Sam Davies

Speaking out against wrong-doing

It was only when I started writing today’s blog that I discovered the often-used saying, attributed to Edmund Burke – “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – was in fact never uttered by him. But while the attribution may be inaccurate, the sentiment is still correct.

You may have seen it used in relation to the awful situation in Ukraine. But there’s a local story where it’s also highly relevant – the ‘Farmgate’ investigation which was finally published this week by the County Council.

I’m not going to retell the story here. It has been diligently pursued for years by outstanding local journalist John Elworthy, Editor of the Cambs Times, and I’d encourage you to read his totally damning summing-up in full.

I witnessed Cllr Hickford in action a few times back in 2017/18 at meetings connected to the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s CSET project. I particularly remember one meeting where he took a hugely aggressive line towards a consultant speaking on behalf of the GCP. It felt uncomfortable to watch and I was surprised that this was apparently culturally acceptable for a senior member of a local authority.

I even remember asking the consultant afterwards if she was OK, because I was so struck by the hectoring, demeaning tone he had taken towards her.

But I didn’t raise a complaint. I didn’t think it was my business.

I thought someone else (more senior, or closer to the action, perhaps?) would deal with it.

But definitely someone else.

I don’t think I would make that mistake another time.

More than anything, events this week remind us that it is all of our business to speak out against wrong-doing and to refuse to be complicit in bullying. And we need leaders who recognise that they must take responsibility for their own actions and those of their subordinates. Locally and globally, let’s hope for better things.


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Sam Davies

4 comments

  • I have worked with several corporate psychopaths. It is very difficult to confront them at times but their destructive behaviour ultimately leads to their downfall. Unfortunately they can ruin the lives of more reasonable folk and usually are bad news for the performance of the company they are working for. I came across one person who used their behaviour to get booted out and win compensation from employers on more than one occasion.

    I have seen several ways of fighting against them but strong and professional leadership from the top of the organisation is the key so they can be dealt with effectively.

    Keep up the good work.

  • I found this struck a chord with me, I am relatively new to living and working in Cambridge. I have visited for 20 years prior to living here as a young adult. As a visitor is always seemed such an affluent, vibrant small City with lots to do and see. Living here I have been amazed by the differences in income, housing and cost to live here. Overall the positives and people have outweighed the negatives even during a pandemic.
    But I have never come across a culture so strong where those with small or large power disrespect and behave in a way that seems to be normal to them, which in other areas would not be acceptable and they would be called out for bullying.
    I have met and now have my family here, new friends, positive networks, work, study and volunteering opportunities which enhance my life yet I am left wondering why Cambridge is like no where else? In that some here with power/influence or have high income appear to value the protection of image, business and property prices putting these first before fair play, consideration and caring of the community around you.
    “Organisations appear to be remarkably poor at either preventing or providing effective protection from bullying (Einarsen et al., 2011; Hoel, 2013; Hurley et al. 2016; Klein and Martin, 2011; Rayner and McIvor, 2008; Tuckey et al., 2018; Vickers, 2012).”
    “People who “do nothing” are making this choice, not in an apolitical way, but precisely the opposite, because the power of the perpetrator or the organisation or both is perceived to be too great. Many people accounts reveal fears of repercussion, reprisals, fears of being labelled as a nuisance or a whistle blower, fear of looking foolish or fear of loosing their job or accommodation (Caponecchia and Wyatt, 2011; Ferris, 2004; Hodgins et al., 2018; Lewis, 2004; Mannix McNamara et al., 2017; Rayner and McIvor, 2008).
    I feel from my short time in Cambridge I agree with “It is certainly not apathy that explains non-response – more often than not it is fear and/or futility.”

  • The Cambs Times article stated: “Ostensibly the report deals with the former councillor’s acquisition of a county farms estate tenancy of Manor Farm, Girton near Cambridge. And it produces compelling evidence of how Hickford used his position as a councillor to gain preferential treatment.”

    This sounds like straightforward corruption to me. Will the County Council be forwarding the report to the police?

Sam Davies

Sam Davies was elected to Cambridge City Council in May 2021 as a representative for the Queen Edith's ward, and is the city's only independent councillor.
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