Experience of leading efficient, well-functioning organisations: None.

Experience of working in higher education institutions or education in general: None.

Well, okay, but perhaps he knows how difficult it is for people from poor backgrounds to be successful and can sympathise with their struggles to get an education. Er, well, he joined BP while still at university because his father worked for BP, so he never had to worry about his future.

As for the life he lives now, some interesting facts have come into the public eye.  It should be said that this happened in the context of an unpleasant public outing. We are not really concerned with his sexuality but with his life in his house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea and elsewhere, drinking £3000 bottles of wine with Tony Blair and socialising with the super-rich:

Travelling with Lord Browne usually meant going by private jet, as the Labour peer was not a fan of travelling on commercial airlines. Even when given five-star treatment by leading carriers, Lord Browne was constantly monitoring whether some other VIP was receiving greater pampering than him.

“We would [then] be given the option to arrive either first or last on to the plane and be personally escorted by Special Services. Despite this, John still felt it a burden to fly commercial. When we did not have 1A and 1B on a BA flight, John would want to know why we didn’t get the prime seats.”

There’s quite a lot more about Lord Browne’s lifestyle here. A much longer profile of Browne in the wake of this ‘scandal’ can be found here. While the relationship itself is neither here nor there, some people might be concerned that Lord Browne committed perjury as a result, lying about how they met in order to cover up his use of the services of a prostitute.

From the same source as above:

“Studz booked the entire Hotel Sacher for the guests and we were entertained for several days in a variety of ways,” says Mr Chevalier. “He had Maxim Vengerov, the world’s premier violinist, perform for us at a lunch and at a church service where there was a dedication to Studz and a eulogy written especially for the occasion.

“The final night occurred in the schloss where The Sound Of Music was filmed; it was red dresses and tiaras for the women and black tie for the men. The largest fireworks display to take place in Austria took place afterwards – all at Studz’s expense.”

“The cast of Bombay Nights performed for us towards the end of the evening and we were shuttled back to the hotel. It was the grandest party I could have imagined.”

Given his history of failing to empathise with his employees or other people affected by his decisions, a person less suited to understand the difficulties faced by potential students from poorer backgrounds can hardly be imagined.


35 Responses to “Lord Browne’s relevant experience”

  1. tim says:

    I’m not sure that by itself being rich excludes a person from understanding how much of an obstacle course accessing education can be for people from less wealthy backgrounds. I can see other reasons why someone like Browne might be inappropriate to make decisions about the welfare of a population whose median wage £54 million will pay in interest every 3.5 days.

    For example one might want to consider how much BP paid the cleaners at its head office under Browne? Or some such relevant factor. Note, that I am not arguing we shouldn’t be concerned with how rich he is. Mearly that not experiencing something directly does not automatically imply the inability to understand it.

  2. informant says:

    It’s true that being rich in itself isn’t the main thing that makes him an inappropriate person to make these decisions. It could be that as he flitted from party to party among the global super-rich his mind was fixated upon the problems of poor kids in the UK. Maybe.

    But in the absence of other experience for the job, it would have been good if he’d had direct experience of the problems he supposedly had to solve. In the absence of direct experience it would be nice to think he could imagine what it is like to be struggling as a result of financial constraints. But his record does not show him to be a man of great empathy and imagination – quite the opposite – so is he really capable of bridging the gulf between himself and poor UK families in order to make policies to suit them? It seems like a stretch.

    His money itself isn’t an obstacle. What got him the money – his refusal to empathise with people under him or affected by his decisions – is a serious problem.

    • tim says:

      I agree that his experience of making society level decisions is relevant. And his (lack) of experience of higher education management (etc) are issues. I also see that his past behaviour, ethics (for want of a better word) and decisions are relevant. But if he had behaved the same and failed to get rich they would be just as relevant.

      So I can see that he obviously thinks it is OK (as shown by your example of the first-class airplane seating) for richer people to get better services than poorer people. But if that is the argument I do not think the way it is written makes what you are arguing particularly clear?

      • informant says:

        I think the fact that he thinks richer people should get better services than poorer people is additional to the argument above – about there being a great gulf between himself and ordinary people and the evidence that he lacks the empathy to bridge that gulf. It’s a very good additional point.

        • Mr Danger says:

          I think the fact that he thinks richer people should get better services than poorer people

          Oh come on. He thinks that people who pay more should get more. Suppose you order a large drink at a restaurant and get served a small one. If you were to complain does that mean you think rich people deserve better services than poor people? That’s the logic you are using. Seriously is this the best you can come up with?

  3. Mr Danger says:

    But in the absence of other experience for the job, it would have been good if he’d had direct experience of the problems he supposedly had to solve.

    Lets see, Brown himself had a distinguished academic history as a student, and has worked as an examiner.

    He was the CEO of a company that employed 80,000 people, many of them highly educated engineers and scientists. His company would have been a major hirer of new university graduates, and in fact ran international scholarship programmes to sponsor students. And an an international corporation, BP would be hiring graduates from universities worldwide, so the company would have a very good view of the relative quality of graduates different countries were producing.

    How amazing that not one of these things occurred to you!

    And by the way, he is also the son of an auschwitz survivor and has been blackmailed for his homosexuality. Hardly an easy climb to the top of a company like BP.

    But, as you point out, his house is too big.

    By the way, have you ever considered reading the Browne report? Or are you more interested in reading scandalous stories about Browne being blackmailed by a male prostitute?

  4. informant says:

    So you’re making the argument that universities should be run for the benefit of businesses? Okay, that’s something you share with the coalition government I think. It’s a position.

    • Mr Danger says:

      Look you’re probably part of the naive student left which thinks the business world is a big bogeyman that we are all fighting against. Then when anyone says anything about business other than ‘I hate it’ you can jump up and point and say ‘oh look he’s in favor of business! OMG he admitted it!’

      In reality the business world is what is also known as ‘the economy’ i.e. the thing that provides most of the country with jobs, that provides our goods and services, and that pays the taxes that we use to finance our universities, and provide benefits to people.

      Anyone who thinks business is somehow incidental or trivial to the purpose of universities is simply not a serious commentator.

      i.e. you. You think its very important to discuss how Browne hired a male prostitute but you mock the idea that the needs of UK businesses should have anything to do with our education policies.

      You need some time in the real world.

      • tim says:

        In reality the business world is what is also known as ‘the economy’

        I would have thought that the economy also included government action, and educational institutions and a good deal of charities buy and sell and use things. As do households, and there are lots of people doing non-payed work that is essential such as raising children.

        In fact, households and companies are traditionally the two main actors in the economy taught in basic economics classes.

        But I’m sure you are right that the “the business world is what is also known as ‘the economy’” as I am not a serious commentator.

        • Mr Danger says:

          Ah wait you forgot foreign investors, foreign exports, the informal sector and the grey and black economies. Oh look at me, I’m so pedantic and clever that there’s no need to be on topic.

          Here’s an alternative – do you sneer at the idea that universities should benefit business? If yes, then explain why. If no, then you agree with me.

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Experience of leading efficient, well-functioning organisations: None. Experience of working in higher education institutions or education in general: None. Well, okay, but perhaps he knows how difficult it is for people from poor backgrounds to be successful and can sympathise with their struggles to get an education. Er, well, he joined BP while still at […]