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Combining two serious concerns: Britain’s political-corporate nexus and rewards for conspicuous failure


Accident-prone choice to administer HS2 and the new nuclear power plants with the same flair as BP in Texas and Talisman in Pennysylvania.

john manzoni

A reader sent a link to the news that John Manzoni, a former executive of BP, is to be chief executive of the civil service – for a yearly salary of £190,000.

Rewards for conspicuous failure

Though not failing so frequently as senior civil servant Lin Homer, currently heading HMRC despite an amazing catalogue of failure, Mr Manzoni’s performance was criticised following the BP Texas refinery explosion. The Guardian records:

“A confidential BP report found Manzoni had paid insufficient attention to safety and failed to spot clear warning signs. It accused him of failing to perform his duties in the run up to the explosion and of engaging in a “simply not acceptable” standoff with a colleague”.

Before going to BP, Manzoni was in charge of Talisman when the company was fined more than $60,000 (£37,000) for alleged violations in reporting hazardous chemicals at 52 sites in Pennsylvania. Among these were natural gas wells and sites of hydraulic fracturing; the company neither confirmed nor denied the allegations in a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Who you know, not what you do?

Earlier this year he joined Lord Browne in the Cabinet Office. His former chief at BP is now chairman of the UK’s leading fracking company Cuadrilla.

The voice of sanity and competence

caroline lucas 4Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:

“It simply beggars belief that someone who’s presided over such a disastrous period at BP, should be allowed to join his former BP boss Lord Browne, to oversee some of the UK’s largest and most controversial projects as chief executive of the entire civil service.

“His appointment strongly suggests that the government’s love-in with big business has blinded them to such a worrying track record”.

David Cameron said he was delighted with Mr Manzoni’s appointment; readers will draw their own conclusions.