Around 25 years ago I was working as a journalist. It was a busy and pressured job but one that I really enjoyed. It was also an era when there was smoking in the office and regular lunchtime drinking. Just a quick drink and some lunch before getting back to finish the articles. It was almost expected of you if you were going to be ‘a real journalist’. But that was some time ago and the world has moved on.
When I started working in the police I quickly realised that it was as important what you did outside of work as inside. Being in the public sector brought extra responsibilities. For police officers, there is a requirement to demonstrate the highest professional standards at all times. There have been many occasions where people have come unstuck at work ‘dos’ and parties. It was why for most of my time I avoided any work related socialising. There were too many potential problems that it could bring, so it was easier to stay away.
Don’t misunderstand me I am not a killjoy. I have enjoyed a drink over the years but the times have changed. Smoking in the office is not allowed and drinking at work is far from the norm. This is why the revelations today about ‘wine time Friday’s’ in Downing Street feels so out of step with the way people work. This is a culture that is back in the 1970s or 1980s rather than 2022.
So, what needs to happen now? There must be a change in the culture and the way people work in and around Downing Street and Whitehall. The old ways of doing things are not acceptable any more and change is needed. People expect those in positions of power and authority to demonstrate the highest standards, and this is even more so at a time when restrictions are being put on people’s lives. The saying is that with great power comes great responsibility and it is important for those at the top of organisations to remember the responsibility that they carry.
I don’t doubt that the Sunday newspapers may have more revelations about drinking, gatherings and possible parties. There will be more that will come out because when behaviour becomes acceptable and normalised it will be seen regularly. When this behaviour is far from what is acceptable to other people it is time to take a good hard luck at what is happening. Whatever the report from Sue Gray says it is clear there needs to be a new culture that is evident. A culture where work is work and parties are parties, and rules are rules. The way those in power behave is not outside of the rules that everybody else is living within. This is an opportunity to make a change for the better.