What connects the Grenfell Tower fire and the National Trust ‘rainbow row’?
By Ronald Olden
Demanding that we all be held accountable for our own actions, and that we perform duties we have agreed to accept, is at the heart of libertarianism. That, however, is one reason why ‘liberty’ is such an anathema to most ‘socialists’.
All ‘libertarians’, for example, should stand 100% behind ‘gay rights’. But ‘gay rights’ don’t exist in isolation; ‘gay rights’ are ‘human rights’ and we must, as long they are not interfering with the similar rights of someone else, maintain the rights of anyone to do, and be, whatever they like. When they start meddling with the rights of someone else, they need to be held to strict account.
Thus, we must maintain the right of a Christian (or indeed any other) couple, not to be pilloried for refusing to decorate a cake with political slogans, or be required to do so simply on the grounds that the customer is gay. What difference does it make to anyone, if someone refuses to decorate a cake with a pro-Gay Marriage’ icing design? There are plenty of other bakers who’ll do it. The right of the baker to refuse, far outweighs the right of the customer to demand that he alone does so. And it’s a particularly sinister development when we discover that the customer only chose to ask the baker concerned in the first place because he suspected that he would refuse.
Recently the National Trust attempted to exclude those volunteers who work for it free of charge from having any contact with the public unless they agreed to wear LGBTQ promotional ribbons and badges. The National Trust spokesperson said:
Whilst volunteering for the National Trust we do request and expect individuals to uphold the values of the organisation
She derived, from that seemingly innocuous statement, that any volunteer who doesn’t want to actively participate in a political campaign which has nothing directly to do with the stated charitable purpose of the National Trust must be excluded from having contact with the public.
The question is, do the ‘values of the National Trust’ include requiring people to wear badges in support of every political campaign going, and to victimise people who don’t want to join in? It’s not as if these volunteers are insisting on wearing homophobic clothing accessories. They weren’t even expressing direct disagreement with the objectives of the LGBTQ movement.
Does it not occur to these people that one or two of those declining to wear this item of ‘gay rights’ regalia might, themselves, be gay, but finding the badge or ribbon rather distasteful? Indeed, we are not all in a position to wear our politics on our sleeves, and not all of want to do so. It is conceivable that those concerned value a quiet, apolitical life without becoming involved in politics, whilst at the same time enjoying serving the National Trust.
Following a public outcry which included volunteers and members resigning in droves and, importantly, stopping donations, the National Trust has now backed down. Can anyone imagine any other ‘private’ organisation (save perhaps for one directly involved in promoting the aims of LGBTQ politics) treating even its paid employees like this? This was downright bullying and was recognised immediately as such. This fiasco has caused immense damage to the reputation of the National Trust, but will any of its paid employees be disciplined or removed from duties involving selection and supervision of volunteers? I doubt it.
Big charities like the National Trust should, for all intents and purposes, be seen as ‘public sector’ organisations. Their paid employees are usually people with the same type of ‘public sector’ mentality as those employed in the public sector proper, and they receive Government and Local Authority Grants and special tax status. The only people genuinely committed to the stated charitable purpose of the organisation are almost invariably the volunteers.
Typically, like local authority employees, the management of these big charities are more interested in abusing their positions to advance their own political platforms than they are in focusing solely on the purpose for which the charity was originally set up. For example, a Social Housing Tower Block in West London is ‘managed’ by its residents via a ‘Not for Profit’ Housing Management Company. This, it is thought, is a highly ‘democratic’ system. In practice, this simply means that it is ‘run’ by local councillors and political activists, none of whom have any interest in, nor experience of, managing property.
The actual tenants don’t have either the time or the political influence to get themselves involved in all of this; they just expect their landlord to do what they’ve pay their rent for. When however, they complain that modifications are being made to the building they are living in, which are turning it into a death trap, their complaints are ignored. The people running the company instead focus on their main priorities, that is, their political agenda manifested int ‘anti austerity’ and ‘equal rights’ campaigning, highlighting the injustices being suffered by the Palestinians, gathering support for the Socialist Government of Venezuela, and on numerous other worthy causes. The building they are responsible for managing subsequently burns down and they, ‘the democratically elected tenants’ representatives’, blame the Government for not doing the job they themselves were supposed to have been doing.
The National Trust and the Grenfell Tower incidents are not unconnected in character. They are symptoms of the same malaise, namely totally unaccountable and self-serving ‘management’.
In a private company the management is accountable to the shareholders, and in a private company of any size the shareholders will have a pretty focused view of its objectives. In a publicly quoted company the large shareholding institutions are watching all the time to ensure that there some semblance of decent management.
But there is no accountability whatsoever in the public sector and in big charities. Big charities are guided by their own management and self-perpetuating boards of Trustees. When one Trustee leaves, they are invariably replaced by someone who shares their own worldview, in other words, with someone who won’t rock the boat; they have all manner self-serving agendas which are not shared by the membership and the donors.
The public sector, is if anything, even worse. There is no hope of incompetent and inexperienced local councillors being able to tell whether the people they are doing their jobs effectively. The local councillors are wholly dependent upon the ‘advice’ and decision-making of managers who have opposite interests from either the tenants or the council.
To whom is a Housing Association accountable? It receives rents from its tenants, or more usually, in the form of Housing Benefit, directly from the council, and it spends the money mostly on employing people. Its management and board are perpetuated by occasional replacements approved by its existing ones. Is it surprising, therefore, that the whole thing ends up being run for the benefit of the management? The people living in the properties and paying the rent (or having it paid on their behalf) don’t get a look in
In the case of local authorities the very people they are employing to run social services, are themselves local voters, and political and Trade Union activists; the councillors to whom they are supposedly ‘accountable’ are in fact dependent upon doing what their employees want, rather than, as it should be, the other way around. The common thread that runs through nearly all these failures, disasters, and all the economic waste is a new lack of accountability, and we increasingly see it not only in the public sector but also in the nominally private sector.