We are all familiar with fairy tales; their durability springs from the universal truths about human nature that the stories reveal. But how well would these stories translate to the public sector – and people’s behaviour in business in general?

‘The giant is big business, Jack is the young ambitious chief executive and those selling the magic beans are management consultants’

In view of the current concerns about the lack of ethics in business, what do we think of Jack (of beanstalk fame), who finds his happy-ever-after by breaking and entry, stealing someone’s valuables and then murdering them? In that tale, the giant is big business, Jack is the young ambitious chief executive and those selling the magic beans are management consultants.

Or how about Goldilocks, who could be seen as an enthusiastic Ofsted inspector, while the three bears are an oversized inner city comprehensive, an ultra-modern academy and a friendly community school?

Red Riding Hood would represent the public sector, for whom the woodsman with the axe doesn’t arrive in time to save from the wolf: the private sector.

Three little pigs

The wolf was, at best, a conman, but Red Riding Hood was incredibly naive. Don’t those who use cheap building materials and build substandard properties deserve to have them demolished?

The three little pigs are housing associations, two of which try and cut costs and circumnavigate building regulations with predictable results, but eventually merge to become one much more solid organisation. 

The Pied Piper is a German computer software company brought in by the previous government to provide an all singing, all dancing NHS system. And it works. But a dispute over the contract has tragic consequences. He certainly had a strong moral case, whether or not it rested on a verbal contract. But that can’t justify what he did.

Sleeping Beauty was a princess and, as such, rather high maintenance. Nevertheless, the people loved her. But there was one person in a position of power who had an all consuming jealousy and sought to do her harm. The plan was, however, thwarted, and instead of being killed off, she was said to be asleep, just waiting for the right person to reawaken her.

I have never found all that “she’s just sleeping” very convincing and I have always worried about what type of world she would wake up to find.