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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