Remember this?: “We’ve received an initial draft from the Foreign Office, it’s a very, very long document and our Board hasn’t even had a chance to discuss it yet. I don’t think I can promise that there is going to be a great announcement about it in the immediate future, largely because this first draft needs a lot of work doing to it before we can even discuss it properly. We’re having a lot of conversations with the FCO and there is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge.”
It may have been Davidson’s predecessor that started the absurd monthly propaganda circulars that are inflicted on all employees of the British Council. Mr Davidson, now “Sir Martin”, was happy to continue in the same vein of puffery (thankfully sparing readers news of any recent taxpayer-funded painting holidays or publishing samples of his oeuvres from Santiago de Compostela and other sorties) but in recent times the preferred model has been the sycophantic interview. In March (see above) he indicated that he was busy negotiating the content of the Triennial Review with the FCO. It was, after all, “very, very long” and needed “a lot of work doing to it”.
But, hello, look at the change of tune when the latest interviewer tries to extract an update.
Q. Can you say a bit more about what’s happening with the Triennial Review, which may have quite an impact on us in the future? Has there been progress?
A. It’s important to remember that this is not our report and it’s up to the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to publish the report, not us. I’m hoping they will do so soon.
Q. Have we got an agreed draft then? Previous updates to staff internally have said that the report is still in draft form and that we are in conversation with the FCO to iron out some inconsistencies.
A. It’s not for us to agree the draft and I am quite certain that there will be are [sic] aspects of the final report that we don’t agree with at all. But at the moment the report has not been finalised and as soon as it is we will let people know.
It looks as though an element of humility, or possibly discipline, has at last crept in to the demeanour of the British Council board. “This is not our report” and “It’s not for us to agree the draft” strike a new note. So in fact he wasn't having a lot of conversations with the FCO, or negotiating, or busy ironing out the FCO's inconsistencies. Perhaps the ungrateful FCO turned down his offer of help. Or perhaps the new trustee from the FCO just told him to pipe down.
But arrogance and bluster are never far away. Elsewhere in the interview the CEO reverts to type with such as this:
We also need to demonstrate that we operate in a fair and open way and that we are open to influence from people. We don’t pretend that we get everything right all the time and when we get things wrong we fix it.