First thoughts on the Myners report

I am going to resist the temptation to pronounce immediately on the Myners report on the Co-operative Group’s governance. I downloaded it this morning and have read it quickly right through. I now want to give more time to the report.

But I am going to offer some immediate thoughts. Firstly, I think it will be hard to fault the critique of the Co-operative Group’s current governance arrangements which Lord Myners puts forward. He is right to remind us that it was the Group Board who led the business into its present plight (perhaps ‘led’ is the wrong word: the Board has clearly not been great at strategic leadership recently).

I think Myners is right to draw attention to what he describes as the ‘practice of hiding behind ‘values’ in order to deflect or stifle criticism and protect self-interest’. Calling yourself a guardian of cooperative principles doesn’t necessarily make this the case.

It is Myners’ proposed remedies which should be the real issue of debate. There are numerous ways in which a very large cooperative business could make itself accountable to its members, and Myners has very firmly plumped for one particular solution. His proposal, as well as other possible solutions, needs proper discussion.

Lord Myners does seem to have damaged his case somewhat by managing to unite against him both the more radical wing of the movement (those who ought to have been his natural allies for democratic rejuvenation of the institutions) with the traditionalist and often uninspiring contingent who are there in the Group’s democratic structures. I would hate to have to spend the time necessary to play the internal political game at the Group, building alliances and offering reassurances, and it would seem that Myners feels much the same way as me – but if reform is to be achieved that is probably what he should have tried to do.

I have signed up for the public webinar next Monday evening when Myners will be answering questions. I am not sure it has been widely publicised, so will give you the link: http://www.co-operative.coop/MynersReview/webinar/

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