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Mark Davies, who is best known for his ‘stellar’ work at now-collapsed firm Carillion, where he was in the same role from 2011 until its collapse in 2018, was rewarded for his disastrous failure by being appointed MD of Balfour Beatty Vinci’s HS2 joint venture just last week.
His former firm – which was awarded multiple contracts by the Conservative Government and was also involved in HS2 – went into ‘compulsory liquidation’ only 7 months ago in January.
Carillion’s disastrous collapse occurred following reckless behaviour and the acceptance of “too many risky contracts”, according to the Guardian’s Nils Pratley – exactly the behaviour, one might think, that should be the absolute antithesis of a preferred government contractor. Well, any competent government, anyway.
And now, just over half a year later, it seems Balfour Beatty Vinci have hired Davies in spite of his past work.
Davies’ appointment is interesting for a number of reasons:
Firstly, the nature of Balfour Beatty itself is reflective of the seemingly acceptable corporate merry-go-round present in the Tory Party’s relationship with business.
The company writes that, in conjunction with VINCI, they were “awarded Lot N1 and N2, between the Long Itchington Wood Green tunnel to Delta Junction / Birmingham Spur and from the Delta Junction to the West Coast Main Line tie-in, by HS2 in July 2017.”
Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that Balfour Beatty happen to be tightly linked with Conservative donors.
This relationship has lasted a while too – The Independent wrote back in 1994:
“Its parent company, BICC, has since 1980 given pounds 90,000 to Aims for Industry, British United Industrialists and the Economic League – all right-wing groups closely allied to the Tory party.”
Balfour Beatty itself was founded by former Conservative MP George Balfour in 1909. Furthermore, a Conservative Peer sat in the House of Lords until his death in 2015, Geoffrey Howe (a key player in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet), was employed by the company from 1992 to 1997.
Is it any wonder, then, that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – who is incredibly, after an inordinate number of incredibly incompetent cock-ups, still in his Cabinet position – awarded the company contracts worth £2.5 billion?
Balfour Beatty essentially has ‘Tory’ written all over it – and now, with the appointment of Davies, it also possesses the incompetence that accompanies the Tory brand.
Secondly, the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party is on full show. After a report branded Carillion’s failure a result of “recklessness, hubris and greed”, some rather sheepish remarks from Conservative MPs came out of the woodwork.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, for example, remarked:
“It is staggering that the government has attempted to push risks that it does not understand on to contractors and has so misunderstood its costs.”
Yet in the days that have passed since Davies’ new position was announced, not one Tory MP has come out to criticise the appointment. After it came out that the former Carillion Chairman was previously an adviser to Theresa May, is this really any surprise?
Whether it be down to blindness or ineptitude, it seems that once again the elitist revolving door truly is in full swing.
One can only hope that Mark Davies has swiftly learned from the Carillon debacle, and that this latest anti-meritocratic nomination doesn’t lead to a further drainage of taxpayers money.
We shan’t be holding our breath.