Brodie Clark and his manager Rob Whiteman of the Border Authority appear before the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. Clark resigned his post after being suspended in order to be able to testify openly to the committee. His suspension followed severe criticism from Home Secretary Theresa May. The conflicting testimonies promises future political dramas
The story is difficult to capture in one post. The context is covered in The Guardian which portrays the Home Secretary as under political threat.
In the same newspaper, a detailed account of the Select Committee proceedings today [Nov 15th 2011] and further background to the case can be found in Andrew Sparrow’s blog.
The story is of interest for its insights into leadership dilemmas and behaviours.
My notes at the time:
I followed the entire session as it was transmitted by the BBC. I did not intend to do that, but it was gripping viewing, and quickly sent me scrambling for my lap top computer. My initial notes are reproduced, with additional comments [in parentheses]
BC [Brodie Clark] is convincing and considered in his responses. Assertion he is ‘no rogue officer’ Powerful. Indicates ‘a possible conflation‘ [mixing up two distinct entities) between a Pilot and ‘Custom and practice [of the Pilot trial supported by Home Secretary Theresa May, and established procedures in a 2007 operational document].
Rob Whiteman’s evidence started rather badly. Seemed unwilling to supply a key memo to committee [ He] Believed info had to be sent to an on-going investigation. Committee not pleased. RW concedes only to check if it’s OK before complying. Chair [Keith Vas] makes the committee’s powers to order compliance clearer.
Main focus [of testimony] at start [is] the 24 hours when RW met and next day [when he] suspended BC.
Says ‘Suspension is a neutral act…’ [but was it common…for someone 5 weeks in post?]
Says the suspension was ‘normal’ [later repeating] ‘in organizations’.
His statement less convincing for me. Why? Insistent that he made the right decisions.
Vas ends session asking for more transparency [than the committee had obtained from the Agency chiefs in the past].
RW said he [wanted to and ] would be transparent.
A few reflections
The notes above help me keep my reflections more aligned with initial observations [good for transparency?].
The committee now has to consider the testimonies and explore them for credibility. Beyond the rationality of the arguments is the impression made by the two main protagonists.
Two elements within Mr Whiteman’s testimony made an impression on me. He found it difficult to accept an invitation to acknowledge Mr Clark’s distinguished career. Secondly, his explanation of the manner of his suspension of Brodie Clark did not stack up with my experience of studying organizations over a lengthy period. His statement that the procedure was ‘normal in organizations’ cried out for a follow-up question. It was far from normal leadership behaviour in the hundreds of organisations with which I am familiar.
The Political Soap