in the best Unionist tradition.

He argues: “The decision to register was not done with the CBI’s normal corporate governance procedures because it was seen as an operational compliance issue. It didn’t receive the legal advice it should have done and it wasn’t signed off in an approved way … I did not okay the decision. The CBI’s leadership did not okay the decision. There was no senior executive involvement in the decision”.

Whatever this is intended to look like, this haplessness does not have the merit of an excuse; it is rather a (no doubt unconscious) revelation of the CBI’s profound ignorance, laxity or indifference at the highest levels of the institution regarding the great British constitutional issue of Scotland’s place in the Union – or perhaps all three; for only ignorance or indifference could produce the revealing additional information that the Scottish referendum could conceivably be seen anywhere in the CBI as a mere “operational compliance issue”. Indeed Cridland does not seem, even now, to understand that the CBI had changed its role; that indeed it was involved in a campaign, that campaigning is not restricted to single-issue groups or political parties and emphatically that its changed role is not avoided by the claim to be British, a kind of Potteresque Union-flag ‘invisibility cloak’ that renders it immune from being seen as campaigning, or showing bias; and therefore by a mere rhetorical device Cridland can miraculously render the CBI above the fray by the mere ploy of claiming to be British.

For the avoidance of doubt, scapegoating a junior London-office manager does not cut the governance mustard. The ritual repetition of the magic word “British” by ideological Unionists does not automatically render their opinion ‘impartial’. The idea that simply being “British” provides every eccentric institution ( that has outlived its now recondite purpose), with a special ability that allows Unionists simultaneously to be impartial observers, activists and arbiters as to partiality in their own case, is not especially unusual in a Britain today of broken banks, unusable regulation, industrial-scale tax avoidance and failed institutions; but it remains patently absurd.  The CBI has not only lost the plot, but the characters and the text.

Cridland’s problem is compounded by the ineptitude of Better Together, which in an extraordinary non-sequitur said of the CBI policy meltdown: “The Electoral Commission must urgently provide clear advice to organisations on whether or not they should register. Whether it’s business, civil society, or nationalist organisations like Business for Scotland, there should be clarity about registration”.

By the time we have finished with this issue Unionism will no doubt find that the real blame for Unionist incompetence actually lies with the Electoral Commission. Meanwhile the real problem for Cridland, the CBI, Better Together and indeed only too many Unionists across Britain, is much more fundamental than the concatenation of operational blunders that Cridland feebly lists in expiation of failure. The CBI has quite clearly not addressed the Scottish referendum with the seriousness, the attention, the grasp of the underlying issues that might have led it to realise something untoward was likely to happen to a gathering list of institutions including the BBC, STV, private companies and great universities that were obliged to leave or suspend CBI membership to protect their impartiality. It could have figured that out by inspecting the CBI list of members and reflecting momentarily on the likely approach of these members to the CBI stance and their own commitment to the principle of “impartiality”. But why would it? Clearly the CBI did not need to address the principle: for the CBI is British; therefore it is impartial.

This is Unionism’s deep and entrenched problem. Unionists do not understand the complex, elaborate, consensual nature of the Union or what has actually held it together. Unionists do not do consensus; their Union is simple, naive and profoundly wrong-headed; a centralised London-centric British State. The failure of Better Together to ‘rise to the occasion’ is thus a function of Unionists’ failure to understand the real nature of what they believe in. Bewildered, frustrated and uncomprehending about what is happening to their unconsidered, confused, ill-thought-through verities; Unionists have replaced argument with resentment; facts with accusations; debate with hectoring. Nevertheless it is worth remembering that modern Unionists are not to be blamed, but pitied. They have long outlived the world they yearn to inhabit. It does not exist; it probably never did.

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  1. Auld Rock says:

    And they (CBI) are supposed to offer guidance on sound management to its member companies. I think I would be asking for my money back after this cock-up!!!

    Auld Rock

  2. It would be good to see the CBI covering letter and job title of the “junior” person who signed the paperwork.

    I remember from my Company Law exams (long, long ago as part of a financial qualification) something about apparent (or ostensible) authority and a company possibly making a representation that the person has authority to act.

    Were the Electoral Commission wrong to accept the application? Shouldn’t they have noticed that a “junior” person had completed the paperwork? The CBI after all is fairly well known.

    It seems to me that the CBI are simply trying to bully the Electoral Commission into nullifying their application. The scapegoating of an alleged “junior” person is simply the use of a get out of jail free card to hide their incompetence and total lack of forward thinking.

    The Electoral Commission should make public all their deliberations on this.

  3. Chris Welton says:

    “This is Unionism’s deep and entrenched problem. . . . ” I know that I shall never read a more perfect analysis of unionism (small ‘u’).

    Thank you

  4. Walte Masson says:

    Not a very good well organised company when a green hand can de what he wants, just like these arrogant westminster politicans , cant see scotland ruling themselves, but sorry you will just hiv ta pit up we us , as we have been forced ta being used as the establishment,s guinea pigs for the last 300 years ?

  5. Do the C.B.I think oor heids button up the back? In their first press release the said that the decision to register with the E.C was taken by the Scottish council of their organisation, after consultation with it’s members. Now it’s a wee boy did the dirty deed. Well, at least they are following the unionst mantra. Tell lies, and hope you don’t get found out. Now their Scottish director has decided to step down, no doubt to spend more time with his family. No wonder the bookies odds are nearly at evens. The better together campaign, the gift that keeps on giving.

  6. yerkitbreeks says:

    Excoriating – beautifully presented.

  7. benmadigan says:

    Great article John – expressed very clearly what a lot of us have long been thinking.
    I have re-blogged it, (probably not properly) with a few pics http://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/no-more-rule-britannia/

  8. daibhidhdeux says:

    Philosophy 101 assignment:

    “[T]he CBI is British; therefore it is impartial.” Discuss.

    1. Dr JM Mackintosh says:

      Very good article – John. Many thanks.

      Do you think that the newly impartial CBI boss, John Cridland should have removed his post from their website before making that statement. Their incompetence knows no bounds.


      What a complete liar and hypocrite. Completely discredited – he should resign now.

      Here is the rest of the CBI impartial advice from their “fact sheets” with barely a true fact to be seen…


      This story is not over yet and will run and run. Just Great.

      1. John S Warren says:

        Thank you for your very interesting first link to Cridland’s blog; which first appeared in the Huffington Post under the politically impartial headline “The SNP’s Economic Plan for Independence Just Doesn’t Add Up”.

        Cridland’s capacity for self promotion on the CBI website is impressive; a blog, a photograph, a profile, a link to more Cridland article,s and a little quotation from what the CBI clearly believes are his jewel-like insights, presented as if an excerpt from de La Rochefoucauld’s Maxims (all of the above Cridland-fest achieved on a single CBI webpage): such as this insight; “the Scottish Government has failed to provide a coherent vision for how an independent Scotland would be better off'”. Well, Mr Cridland (whose CBI profile ironically demonstrates that he has no business experience whatsoever outside a career as a CBI apparatchik), we now know is the leading CBI expert on the problem of ‘coherence’.

  9. Illy says:

    Considering the CBI’s general stance, registering with the EC seems like an honest thing to do.

    I don’t think withdrawing that registration should bring many back, they’re not impartial, they’re just pretending to be.

  10. Barontorc says:

    So, an office junior ‘person’ somewhere in London ‘decided’, off their own back, to do what CBI Scotland’s Director Iain McMillan had already told him/her to do and went ahead and did it. Now, the big-boy’s CBI in Londonshire, who haven’t a clue about the referendum, or Scotland, because they’ve been listening all along to Iain McMillan, go seriously loony-tunes and as the sh*t hits the fan big-time McMillan announces he’s hanging up his always perfectly polished ‘unionist’ boots, presumably because it’s time to go out to grass with a nice package and not that he’s a known duffer caught red, white and blue handed, but getting a golden parachute for his less-than-sterling efforts anyway.

    If I was associated in any way,shape or form with such an organisation, which takes my money to do a job, then intends to set about it as they have, I’d be long-since a past contributing member. Dump them.

  11. erruanne says:

    Reblogged this on bonningtonmill and commented:
    The CBI and the British State

  12. Fortbill says:

    Enter your comment here…

    So we now have confirmation of what was blatantly obvious even to the most blinkered, the CBI and the BBC are campaigning for the anti-independence side. But that’s not the end of the story the electoral commission must now decide if the notification can be withdrawn, so it is the EC credibility that is now under scrutiny. How can they possible allow the withdrawal of the notification? The evidence is clear and unambiguous the CBI have claimed that they consulted their Scottish members before the made the notification (even though the clearly didn’t) so the move has been planned and premeditated. If the EC are to allow this withdrawal the it is the impartiality of the EC that is also under doubt.

    1. Barontorc says:

      I have always had doubts with the EC given their wholescale support from the BT side and I’m not reassured in anyway over the Ian Taylor ‘blood tainted’ donations being allowed or now the EC’s silence over these clear as day BBC and CBI anti-independence shennanigans. I hope the YES camp is up to forcing the EC to do it’s job.

  13. Wee Shuggy says:

    Just watched Cleggy’s speech to the Scottish CBI Future Of The Union Speech. Hah! hah! hah!, whit a blether he is. He proposes that the Scottish parliament, within the confines of the UK, can raise it’s own taxes by up to 50%.. That’s really generous yes?. That means we get half our tax and Westminster gets the other half. Hmmmm. Why bother with half when we can have it all and they greedy shower in Westminster get nowt. Mind you, he got the facts of Nation hood right and was politically correct when referring to Britain. More than I can say about his neebor Georgie boy in his speech to the CBI. According to Ossie boy, Britain is a Nation. Funny that I thought it was an Island, the UK was a country and Scotland,Wales and England were Nations. Must tell my Geography teacher I want my education fees back.

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