Published May 24, 2010
If you can, take a look at episode three of the first series of Yes Minister. We seem to be repeating the experience of the 70s and 80s, perhaps this time as farce? The Prime Minister walks to the House of Commons and eschews outriders on trips in his official car. First class travel is to be cut back. It all sounds like ‘Operation Hair Shirt’ to me – personal concessions and cuts to set an example that are so painful in practice that it undermines the broader objective when those cuts are reversed.
While Jim Hacker had his Bureaucratic Watchdog Office, we have the more dynamic sounding Office for Budget Responsibility – create a Quango to catch a Quango.
Sir Humphrey must be chuckling in some elite Whitehall club, reminiscing with ‘Jumbo’ from the Foreign Office.
Published May 18, 2010
A union ballot has been ruled illegitimate because of minor failings in the way the result was reported. The result itself was not questionned. The legitimacy of the mandate for strike action was not questionned. Rather, the reporting of the number of spoiled ballots was the cause for concern!
Imagine such stringent rules applied to the UK general election, or any other election for that matter. How many fraudulent votes are there? We know some people were unable to vote this time because there were problems at some polling stations when turnout reached unexpected levels. It seems that unions are now routinely criticised for much less – the equvalent of the Returning Officer coughing during the announcement of the results. We should re-run the election on the same basis.
In the past few days, commentators with time to fill have turned to people like Lord Butler to tell us what the civil service are doing. And this morning, another voice told us that the civil service will switch effortlessly to support the new coalition. They are apolitical. The in-coming government should trust them.
I always find this amusing. The civil service is once again proud of its ‘moral flexibility’. And it is at the same time blameless. All the errors of the past (in economic, foreign and domestic policy) are now on the shoulders of the out-going government. Nobody asks whether the quality of advice was suspect. Indeed, the slate is wiped clean and their anonymity is assured under the conventions of Whitehall. Maybe the ‘new’ politics we are promised by Clegg (and, to be fair, we are already seeing it in the shape of a coalition) will shake-up this cosy, moribund world.
At last, the election becomes interesting. I wouldn’t have wanted to be any of the leaders of the major parties over the past few days. And it is still not easy for the new coalition. But we can be sure that the LibDems will try their best to make it work. If they don’t, it discredits proportional representation and undermines their very reason for exisiting. If they won’t work with the Tories, why not just join the Labour Party? What are the odds on it lasting? 18 months? Perhaps the bookies will be giving odds soon?