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The Civil Servant doth protest too much, methinks

October 16, 2018 Leave a comment

img_1583Hands up. I am one of the many. I think that May must go and that May must go now.

May must go before any last chance of an honest Brexit is destroyed and the UK is completely condemned to Remain in all but name.

It’s not personal. I don’t know her that way.

But this is not how a genuinely Conservative Prime Minister behaves.

This is certainly not the kind of Conservative Government that anyone who really cares about the future of this Country would knowingly vote for.

That said, I am under no illusion of the mechanics of how decisions at all levels of Government are actually made. There is a considerable team of politicians, advisors and civil servants or local government officers who have influence on – and therefore responsibility – for the choices, options and directions often presented as little more than fait accompli to the Political Leaders above them. Leaders who are also responsible, but the only ones who the Public will openly blame.

For those of us who know this and see the reality of how Government and the Public Sector works – up and down, Sir Mark Sedwill’s intervention in the form of an open letter to The Times today, attempting to distance the Civil Service from the chaos which Brexit has become, is both untimely and disingenuously made.

The inherent suggestion that Civil Servants only do what they are told, and carry out their instructions to the letter is at very best laughable. At worst, it demonstrates the farcical nature of an executive system that wants to dominate and exert its influence within every corner of Government and the Public Sector.

The executive or non-elected element happily takes credit in any way that it can when things are going well. But it seeks to distance itself and pass the buck to elected representatives just as soon as the self-serving, and self-aggrandised plans which have nothing about service to the Public at their core, go wrong and have the potential to wreck a gold-plated pension plan and the previously ‘clean’ CV.

It is a ‘Team May’ effort which has ‘live-time’ responsibility for the Brexit chaos. And within that ‘team’ there are many Civil Servants who share the responsibility for the perfect storm which is brewing, not all of which is itself is attributable to the actions of the current PM.

What’s worst about the role of the non-elected executive, is that for far too long culturally, the gift of being employed within roles which are blessed with misplaced impartiality, would normall leave any of them directly involved, immune from any form of punishment when anything decision making involving politicians goes tits up.

Brexit being the monumental clusterfuck that it has become, clearly doesn’t offer such levels of sanctuary. That is why we now have letters being published in newspapers from top Civil Servants which portray such ridiculous and pre-emptively pleading statements such as ‘It’s not my fault it all went wrong’.

 

image thanks to http://www.thetimes.co.uk / someone unidentifiable on the Net.

 

 

The EU intended to break up the UK all along and May is just another Remain PM singing along to the very same song

October 15, 2018 Leave a comment

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Divide and conquer is one of those old rules or strategies which has an uncanny habit of working in many ways. It is most successful when the parties subjected to it are so entrenched with their own priorities, they remain blissfully unaware of what is happening.

In the past 24 hours, the ridiculous nature of the so-called negotiations between our Government and the EU over Brexit have finally reached a stage where some of the more sinister aims of the European Union have been outed.

Incompetent and as duplicitous as Theresa May and her Team have been, the lack of understanding of the EU and its modus operandi has been ignored, or at best misunderstood. Not only by those who voted Remain. But also by many Leavers who with the British spirit of fair play, have believed that those in a so-called forty-year relationship with us would treat us exactly the same.

We have all been misguided to believe that the EU would be reasonable over negotiations which would always have been easy to secure benefits that specifically went their way.

If a clearer message was ever needed to spell out just how dangerous the EU really is, it must surely be the demand for a ‘backstop’ set against a ‘backstop’ for Northern Ireland.

We should be under no illusion that this would be an agreement that once confirmed would almost certainly guarantee the break up of the United Kingdom, rather than keeping it as England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as it now is.

Whilst painted as a ‘backstop’, neither of the two forms of this misnamed safety net or facilitation device is what is appears to be.

The EU has a time-served history of using and abusing anything or any term that it manages to insert within Agreements.

Its deviousness is always anchored within the deliberate ambiguity of terms which it uses. It always uses language differences and what deliberately appear to be basic issues of interpretation to do all the painful work for them. Meanwhile painting themselves as having always been very reasonable and committed to some high-flung community-cased ideal.

It’s all hokum. The EU knows that the most effective way to build its own idea of a union, is to break down the constituent parts of member Countries, into Regions or by placing emphasis on publicly identifiable regional areas appearing to give them a sense of their own identity, destiny and self-determination.

They do so whilst removing any of the tools which would allow any of these Regionas to actually achieve such seemingly reasonable aims, whilst directing true power even further away to Brussels, where the futures of every ‘European Citizen’ will be decided by autocrats. A technically non-reversible process by design, where true democracy will become all but a memory, and very quickly left behind.

Yes, I agree that a statement like that doesn’t sound right. And to many it doesn’t.

But many will also remember the push for the development of multiple UK Regions, which included the processes of Devolution for Scotland and Wales, and what without a struggle on the part of many would have seen England also carved up to resemble the European Parliamentary Constituencies – a victory that we should all at some point be grateful that the EU was denied.

Devolution itself was not the great giveaway to the people or an act of political generosity on the part of Tony Blair as he and his Government then wanted us all to think.

It was the price that an overly ambitious and self-serving Prime Minister was prepared to pay as he attempted to curry favor with the hierarchy of the EU.

It was an act completely devoid of either foresight or concern for the consequences of what in terms of our National Union, the process of Devolution had the potential to do.

Devolution and Regionalisation, sold through the dubious lens of devolving power and of creating ‘localism’ as Cameron painted it, was never what any of these white elephants of governance were really about.

They are nothing more than dubious tools to create a pyrrhic connection and public misconception of close interaction with a federated structure of government. A patsy sub-decision making governmental structure, free from the ability to conduct any meaningful form of decision making at National level – the consequences of which I shall leave for you to ponder.

Where Blair and the last Labour Government failed as the EU’s stooges, May’s intransigence has brought us critically close to allowing the EU to achieve what the Brexit Vote should have in one moment permanently denied.

If in the process of ‘delivering’ an agreement over Brexit with the EU in the coming days Theresa May finds a way to leave any question remaining over the integrity of Northern Ireland’s relationship with the rest of our Country, rest assured that it will be our very identity as a Nation – not just the Conservative Party which will be well and truly screwed.

The Welfare covenant is broken and Universal Credit is not the answer when it already creates victims

October 12, 2018 Leave a comment

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It is regrettably all too easy for some to overlook the realities of life for others when  everything is going well and there is no need to look to anyone else for help.

Sadly, this is not the case for many. At one time or another during our lifetimes, there is every chance that we will need a safety net in place for when plans don’t work out quite as we thought they might, and we find ourselves in need of money, food, clothing, transport, warmth and maybe even a home.

State provision of such a safety net within a civilised society is not only right. It is also necessary when government is convened, managed and operated with the greater good, benefits and consequences for all are firmly in mind.

However, our Welfare and Benefits system has and is being continually abused.

It is being misused by those seeking help. But it is also being mis-purposed by those who have been given the responsibility in Government for providing that help on behalf of us all.

The Welfare covenant between those helping and those seeking help has been broken. And for the benefits system to work beneficially again for all, there must now be a new way of thinking.

No form of Government provision can truly be beneficial to all if victims have been created of any kind.

Universal Credit has therefore proven itself flawed before it has even began operating fully.

With many struggling recipients identified already, we should all be asking questions about the many more who are yet to come and the consequences that will surely follow.

This doesn’t mean that the system we have had until now is good. That it is working. Or that we should just stay tied to the same old thing.

We shouldn’t, because the current DWP Benefits regime really isn’t working for anybody, and we are all in desperate need of a solution which really can be seen and experienced as a ‘win-win’.

Now before we get lost completely with how Politicians are getting Benefits and Welfare wrong, there must also be an acceptance on the part of us all of what it is fair to expect to receive, how we receive it, and under what circumstances that help will actually come from the State if we should ever find ourselves in the position where we genuinely need it.

As we look at what is really wrong with the system as it is, we must also understand and accept that if the Law allows certain types of behaviours to exist, it is inevitable that there will be people who will employ them.

It doesn’t make their behaviour right. Their actions are not inevitable. Everyone has free will and can choose how to behave, even when a rule covering that action or behaviour may appear to be absent.

If the system doesn’t accommodate for the misuse of Beneficiaries and those affected, it is the people who are responsible for its design and implementation who are equally responsible for identifying what is wrong, putting it right and ensuring that either good or bad, nobody who should be receiving help gets missed or is able to slip in between.

Why the benefits system isn’t working, isn’t simply about something structural, the technology used or the people who administer or receive Benefits of any kind.

Like most policy failures today, it is a combination of factors which are not being considered. Many of them overlooked for the cause of political expediency, or because their place and influences sit outside of the specific or central theme – in this case the Benefits regime.

The real cost of a Basic Standard of Living is not understood by Government

The greatest injustice visited upon the unemployed, is the Government and DWP assertion that in 2018, one person can live on a basic income of £73.10 per week.

They can’t.

And when the Government itself has set the Minimum Wage at £7.83 per hour, which at a 40 hour week would be the same as £313.20, who exactly do they think is going to step in and replace what for some will be the destitution-busting £240.10 per week which sits so ominously in between?

Yes, there are many other Benefits other than and beyond the scope of Jobseekers Allowance.

But Universal Credit is being sold as a method of simplification by rolling everything into one, when the true aim of saving money will not stop a similar way of allocating money to the very same things from then existing, just under the umbrella of being just one application.

Government must provide a Basic Standard of Living income to those who qualify and need it.

If it is too expensive to do so, those in Government would do well by beginning to ask themselves the question ‘why?’

Government has surrendered responsibility for setting the prices of goods and services essential to a Basic Standard of Living to the private sector

Sadly, little attention is paid to the elephant in the Benefits room. That being the escalating prices of goods and services which provide for everyone’s basic needs in life.

That’s food, clothing, accommodation, transport and utilities.

Not First Class or on the upper side of ‘Taste the Difference’.

Just the stuff that anyone would need to be kept fed, clothed, warm, able to get themselves to a job and home again, and knowing that at night they will have a roof over their head.

Control of all of these goods and services is now completely under the infuence of commercial interests which have money as their one and only god.

Free Marketeers and Neo-Liberals will tell you that the Markets will look after everything when they are completely free to do as they choose. They don’t, they won’t and they will continue to do everything to make profit from every opportunity, for as long as they are gifted with the freedom to choose by gutless Government. Government filled with Politicians who see ethical intervention in the Markets and Financial Sector as a problem because they believe that they have too much to lose by doing so.

No service which is essential to the public good should be placed in private hands or under the undue influence of any self-serving cause.

No food supply essential to basic, healthy survival should be subject to the whimsy of the Markets where multiple traders, agents and handlers are seeking to add one profit margin on top of another, just on one item supplied within any one producer-to-plate supply chain alone.

If the Government genuinely wants the Benefits system to work, it has to find an effective way of controlling these two essential areas of daily life so that once a system that does work has been identified and implemented, it is then not rendered useless by private interest, based on nothing but profit.

We are culturally conditioned to assume that all Benefits Claimants are in some way bad

Mud sticks, as anyone who spends any time on social media or reading the news will know.

But the phenomenon of people assuming the worst of others based on the first story they are told is nothing new. And when it comes to the unemployed, being work shy is basically the accepted view.

The truth is not as straightforward and anyone at any stage of their career can find themselves out of work and having to ‘sign on’ in order to get help.

The problem with the ‘accepted truth’, is that the system itself, both mechanically and culturally treats everyone who comes through the Jobcentre door as if they don’t want to work, cannot be trusted in any way and that they all fit into the same mould as each other.

This approach overlooks the fact that people find themselves knocking on the door of the Jobcentre and the administrative centres of the DWP for very different reasons.

Some are poorly educated. Others have grown up in conditions that reinforce a world view that this is all they are worth. But there are others too who have landed themselves with significant debt to gain degrees that have proven to be of no use. People suffering illness and mental health problems which restrict the work that they can do. And even highly experienced and very well-educated professionals who cannot provide anything like as simple an explanation for what life has put them through.

Sit in a Jobcentre for long enough and you will hear claimants complain about having to wait for the money they are entitled to. You will see others lose their rag because they have not conformed to the regulations that they are supposed to. You will also witness the presence of so many security guards, it clearly suggests that behaviour of this kind is not only possible, but actually the expected constantly and all of the time.

But not all Benefits Claimants are a burden. Many want to work. But they are branded as ‘no-hopers’, instead of gaining the help and support which reflects them individually.

It is little wonder that those outside of the expereince of having a ‘down period’ in their lives take what they have for granted. Then look on and see all these people as being worthless and occupants of society’s bin.

Taking this approach is little more than deliberately setting up Benefit Claimants to fail.

It is not the action of a Government which respects and fully fulfils its role as the representative body of a civilised society. Nor is it illustrative of a Civil Service which is fully considerate of its role.

We can hardly expect the general population to think differently when the system so demeans.

A significant element of Claimants consider themselves entitled to what they receive

Because the system has been so poorly thought through and has not evolved positively in a way that sees its role strategically and as a way to raise expectation from the ground level upwards, it encourages the belief that it can be used as a substitute for real life. For not taking part. For resenting the success of others and as such seeing Benefits as an entitlement or a worthy redistribution of wealth from others.

The Benefits system only works for those who surrender themselves completely to it, leaving no incentive to escape and provide us all with that so far mythical ‘win-win’

Because the Benefits system has been so poorly thought through and has not evolved positively in a way that sees its role strategically as a way to raise expectation from the ground level upwards, it encourages the belief that it can be used as a substitute for real life. For not taking part. For resenting the success of others and as such seeing Benefits as an entitlement or a worthy redistribution of wealth from others.

The Benefits system only works for those who surrender themselves completely to it. It  leaves no incentive for Beneficiaries to escape and benefit anyone but themselves.

With restrictions placed upon how many hours a Claimant can work without losing Benefits, and the process of reinstatement being long and arduous – even before Universal Credit begins, there is zero in terms of incentive for people to take on more hours and work towards self-sufficiency.

Because the 6 Benefits together are so very complicated for one person to qualify for already, the further any Claimant journeys into this portfolio of direct and indirect income streams the less and less likely they are then to leave.

We can only ask ourselves the question if we were to find ourselves in the very same position. When everything is taken care of already, what serious advantage is there to be gained by going out and working for a wage which might never come to anything near the total that becoming subservient to the system and therefore being a Benefits slave can achieve?

Again, we cannot blame people for responding this way when the system itself not only allows but facilitates behaviour of this kind.

Help should always be given to those that need it.

For those who currently choose to be beholden to the system, there must be a process of incentives which doesn’t leave them without all the basic essentials.

It must also encourage them and accept and appreciate that they have responsibility for themselves as well as the wider community. A community which is ready to help, but is itself entitled to see those who voluntarily choose a life on Benefits as a drain on resources that we desperately need focused to provide other Public Services and that they are as such disadvantaging others on little more than a whim.

As taxpayers, we are effectively subsidising the employers of low paid workers by providing the in work benefits which allow them to survive

I have already mentioned what it costs to live and the need for a basic standard of living above.

Yet the conversation and discussion needs to go even further than the power of commercial interests over the essential goods and services for life.

The debate and the action that follows also needs to recognise the role which our Government is playing in keeping wages low and propagating a system where profit margins for large companies are exploding, whilst the millions of people on low incomes are now being farmed for the debt they have to carry, just to survive.

The money that lower income workers receive is in many cases too much to allow them to be on additional Benefits, yet not enough to allow them to be self sufficient. It keeps them ‘functioning’ at the behest of others, somewhere within the ‘in between’.

If we could freeze the prices of goods and services right now, so that they no longer rise, and we could focus in on what it actually costs a normal person on their own to live, self sufficiently, to feed, clothe and take care of themselves, put something by, have a holiday, a realistic pension and have a life which reason would tell us would make a normal person happy, we can soon begin to see the disparity between where wages sit and where right now, in these ‘static’ circumstances they would need to be.

At £10.20 per hour in London and £8.75 per hour outside, without the help of Government with Housing Benefit and Tax Credits too, even the Living Wage Foundations advisory level for a basic income doesn’t come close to what self sufficiency – that’s what complete independence from Government support –  would actually require.

Such a reality where Government support for the growth of small business is concerned alone would probably make the whole thing more palatable.

But the real beneficiaries of this State-sponsored in-work poverty are the big Companies making significant levels of profit that would in reality only dip slightly if they were to pay wages to front-line staff which would allow those employees to function within the overpriced society which their Employers have helped to create.

That this situation has been allowed to exist is beyond questionable.

That successive Governments of all kinds have allowed a situation to exist where the Taxpayer is paying over the odds for products in services in their face value alone is simply wrong.

That customers are then paying again to subsidise the wages of the staff serving them would be funny, if its implications and the reality which surrounds it not so very serious indeed.

This whole process has only been possible because Government has either borrowed incredible amounts of money, or has cut other and arguably more essential Public Services in order to allow them to provide this massive giveaway. A free-for-all that has broken the Country financially and is one of the key reasons why unfettered immigration of low skilled workers from Europe has been possible. Itself an issue which is seen by many Remainers as key to the majority vote for the UK to leave the European Union and the one which they are still obsessively attempting to resolve.

There would be some sweet irony in this if this financial mismanagement had really been helping people and UK communities, rather than being overtly beneficial to commercial interests, private profit and yes, the EU all along.

But there hasn’t, and in terms of management of expectation, this and previous Governments would appear to have hamstrung any future Government which wants to take a stand and do the right thing.

Be that as it may. Doing the right thing, is the only way that all of this is going to end up working right for everyone involved.

The solution

Like almost everything that Government and Politics touches, the key to delivering change in the Benefits and Welfare system is thinking differently.

And it’s the thinking and ideas at the top of British Politics which needs to change first before it can change anywhere else.

The responsibility of Government

Before the Benefits problem can be fixed, the understanding of what the problem actually is, must be broadened to include the wide range of factors which feed and influence the issues which those claiming Benefits experience.

Right now, there is an obsession on the part of decision makers. One which leads them only to attempt to address the effects of any problem, rather than to tackle each and every one of the causes.

Until all of the causes of problems are addressed, the Benefits system will only ever work temporarily at best, until those factors which are outside of the scope of that consideration inevitably change and then exert their negative influence once again.

A Basic Standard of Living level or the real Living Wage will only be achieved and maintained when all contributing factors fall within the reasoned influence of non-idealistic Government that considers the consequences of policy making upon ALL.

Politicians simply do not understand the power they have to change things. They do not see the scope of their roles and they have no appreciation of the influence that they could really have if they were to put the interests of ALL the people who have elected them first, rather than themselves, their Political Parties and whatever ideas or interests sit around that self-serving mix.

It will not matter how simple or complicated existing of new systems like Universal Credit might be. If they fail to consider and be considered as part of the bigger picture, they will always fail – and our Politicians have both the ability and responsibility to ensure that this is no longer the case.

It is their choice to now decide and it is their choice which must come first.

The responsibility – and acceptance of Claimants and Beneficiaries

For any solution to gain traction, it is also vital that ‘being down in your luck’ is accepted as a normal part of life, rather than being a condition which renders any of us as being sub-standard to it – the position under which Benefit Claimants are often perceived.

Those claiming Benefits fall into two predominant groups. Those who are or should be  temporary claimants and are able and willing to work. And those who are longer-term or permanent claimants who are unable or unlikely to be able to consider working again because of disability, illness, or other genuine debilitating circumstances.

All of us as beneficiaries must accept that there is and never has been a magic money tree of any kind. That the support that is given can only be provided through the act of others contributing through taxation on earnings, whether they themselves earn little or some extraordinary figure that might blow our minds.

Whilst it may currently behave as if it is, and some Politicians continue to seek election on the basis of perpetuating this myth, Government and the Public Sector is not a separate and ‘benevolent’ entity which doles out cash to Welfare recipients on the basis of being kind.

Government exists to represent the best interests of ALL British people. Government is there to help us all to succeed in whatever way that might be possible for us as individuals. And on  behalf of us all, it is there to help and provide support to those of us who cannot do so, in such ways that we may never feel like an after thought or something that others have in some way been left behind.

Government is the formal community power which represents and is therefore ‘for all of us’.

Those of us receiving help should therefore be mindful that the help we receive comes from the people next door, up the street and across our Cities and Towns.

As recipients, we are not ‘entitled’ to anything. It is simply that looking after those in genuine need is the basis upon which our civilised society can be found.

 

 

 

 

 

Improving Social Mobility is about addressing the way decision makers think, not about academic education alone

October 8, 2018 Leave a comment

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The three key misunderstandings and fallacious barriers to Social Mobility are:

  • That Social Mobility issues only affect young people who are in career development years
  • That the only way to improve Social Mobilty is through ensuring that everyone achieves a ‘full’ academic education and that the attainment of degrees is key
  • That Social Mobility issues relate to the achievement, progress or outlook of the individual and nobody else

With one evolution of the Social Mobility Commission having resigned because of lack of Government support and another now appointed in the image of all the same Establishment ideas, the key issues underpinning lack of progress in tackling the barriers to Social Mobility are still being overlooked and this travesty is set to continue further still.

As is often the case when a cause is given a label, the Social Mobility problem is an issue which has become closely aligned with just one interpretation of its cause. This closes down debate and dialogue about the much wider range of issues which attribute to reducing opportunities. It also excludes consideration of a wider malaise and certainly overlooks the real impact on not only the individuals affected themselves, but also upon the wider community as a whole.

Yes, many young people are overlooked because of the start they had in life. The place in which they lived. The schools which they did and did not attend. The qualifications which they did or didn’t gain.

But the reality is that it is a very long list of factors which prevent any one person from progressing.

The interpretation of someones validity on the road to progress and passing these barriers is not simply restricted to that of employers, educators or any of the external gatekeepers of opportunity.

No. The perception of not being good enough to overcome any barrier to Social Mobility can be that of the individual all on their own.

The obstruction to unhindered Social Mobility, is the many prejudices which are not and cannot be managed by regulation or by the methods of review and reform which have become the cultural norm in this Country.

In a society which has learned to make effect synonymous with cause, we overlook the real causes of societal problems and as such have no way to address the consequential effects.

The social justice warriors, the politically correct, the rights lobby and liberal left all congratulate themselves on the strangle hold of regulation which decades of manipulation and social engineering have helped them impose.

Yet the rules which govern Equality of Opportunity in their purest sense have actually made prejudices easier to employ.

Only now, beyond the scope of the processes which assure us that prejudices have been all but removed, they are less likely to be evidenced and hide in plain sight.

Yes, we have regulation against gender and sex discrimination. Race discrimination. Disabilities discrimination, Religion, Age and sexual orientation too.

But in creating these frameworks or safety notes, the idealistic engineers of this ill-considered social plan have provided the perfect opportunity for people to surrender ethical responsibility to being seen to adhere to the set of rules which now exist. They have been given a set of pillars that once worshipped, allow them to do whatever they want to by behaving in ways which legitimately go around these rules or sit somewhere in the spaces in between.

We now not only have a situation where decision makers can quietly be racist, sexist, or are allowed to quietly indulge any other prejudice we might not collectively like. They can continue to do so unimpeded.

The consequences of this ‘big vision’ engineering project create many other problems too. Problems which include disadvantaging the already disadvantaged and building barriers to progress which the very same people will now never cross.

And guess what. Yes. We find again that achievements exist only for the same few to easily win all over again.

Take for example the assault on the education system that the Blair Government undertook, with the overt aim of giving everyone the opportunity to gain a degree.

The result has been the commercialisation of the further and higher education system, leading to the prioritisation of winning fees, rather than focusing on the quality and commercial durability of the education provided. Running education as a business has almost certainly put its future in serious doubt.

It is a process which has already led hundreds and thousands of hopeful young people to begin professional life in serious debt and with academic qualifications which are to many businesses completely worthless.

Yet the debt-laiden graduates only find out too late that these quack qualifications don’t mean much at all to the world around them once they have left the supposed safety of the academic universe behind.

The world of big business and its new world of ‘created roles and specialisms’ has responded to the glorifying of academic qualification over the benefit of time-served experience by recognising degrees as a standard for anybody worth looking at. Not as a way to recognise specialism in itself. But as a like-for-like replacement in recent years for what would previously have been well illustrated by the attainment of 3 A’Levels, and only a few years before that just 5 GCSE’s.

Not everyone is cut out to be a CEO, Director or even a manager and non-academic people bring value to business which only when added to the contribution of real academics can it add up to a formula which is so much more.

Yet the dangerous mix created by this non-stop meddling has fuelled the entitlement culture. Qualification has become more valuable than experience and experience is not of value to those who have qualifications.

Letters on a CV are seen as more important than attitude, motivation, or the many other life skills which business used to intrinsically value, which they now overlook. The system now unwittingly leads them to place applications from people who would should be the next generation of commercial superstars straight in the bin.

It doesn’t stop there, and within a tick box, risk-averse culture where Recruiters and HR Officers – that’s people who have and never will do these jobs themselves – have overwhelming power over recruitment processes, there is an untamed focus on identifying reasons to not even shortlist candidates – usually because they don’t have a degree.

Good people are now denied jobs where they can thrive and the employers and companies themselves never gain access to the wider pool of candidates where the real benefits of selecting people with the right experience rather than just a paper qualification lies.

The consequences of this social meddling are already far reaching indeed and because the UK could never afford to provide education to 21 years as a standard – which in itself was never needed, it was inevitable that a new form of educational discrimination would introduce itself. And it’s the worst one of all. The preclusion from opportunity for even more young people based simply on cost.

Just in this one example of social meddling focusing on education alone, where impractical idealists have tried to impose a system of restrictions based upon no experience that they have or have in no way never known, we can see how far reaching the impact on consequences of quixotic thinking can be.

This is a pattern which is unfolding itself over and over again within all the areas of our lives where lack of consideration has been applied to the consequences of imposing the ‘consideration’ of rights and ‘positive’ discrimination on a society which will always have its own mind and not the one which political busy-bodies which to create for it.

The barriers to Social Mobility are all about the way that we think.

But the change needed and the tools which will enable us to break down those barriers and make that change will only come when decision makers with the power and therefore the ability to oversee that change go through a voluntary process of accepting that they themselves need to think differently.

That change will come about as a direct result.

That change cannot and never will be imposed.

 

The Principle of Charity is all but forgotten when we hear others, yet we would all prefer to be given the benefit of the doubt ourselves

October 3, 2018 Leave a comment

Context is always at risk of misinterpretation, unless you are one person who knows exactly what you mean.

What we say, what we write or what we do in our interactions with others can always be viewed in at least three ways.

Until very recently, it was usually the third party to any experience or event which would be the best bet on introducing forgiveness and understanding when something was misunderstood or taken badly by either key party, whatever the circumstances happened to be in between.

Not only seeing, but respecting the reality of a bigger picture is something that in conversation, experiences and life in general, older generations once took for granted.

Young people, or ‘millennials’, as our unforgiving media as now branded them, are unlikely to recall the time when there was an alternative, yet unspoken rule. An acceptance that hanging reality upon just a word or a sentence wasn’t an appropriate call.

Communication was a sum game. Understanding something was all about the way that the words are said. Where and when they had been used. The backdrop which stood behind them and a whole picture made up of many different things, which together added up to something different.

The truth is often much greater than the sum of all parts and usually much much more.

Today we experience and endure something completely different. A selective form of deliberate, yet increasingly conditioned non-understanding. A way to make anyone or anything we disagree with well and truly wrong, in an attempt to unwittingly mislead others and influence the way that other people will think.

Culturally we are now attuned to look for anything that’s wrong with any point of a message, no matter how isolated it might be. We do so, rather than hearing and making a conclusion upon the content of all of that message, where determining our interpretation of the outlook or principle, and whether the direction of travel might provide a meaningful level of insight.

This is not even the preserve of the amateur, uneducated or unskilled.

Even writers, journalists and opinionators, the professional wordsmiths are now closed in their reasoning when it comes to studying the words, social media interactions, and interviews of the people that the truly objective would know better than to despise.

They do so not for the measure of the content, but for the mix of words which can be used to wrong the speaker, who will often have blundered into this trap unwittingly, no knowing they have fallen into an elephant trap built with malevolence which will soon revisit them in the form of a very dark surprise.

This habit has already destroyed careers. It has been used to change discourse. To eliminate realities which would benefit us all. It has become little more than a lesson in how to become professionally mean.

The opposite of this behaviour was once known freely as the Principle of Charity. And we would all do well to refresh ourselves with what the Principle of Charity actually means.

For when the time comes that we find ourselves on the receiving end of this cultural malaise which builds its own truth in a place where the genuine story has never been, we may wish that we ourselves could be in receipt of the benefit of the doubt from others. To be understood for what we have offered the world as a whole and honest picture. Rather being the target of someone’s else’s reason for being and becoming the focus which they need to apportion their own blame.

Change has the appearance of being hard, where once the first step is taken it becomes easy. Instead of looking for change to come from others, we have to accept that genuine change comes from within.

We can begin by treating each other, as we would wish to be treated ourselves.

It may require a little more thinking, but it soon feels good and we quickly remember that the opportunities are available in every situation where everyone can walk away, having bagged a genuine win.

The war of ideas is lost. Somebody please tell the politicians before it really is too late

October 2, 2018 Leave a comment

the-future-is-won-or-lost-in-the-war-of-ideas-quote-1If you are following the Political Conference Season, even at a peripheral level, and are able to cut through the constant flow of noise created by Brexit, you will surely have come across one group or another saying something like they have to stop this person or stop that person from doing this thing or that thing to prevent some unspeakable outcome, which they are uniquely empowered to predict.

There are times, yes moments even,  when the lunacy of the behaviour in which our political classes engage would be laughable.

At some level, it really is. But the consequences of the constant flow of proclamations about who is fit, unfit or the right person to lead, speak or do whatever in the public sphere which can be interpreted as outshining someone else in some way has entered dangerous territory indeed.

Dangerous, because these attempts to micromanage this Country’s destiny based on little more than taste and appearance is focused on ideas created from nothing but self interest. It has severe disregard for the consequences that will follow, and that’s not because they will succeed.

Because so many of our politicians and members of the opinionati are now doing it and in a competitive way too, there is no longer a direction of travel available for the majority of forward looking and common-sense thinking people to get behind. There remains just a mish-mash of ambition for good or for worse blocking everything sensible from gaining traction, all coming from a no mans land between points of reason at one end placed within a zone of nostalgia for a different past and at the other, a world ahead where any alternative idea to that of the commentator will result in disaster.

If you really need to observe the reality of this in all its comical but nonetheless horrifying glory, do please take note of the lack of attendance at the Key Ministerial Speeches which are taking place at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week.

Attendees are instead packing out fringe meetings where they are focusing their attention on the figureheads that the media loves to make us believe we all hate at every turn, whilst actively overlooking the over-crafted words of the very people who are running this Country today.

That the Government can now be composed of so many different politicians at the most senior levels who might otherwise have good skills, but have become consumed by the race to position themselves for the long-anticipated Leadership Race is very telling.

That they do so whilst overlooking the genuine will of the people who once supported them to gain the places at the big table that they now have, is very telling indeed.

Whilst an unpalatable truth to the political many, one of the reasons that there is such a void at the top of Politics today, is because of the control that the Party Political System now has exerted on Candidate Selections and upon the behaviour of junior politicians once they have obtained and wish to do nothing more than hold on to their coveted Seats.

Sadly, the way the system works is to require of once principled applicants that they are unswervingly loyal to their party, and therefore completely subservient to the whims of the leadership without question, if they a) wish to stay and b) wish to have any genuine chance of ‘career’ success and advancement.

Being conditioned by a process that requires people in a position of responsibility not to question, but to say yes at every turn just to get along every day leaves many of them becoming the living caricature of Mrs May the automaton made manifest. They are unable to say no to anyone who postures around them once that long-aimed for responsibility has become theirs to possess. Saying yes to the loudest voices is now all they know how to do.

The individuals who break this mould are few. Yet they are ridiculed for demonstrating the power to think outside of the tent.

The Boris’s, The Jacob Rees-Moggs, some others no doubt sat frustrated and waiting in the wider wings.

These are the potential leaders who may be far from being the perfect options in the idealists eyes.

But these are the very people who have the power to restore some purpose and hope for all of us, because they are different. They have already shown that they can stand alone, and that they can consider there being a different way to do things, rather than the way the political system has taught them to behave.

The Party Political system suits the purposes of the EU, simply because it is highly effective at stifling and shutting down dissent. It is the perfect antidote to the reasoned, moral and best-interests-of-the-people fight against technocratic government which demonstrates the behaviour of an autocratic dictatorship, and is to all intents and purposes that very same thing in all but name.

Good people within politics do not see this for what it is. They still believe that this is just the way that things are; the way that the system works. But that doesn’t make it right.

If they continue to wait for the perfect or rather the ideal option, the one that fits with the ideas which being in this broken system has given them, they will condemn us to a future which will make the lack of connection, conviction and a preoccupation with messages and soundbites employed by the May regime look positively democratic and in touch with people in the extreme.

We don’t have a perfect option today where leadership is concerned. We have to take the best that is available.

This is certainly not Jeremy Corbyn. We already know that it is not Theresa May.

The flurry of ideas might look great within the walls of all these different minds. But the many differences mean that there is no coherence. That they result in little sense and this war of ideas and the idealism behind them is already over and will never be won.

We need direction which incorporates a return to real democracy. That means putting aside the ‘I know best’ mentality and embracing change which must start with us all and come from within.

Embracing and making the very best of Brexit is now the only way that the UK can really win.

 

 

 

Cheltenham BC and Boots Corner: Like local government across the UK, officers and councillors aren’t listening to the real boss, and change is well overdue

September 29, 2018 2 comments

Boots Corner

I’ve been out of local government for nearly three and a half years. But I have continued to watch the continuing chain of messes being created within our Gloucestershire Boroughs and Districts. Usually because someone or a very few people with power and with influence have personal ownership of and therefore investment in some ‘great’ idea. Ideas which are nearly always in some way about them, their career, their legacy or future. Wholly impractical ideas which are then misrepresented as being beneficial to the people they are actually responsible to. The people that they all represent.

There is some rich irony in the fact that lessons are never learned by these same people who have responsibilities not only to themselves, their jobs or their Political Parties.

Lessons are there to be taught through everything these public organisations do. They may appear to arrive in different form, but the same mistakes are being made time after time, over and over again.

Planning, for all the questions which surround it’s often arbitrary processes, has regrettably become the most day-to-day example of all that’s wrong in local government.

The Local Planning Process continually demonstrates all that is wrong with the wider system itself. But the problem is only in small part due to laws and regulations, and actually more about the people who manage and implement government processes, their ideas, motives and yes, the ties that bind them to their ‘interpretations’ within the protectionist culture and environment in which they work.

Watching the Boots Corner fiasco unfold over recent months has been like reading a text-book example of what happens when Planners and their Political Masters get things wrong. What people experience when Councils come up with a ‘great idea’ to improve things, but overlook the most important consideration in the room: What the impact and consequences will be for the people and businesses whose interests they are actually paid and elected to look after.

It doesn’t take many conversations with local business people, residents, employees and regular visitors from local feeder Towns to know that these changes at Boots Corner are idealistic at best, but practically awful.

The changes are having an impact not only on the Centre of Cheltenham itself, but are loading traffic onto the already congested main roads around the Town at rush hour, and now jamming back streets and almost certainly creating rat-runs unseen at every opportunity in between.

The change at Boots Corner is unnecessary. It’s not improving the Town Centre and nobody apart from the Planners and whoever on the Council they have convinced of the validity of this Scheme really has any idea what the real benefit of these changes are to anyone using Cheltenham Town Centre.

And that’s right now. Just wait until the long-awaited John Lewis Store opens its doors and visitor numbers really do burst through the lid.

Now don’t let anyone tell you that the Council is not aware of how people feel. If you follow local news, you cannot miss the disquiet that the changes in late June have raised. This is not Nimby-ism. It’s real people voicing genuine concern over the impact of poor decision making which is now having meaningful impact on their everyday lives.

The travesty is that instead of listening, and for fear of admitting being ‘wrong’, the Council is doubling down and now adding oversized flowerpots, cycle racks, benches, a lot of unhelpful white lines and yes, some artificial grass sat on the lump in between.

And there’s unlikely to be any mistake about the drawn-out nature of the timing of additions either.

Why? Well it’s all to give a repetitive sense to us all that this change is permanent. That when they tell us all that the trial was a success, that with hindsight it will feel like its permanence was always inevitable. That there was no option or reason to change their minds at any point in between.

But this simply isn’t true. And any tales you are told about decisions taking a long time to reverse in Council, or that a trial period must be seen through to its end to be valid are disingenuous at best.

There is no inevitability of confirmation for these changes at Boots Corner or indeed permanence of this change. It simply hinges on what the Officers and therefore the Councillors ultimately decide and however they choose to harvest and then interpret their ‘data’.

The fact is the Council could reinstate the pre-June road system within a few days if they really had doing what’s right for Cheltenham, in mind.

However, it is only fair that no Officer or Councillor be singled out and in some way blamed for what is happening in the Centre of Cheltenham right now.

The whole Government system is rotten with a protectionist and self-serving culture, only made worse by the quasi-bankrupt state of the Government and Public Sector, with austerity being a big part of the problem, but a significant way from being the cause.

But this in itself doesn’t mean that Cheltenham and indeed any of our Local Authorities cannot choose to be different.

The Council has the choice to be big about it. To listen. To gain respect from local people and businesses for trying something new but recognising it doesn’t work, for listening AND HEARING what is being said and quickly responding. To be adaptable to changing things that aren’t right and not get hung up at a personal level about what appearing to take a step back might look like.

Decisions are being made big and small within local authorities up and down the Country which have very little to do with with the people. And in case anyone isn’t sure, that’s the boss that Officers and Politicians ALL ultimately work for.

Locally the latest one is Boots Corner. In terms of direction, this one is definitely going the wrong way, and poor decisions which are having a real impact on daily life in Cheltenham are not the kind of change in local government that we all so badly need.

How about surprising us all and doing what’s actually right, rather telling us that’s what you are doing?

 

You can read some more of Adam’s writing about the realities of Local Government and the wider Public Sector here and here.

 

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