Integrity counts


It is possible that our industry is one of the exceptions that proves the rule. I have in mind the ridiculous ways in which human resources (once upon a time we would have said ‘people’) are being managed – or rather, mismanaged.

Indicating what I mean and getting to the crux, I can do no better than quote Tony Benn. “The NHS held a boat race against a Japanese crew and after Japan won by a mile, a working party found the rowers had 18 people rowing and one steering while the NHS had 18 steering and one rowing.

“So the NHS spent £5 million on consultants, forming a restructured crew of four assistant steering manager, three deputy steering managers and a director of steering services. The rower was given an incentive to row harder. They held another race and lost by two miles. So the NHS fired the rower for poor performance, sold the boat and used the proceeds to pay a bonus to the director of steering services.”

It happens that the NHS is singled out as the ‘victim’ in this story, which is unfair because similar situations are rife throughout all the public sectors, increasingly in the private sector – and the charity and non-profit sectors are not immune. I would add to Tony Benn’s fable; it omitted the implementation of several more targets. Failure to meet the (often unrealistic) targets will incur severe financial penalties – of course! Targets take precedence – performance comes second!

It is a fact that, in general, that most important of all business assets (a sense of perspective) has been lost. I genuinely think the equestrian industry comes pretty well out of this: partly due to innate realism and ability to see things lucidly, and partly because our industry largely consists of SMEs – the ‘hands-on’ nature of which largely banishes totally irrational management decisions!

Tony Benn was a remarkable man – an establishment insider, Anthony Wedgewood Benn, 2nd Viscount Stansgate – he gave up the title to pursue a life in politics on the extreme left of the Labour party. Like Enoch Powell – on the extreme right of the Conservatives – he was a man of immense vision that went way beyond party politics. The two of them and their grasp of affairs, ability to perceive the much bigger picture and to understand the consequences, made them loved and respected and hated and derided in pretty equal measures.

It is difficult to stand up and be counted when it is obvious a fair amount of vociferous derision will result – but isn’t it terrifying that so much of today’s opposition doesn’t stem from deeply held beliefs but from self-seeking opportunism? I am not, by any means, saying that everything in the equestrian world is ‘right’ but I do think that, overall, integrity still counts for quite a lot.

Forgive me for apparently straying far away from the heart and soul of the equestrian industry but in fact it isn’t that far away. ‘No man is an island entire of itself’ – John Donne knew a thing or two way back in the 17th century. The only way forward is via unity; that doesn’t mean to say the industry has to agree about every single detail but surely it does mean we need to agree on principles of governance (for want of a better word) and standards which affect business and consumer customers?

We are certainly going to need unity post-Brexit! I’d like to thank Tess and Chris Church for sending details of the Backing Britain slogans they use – ‘Why? Because it’s Britishand ‘You can’t beat British… British beats the best

We can all unite with this sentiment! Let’s mean it. Say it. Defend it. In the words of one W.S.C. – ‘We shall never surrender’!