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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Science versus religion in the three-parent baby debate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee