Can these men restore trust in our public institutions?

Hopes are high for lasting change as the Bank of England, the BBC and the Church of England welcome new heads in 2013

Share
Related Topics

Pie crust promises, my mum used to call them. Easily made and easily broken. I'm not so sure about easily made; my hands are apparently too hot for pastry. But my mum could knock up fabulous short crust in minutes. So the analogy made perfect sense to her. She would use it about new year's resolutions.

Tomorrow is the day for them and, let's face it, there's a lot around that is in serious need of resolving. The Olympics and the Jubilee gave a glowing veneer to what would otherwise have been a rather grim 12-month omnishambles with a double-dip recession, a deepening eurozone crisis and a hosepipe ban in a year that somehow transformed itself into the wettest on record. Now the new year offers the prospect of more job insecurity, longer hours, overstressed colleagues and pay that lags behind inflation – for those lucky enough to remain in work.

And that's just the economy. In public life we are surrounded by once-respected institutions – Parliament, police, paymasters, priests and press – in which trust has taken a battering. Then there is abroad: will 2013 be the year when Iran passes the point of no return in its drive for a nuclear bomb; will the United States fall off the fiscal cliff; will the sun continue to rise in the East (where 13 is not an unlucky number) even as it sets here in the West? Will we frack our landscape into seismic shock? Will the world continue to sleepwalk into the 4C temperature rise which will make global warming irreversible? Or can a few good new year's resolutions sort all this out?

Perhaps we should not be so pessimistic. After all, history builds nodal points into the affairs of humankind which offer the prospect of change. Within a few short months, we will have a new governor of the Bank of England, a new director-general of the BBC, a new Archbishop of Canterbury. Maybe between them they can usher in simultaneous economic, cultural and spiritual renewal.

"Unhappy is the land that needs a hero," Brecht had his Galileo idealistically say. But this disconsolate country could do with more than one. We should not have unrealistic hopes. But Mark Carney, the new man at the helm of monetary policy and financial regulation, has a good track record as head of Canada's admittedly smaller central bank. Tony Hall comes to the BBC with not just a solid journalistic reputation but having now sorted out the financial, artistic and political mess at the Royal Opera House. And Justin Welby, a former oil executive turned priest, will arrive as the new Cantuar with useful experience of managing complex processes and organisations which should come in handy in a bitterly divided church which has lost much moral authority in speaking to the rest of society.

The challenges they each face are formidable. Mark Carney will manage an economy in which top bosses have seen their pay treble in the past 10 years while their company share prices have stagnated and their staff's pay has barely kept pace with inflation – and for which he is being paid a package of about £900,000, treble that of his predecessor.

Tony Hall has to cope with the aftermath of the odious Jimmy Savile, negotiate charter renewal and a licence-fee settlement in a politically hostile environment and conduct the "radical structural overhaul" demanded by its Trust chairman Lord Patten.

And the new Archbishop of Canterbury arrives as the census shows the proportion of the population calling itself Christian has dropped by 13 per cent in the past decade. And though three-quarters of the public still identify themselves as having a religious faith of some kind, they are overwhelmingly out of step with the Church's attitudes to women and gays.

What all three men have in common is that they take on jobs which have each previously been described as too big to be done properly by one person. That was because they were, in accordance with the philosophy of recent times, seen as tasks of corporate management rather than personal leadership. Yet the public has grown distrustful and alienated from the corporate.

Each of the newcomers to these top jobs exudes a clear vision and sense of conviction about what they want to do in the post. They also know they have to start by understanding the level of public disenchantment with their institutions. They know they must find a way of making their personal leadership and sense of purpose something with which ordinary people can identify once again.

The late US general Norman Schwarzkopf made a vivid distinction between those who are involved and those who are committed. In a ham and egg breakfast, Stormin' Norman said, the hen is involved but the pig is committed. The truth is that we are all committed in the year ahead. In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five, the conscript hero Billy Pilgrim has a prayer on the wall of his office: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Among the things the crazed Billy Pilgrim could not change, Vonnegut insisted, were the past, the present and the future. The rest of us have more leeway over everything except the past. And the future starts today.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform