Sunday 3 January 2010


Jenni Russell has an excellent article in today’s Times in which she points out the sadness and irony of the prime minister’s attempt to sell Labour as the party of optimism in his New Year message, particularly in light of Labour’s fundamental lack of optimism about human beings and what they are capable of. She points out the party’s controlling, centralising, mistrustful approach which has let down large numbers of former supporters. Particularly, I imagine those in England who are natural Tory supporters but who moved to Labour when Blair came along.

She talks of people from various walks of life disillusioned by the way that the Brown administration micromanages: a consultant who has resigned from the health service because his policy of seeing every patient in need within 24 hours broke all his targets for clinic numbers and readmission rates, and his hospital managers ordered him not to continue; an experienced teacher who gave up her job because she saw bewildered children fall behind, yet the straitjacket of the national curriculum left her no time to help them; a woman in Devon who saw the old-age home where her mother lives closee because its Grade-II listing means it can’t meet new regulations on space and access.

She points out that the disenchantment goes beyond Brown’s feeble leadership and people’s anxieties about the economy. It comes from the experience of living with Labour’s ideas about how society should be organised, and finding them mean and thin.

Mrs Thatcher tried to run the country like she ran her household, not realising that a household and a country are not the same. Russell maintains that Labour’s fundamental mistake has been to manage the country, its people and its institutions as if it were running nothing more than a collection of factories and businesses. But it has trusted no one to do the job correctly and so, to manage everything, has instituted a series of targets and checks so that nothing individualistic can ever be done. No one can fit the job to the needs of the consumer. It reminds me of reading of the USSR in days gone by. They have been obsessed with delivering efficiency and accountability measured in numbers. But there’s more to delivery of services than that.

I’ve said before here that when the target becomes the job, the customer goes by the wayside. You can see it in education where pupils who cannot deliver good results for the school are pushed aside while those who can are factory farmed to bring in a table topping place for the Head. In hospitals patients’ needs are secondary to throughput. And not only do pupils/patient/customers suffer. Those members of staff who pride themselves in giving value resign (if they can afford to) or work through miserably until they make themselves ill from stress.

Whatever the next government brings, may someone preserve us from another bunch of stupid target setters.

I borrowed the excellent cartoon for the site at :

which is well worth a visit.


  1. Yup, spot on - both you and Jenni Russell. Maybe "bigger cake" politics is finally about to return after 13 years of waste, big state mismanagement and abject Nulab dishonesty. It's no accident that the economy's GDP has crashed back to '97 levels in real terms. That's what Blair/Brown represent - and what they will be remembered as presiding over: "The Lost Years."

    Makes me pretty angry to think about it, actually, after all the hard work it took to fix Labour's last bust. Here we go again, then.

  2. There wont be an early election, so that is a sure kiss of death for a sitting government. All the false words and you tube smiles will not hide that fact.

    At least we wont have to wait for him to die of a stroke like Stalin, he lay all day in his own urine because people were to scared to disturb him.

  3. Hi denverthen. Good to see you here. Welcome!

    Yes. It irritates me too. This time of course the figures are unbelievable. I guess I'll be paying for this lot for the rest of my life.

    They have been incredibly incompetent, and stupid.... GRRRRRR.

  4. I don't think pupils who can't achieve are pushed aside Tris, quite the contrary. More staff time is given to them and 'new' exams are introduced with ridiculously low pass levels. Can't have any youngster leave without a bit of paper saying PASS can we?

    Otherwise the rest is reasonably accurate although the destruction to the NHS with such top heavy management isn't emphasised enough.

  5. Cheerful thought Munguin.

  6. Well, I accept that Subrosa. There certainly are exams that my granny's cat could pass. But the ones that just will not get any certificate... because they rarely turn up maybe, are left to their own devices.

    Yes, I agree too that if we had a few more nurses and a few fewer pen pushing manager idiots, maybe a visit to hospital would be a bit less of a nightmare.

    Mind you, I'd settle for a few cleaners, who actually cleaned!!!

  7. Hey tris, glad you're well.

    In point of fact, my view since I discovered this awesome blog is that the only sad part of it, at least for a Halfy-Welshman like me, is that I love the idea of Great Britain, with Wales and (I would dearly love) Scotland as that nation's beating heart, just as they always have been.

    Wales must be independent, I agree, and so must be Scotland - but not via Europe - but via BRITAIN. A wonderful, British 'confederate' solution, rather than a Euro-soviet solution. Agree?

  8. Denverthen: Hey, kind of you to call it awesome (there are those who might have said "awful").

    I guess you won’t be expecting me to say yes, to that last question though. Although I respect your opinion, I can't agree with it. A federation would be a lot better than what we have now; actually Blair couldn't have come up with anything more dysfunctional if he had tried (and he was warned even by his own party about the problems he was storing up).

    I just feel Scotland needs to make its own decisions on things that a federal government would still control. I don't know if Wales does too, because I don’t know enough about how the people there feel. We need to have our own foreign policy. We would NEVER have gone to war in Iraq or Afghanistan. We would NEVER be seen on the international stage as a mere coat tail to America with no separate opinion. We would NOT want to sit on all the top tables. Our First Minister would NOT wish to be an international statesman... He would want to run Scotland. We are little, poor and quite insignificant in world terms, although we have a great deal to offer. I don't think that many of us aspire to be different (Well obviously that moron Brown does, but he's quite mad, and in any case ashamed to be Scottish so he's North British.)

    There are lots of other things we would do differently. Social Security for one. I'm not saying better, but differently, to suit our needs. Immigration too, and then the Economy. At the moment things run by London, are run for the South East of England. Even the Governor of the Bank of ENGLAND admitted that. That needs to change.

    Personally I'd prefer a Scotland in EFTA rather than the EU... along with Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

    But I hope you won't let our differences over that SMALL (LOL) matter discourage you from sharing your opinion with us here.... :¬)

  9. Meddling is what politicians do, they can't help themselves and it rarely works well especially when it's tied to political dogma of one spectrum or another.
    They really should try stepping back and telling us to sort it out for ourselves. It'll have the advantage of working, being cost effective and meeting the needs of the many as well as the few.

  10. QM: I agree, but there has to be some sort of safety net. Quite simply there are people who would die without for example happens in America where, until now, the state has taken little reponsibility for the health care of its citizens. Unfortunately left to a free maket a simple procedure in the States can cost $60,000. If you are old you get it on the state. If you haven't a pot to pee in you may get it on the state, but if you work at a badly paid job... well, tough. You're bankrupt, or dead.

    I agree there is far too much meddling here, but I don't care for the idea of a state wher there is no meddling. The rich would prosper and the poor would... die.

  11. Oh I don't disagree there should be a safety net, but that's all it should be, not a comfort zone save for the elderly and the truly sick. It should be an area where you can survive (just) but want to get out of as soon as possible because any job would pay better and give better benefits.
    Get people used to the idea that they have to work to get the better things in life and they'll do it, pay them not to work and live in comfort, and they will. Simples.

  12. Yes, I'm fine with that QM. Of course, having worked in that area, I know how many times the DWP get things wrong. But that's for another post. The other problem is that there has to BE work, and that work must pay a liveable wage, and that the work has to be doable by the population. Getting ourselves into a situation where there are no longer jobs for brush pushers or lift operatives may have been super efficient and modern, but it left all the people that can cope with nothing more than that in a bit of a quandary. They simply have no place in a fast moving, modern, target driven, slim, efficient organisation. Millions of lower skill jobs may have disappeared, but the people who used to do them haven't.

    And that's the problem. Every time I hear a party tell us that they will make all these lazy good for nothings that claim the dole take jobs, thus making the Daily Mail readers break into one of their very occasional smiles, I wonder who they will get to employ low skilled, slow witted people when employers want speed, efficiency, and in customer facing situations, let’s be honest, they want good looks too. So, what about the slow, stupid, ugly ones? I know it won’t happen. I remember Brown saying the same thing with New Deal. How many of them did he take to work in the Treasury?

    An old lady who used to live near me (a lovely kind sweet old soul) got through her life working until she was 60 without ever having to be able to read, or do more than the simplest tasks. She started in a factory when she was 14 and worked there till her 60th. In today's word would be totally unemployable.

    That is our problem. I don't have a solution... and nor do the politicians.