The unexpected and gratifying swathe being cut by Sir Thomas Legg through our troughing MPs reminds me of how Sir James McKinnon set about British Gas after privatisation, causing just as much surprise. Draw up a sandbag, my boys, swing the red lamp and harken to old Drew ...
Having been dragged kicking and screaming into privatisation, Denis Rooke, the irascible Chairman of British Gas (an unrepentant and brutal monopolist), extracted a concession. Rooke was assured (by arch dirigiste Peter Walker, the Energy Secretary of the day) that a patsy would be appointed to head the newly-constituted regulatory body Ofgas. McKinnon was duly appointed, a diminutive and superannuated accountant who, at first glance, looked the part.
Everything started well: McKinnon accepted an invitation to lunch with the BG Board in their private Thameside eyrie; and over the coffee, Rooke generously offered that, if McKinnon would simply like to forward drafts of his reports on BG to BG itself in advance of publication, they would do the fact-checking and editing for him and generally tidy everything up.
In response, McKinnon thanked Rooke for the splendid lunch . . . and asked him what principles would be used when allocating the cost of the repast to BG’s customers.
Things went downhill from there.
The story has a very happy ending, because over the coming years McKinnon (or St James, as we should call him) and his successor trussed up BG like a chicken and prepared it for dismemberment, as should have happened at the outset.
The dinosaur Rooke should perhaps have seen this coming, because the 'mild-mannered accountant' was a Glasgwegian terrier with the ego the size of a small planet, as evidenced by his first Ofgas annual report which contained 13 (thirteen) (sic) photos of himself !
What a man. I feared they'd broken the mould, but Legg is clearly following in his footsteps, and he's made a great start.