Its leadership has been heavily criticised and its performance has been staggeringly dreadful in recent years. Am I talking about the Labour Party or G4S? It doesn’t matter. The description fits both the opposition party and the security firm.
This week’s latest saga, revolving around the Labour Party’s decision to terminate its contract with G4S over the security firm’s ties with Israel – followed by a last-minute U-turn – is a stark reminder of the troubles within both organisations.
This situation is the latest embarrassing gaffe for Labour, who may need to cancel its conference now – unsurprisingly no other security firms are lining up to take on the contract at such short notice.
Boycotting firms over their links with Israel is a tiresome story. How often do you hear organisations say that they are boycotting firms over their links to countries with a host of civil rights violations, such as China or Brunei? Or that they won’t work with the UK government because of its deals with Saudi Arabia? It’s hypocritical and borderline racist. Which, in my opinion, is a fairly accurate way to sum up the Labour party at the moment.
On to G4S. I’d practically forgotten that G4S is still in the country’s beauty parade of top outsourcing firms, in line to get the most lucrative jobs – both private and public sector. I’d say it’s pretty shocking that after a string of scandals (prisoner tagging, Olympics shambles etc) it was even in the running to keep such a high-profile contract as the Labour one. I think the problem lies with public sector outsourcing; a prolific array of barriers to entry for smaller firms (such as only getting paid every quarter, which is unviable for firms relying on monthly payment) mean that the tender process is uncompetitive and the contracts will go to the same tired old names (Serco anyone?).
I think this has a knock-on effect to private sector work, as the biggest firms, getting ever bigger from the plum public sector contracts, are in a stronger position, while the smaller firms aren’t getting the work they need to thrive and grow. I think government reform would help return the sector to some level of respectability.