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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.

 

 

 

A General Election by New Year just became a lot more likely and it’s time for May to accept that the battles ahead are no longer hers to win

September 14, 2018 Leave a comment

VOTE 18Emily Thornberry’s announcement that Labour will oppose Theresa May’s Chequers Policy today should really come as little surprise.

In fact, it’s not in the least bit unexpected.

Labour’s recent mantra has after all been based on nothing more than attempting to force a General Election as quickly as it is possible to do.

As a lapsed Tory, disenfranchised by the current interpretation of conservatism emanating from No.10, I gain no pleasure from the prospect that Theresa May could prove to be the last Tory Prime Minister before anything remotely recognisable as an attempt at government for all in the UK is painfully left behind.

Yet that is exactly the fate that surely awaits us all, if some form of sense and reason doesn’t land in Downing Street very soon.

The reality must be accepted at Cabinet level that the charade which is Chequers is not only dead in the Channel, but that the dying embers of credible politics in the UK now require a Conservative leader who can win a working majority against what should otherwise be an unelectable opposition which should only ever be capable of having pipe dreams about being in government.

Today, Corbyn’s left is gaining confidence with dangerously quixotic policies that are now looming as large as the void in leadership which has left us all ineptly exposed against EU negotiators, whilst conjuring up the Chequers plan to remain.

But in Downing Street, the penny hasn’t dropped.

Emboldened by the phoney zone of safety in which the 2017 General Election result left the Prime Minister seemingly unexposed, May’s misplaced confidence in her position and influence could all-too-easily lead her to call a General Election under immense pressure, rather than  stepping aside before the watershed vote is taken on the final Brexit plan.

We should be under no illusion that this quickly approaching vote is almost certainly now set to yield the result that could immediately lead to the opportunity which Labour currently craves so badly.

A Conservative, as passionate about Leaving the EU as they are about bringing all sides together as we go forward must be allowed to take the helm of this Government before it is too late.

The change must happen now.

The likelihood of a vote on the final pre-Brexit Day position being won by any Conservative Government with the Parliamentary Seats they hold today and the current make-up of Leave and Remain supporting MP’s amongst their number would at any time be all but impossible.

It won’t matter if it’s ‘Chequers’ or something prepared by the ERG that MP’s are called to vote on. There is simply too much self interest in Parliament to allow the right decision to be made and deliver upon the democratic instruction which was given by a majority of voters on behalf of us all.

Forced or voluntarily called, a General Election is now likely to be the only way to deliver the Brexit that the Electorate require.

It is now up to May to decide if she wants to help a Conservative Government see the result of the real peoples vote through.

What the Carillion collapse tells us about the unspoken truths governing public sector contracts

January 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Carillion

Carillion is the big news this week, and is likely to remain on the media radar for some time, given the impact that the collapse of a Company of this size is almost certain to have on commercial relationships that are now an integral part of the public sector.

Moments like this are important for reasons which go way beyond the impact that Monday’s announcement is already having on jobs and the potential closures of many small businesses.

It is providing one of those very rare opportunities to glance inside the incestuous workings of contract delivery on behalf of government and gain an invaluable insight into why private interests working at any level within the public sector is in clear conflict with very ideals of what public service delivery is fundamentally about.

Regrettably, the clear focus of the media and political classes has already fallen upon the question and avoidance of blame. Yet if they were to begin to look just a little further and be open with what have for too long been the unpalatable truths, there would be just the merest hope that questions such as whether there can be a future for the NHS when it remains in a perpetual state of financial crisis could perhaps be genuinely answered.

So why are contracts going to private companies outside the public sector?

The best place to begin thinking about the contracting or privatisation problem is to look at why private business is really even involved in the delivery of government services of any kind, when government exists to operate for, on behalf of and for the benefit of only the public.

Man can only ever have one true master after all, and if money is the true motivator, then public service will at best become an oversight – the unwelcome relative left trailing way behind.

Whilst it may feel counter-intuitive to believe or accept it for many of us, the ‘privatisation solution’ has been in the main part created by Conservative governments in response to the consequences of policies created typically by Labour in order to enhance the rights, working conditions and influence of public sector employees.

Positive discrimination and rights, enhanced working conditions, gold-plated pensions and union indulgence within public sector organisations all cost an ever evolving sum of money in an increasing number of different ways, which usually create even more roles and dilute responsibility further and further still.

The cost of employing people within the public sector on conditions which exceed those of the private sector outside – even when salaries appear to be less, has simply made the delivery of services too expensive for government itself to provide.

Against this backdrop, all areas of he public sector have had to go in search of more cost effective ways to deliver services, and have had to do so in ways which also meet the rigorous requirements of providing services and employing staff as a government based organisations.

This has made the ‘marketplace’ fertile for the entry of private contractors who don’t have the same considerations as these former public sector based service providers.

When you consider that private contractors are providing arguably the same level of service, just without the same levels of bureaucracy – whilst making what in some cases is an outrageous level of profit besides, you can soon begin to see that something is inherently wrong with the way that the government system is now designed.

So how does public sector contracting by private contractors become a problem?

Business loves a contract. Contracts give surety. Contracts themselves can be used as a solid-gold guarantee – and particularly so when they are agreed and signed with government. This gives business confidence which can be misplaced, misused, abused and is almost certain to breed a feeling of complacency.

After completing what should be a rigorous ‘tender process’ – the company will sign a contract with the government organisation which agrees what, when and how the ‘contractor’ will provide a service, whether that just be 1 person to sweep a street or 32 bin lorries to collect your rubbish every fortnight for 5 years. On signing this contract, the company will know exactly what it will be paid, know what it will in turn have to spend, will have worked out its costs and borrowing, should have kept back a little for a rainy day and then know what it will make in profit – from which it will pay bonuses to staff and dividends to shareholders after it has paid any tax requirement.

Good managers know that some things change during the lifetime of a contract – such as fuel prices going up, which would be a real concern for a bus service provider or a private ambulance services. But contractual devices or clauses that allow for some variation in charges are usually built in to any contract to allow for this.

As such, genuinely unforeseen events or those which could not have been predicted by anyone within the contracting company itself are very rare to find.

What government contracts don’t allow for however, are lack of knowledge or understanding of the service delivery area on the part of those designing and agreeing a contract. They don’t make allowance for unmitigated trust on the part of either party. They certainly don’t consider the potential greed or indeed malpractice of a contractor or its decision making staff, which cannot be planned for or predictably defined even within the scope of a government contract process.

When a contractor has only a single contract, transparency is bizarrely much clearer and for the management, much more important and kept clearly in mind.

But when you have many more and perhaps and ever increasing number of contracts, the potential for complacency and overconfidence can lead to otherwise unrealistic opportunities, which in more focused circumstances would have been denied.

It may be as simple as paying senior executives massive, over-inflated salaries. But it has the potential to be much much more in terms of investment, questionable projects and big payouts for shareholders when little in terms of adequate checks and balances has allowed an adequate safety blanket to be retained from payouts and quietly put aside.

The overriding problem with a company which has grown to the size, reach and responsibility of Carillion is there is so much in terms of questionable financial activity that it has the ability to very easily hide.

The responsibility for contract design and management doesn’t just fall on contractors themselves however.

In the background to all this and within the protectionist culture in which contemporary public sector commissioning is currently enshrined, purchasing officers simply don’t have the motivation or willingness to do their jobs as effectively as they should. When the money you are allocating isn’t yours, public service and best value isn’t always the overriding priority. Sometimes it’s all about doing anything which proves to be easier, and who gets what doesn’t always work out exactly as it should.

Whether its building maintenance, bin collections, public transport, prison management, forensic services or interim and temporary staff services that contractors provide, contractors are all making unnecessary profit at the ultimate cost to us as taxpayers.

So what can be done to solve the problem and when will anything happen?

What has been outlined here provides little more than a simple snapshot of a very big and complex problem, which those in power are through their actions are continuing to deny.

For these problems to be addressed, it would first be necessary for politicians to accept that the whole system of government delivery is broken, riddled with management focused upon self interest, making decisions based on theoretical premise, and that there are simply too many people operating within the system who are ultimately being allowed to take us all for a ride.

The ‘too big to fail’ mindset has now permeated through political thinking to a level where contracts are being awarded despite very clear warning signals which would tell even very junior civil service staff that something is not right.

This is no longer a question of let’s bail them out so that they don’t fail like Labour did with the Banks in 2008; this is all about awarding contracts because there is a view that they never will.

Solving this problem is far from simple. It is not just about political thinking. It’s about getting the market’s to think differently. But just as much, it’s about getting employees to see their roles differently; to accept that they have a part to play too.

In simple terms, the free for all has to stop.

This bonanza based on self-interest is no longer sustainable.

The perpetuation of the lie that government genuinely works selflessly for everyone has got to be stopped.

No business can perform effectively on the basis that it prioritises the working conditions and needs of its staff before the priorities upon which it was created to deliver. Yet this is how liberalism and rights culture has manifested itself within all parts of government and the public sector.

Not only has the NHS become hamstrung by lack of staff and inefficiency, it is being cut up by the cost of the staff it hires through contracts – thereby being destroyed by the supposed solution itself; by the very respite that additional money is supposed to provide.

Meanwhile local government has its own substantive bogeyman too, finding itself tied up in knots by the cost of the local government pension scheme – the destination of the better part of our council tax, in many of the Boroughs, Cities and Districts where most of us reside.

Then there are the PFI contracts upon which the last Labour Government so heavily relied. A coarse, deceptive instrument designed to hide public spending, whilst fire hosing cash at private contractors over 30 year terms. Just another financial time bomb legacy like the raid on pension funds by Gordon Brown which we overlook daily on the basis that out of sight is very much out of our minds.

The power rests with government to change all of this, if only they would try.

Regrettably, the will doesn’t even exist to even begin doing so today, even if the Government could begin doing so – something that a hung parliament which could last until 2022 will simply deny.

With a good chance that the next Government will be based upon or built around a militant form of Labour, the chances are that politicians will only continue to try and hide the truth thereafter, because action which doesn’t just look responsible is not a pathway to which they are inclined.

As Jeremy Corbyn made clear in his questioning of Theresa May at Wednesday’s PMQ’s, the answer is just to do everything to return everyone to employment in government jobs. No doubt based upon further borrowing, which to those who don’t understand business or economics is a perceived as a policy which when sold looks bullet proof.

images thanks to independent.co.uk, bbc.co.uk, wiltshiretimes.co.uk

Keeping it real has become the key ingredient of electoral success and Capitalism vs Socialism is a battle which no longer has meaning

Capitalism vs Socialism 2

If you keep an eye on enough of the different news and commentary outlets, it will have been easy to pick up that one of the latest themes amongst those supporting the Government and Conservative Party, is to talk up the righteousness and benefits of Capitalism in comparison to the Socialist agenda of the Labour Party and the wider ‘progressive’ left, which we can be assured will be making the same arguments somewhere completely in reverse.

The backdrop of a General Election Result which has wrecked the confidence of a Party that thought it was safely assured of probably more than a decade in power has indeed set many injured cats amongst the electoral pigeons. On the other hand, it has also elevated the levels of chutzpah employed across the Left to a level which simply defies the true dynamic of their electoral return, in a race decided by factors which sit way beyond the control or influence of either of the political ideologies that either the Tories or Labour would like us to believe they pin their hats on.

What people were quietly thinking to themselves as they entered the Polling Booths across the UK on the 8th of June will long be debated. But you can rest assured that for most it will not have been either the manifestation of Marxist policies or the benefits from implementing the works of Hayek or Freidman.

No. The ideas that will have meant most to those voters who really made the difference to the fortunes of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will have been far more aligned with imagining the difference that one Party in power vs the other could make in Pounds and Pence to them on an individual level, rather than upon some high powered economic idea which all of the political parties seem destined to believe will get us all ‘there’.

Whilst it would be a lot less painful to be able to confine these ‘isms’ to being no more than the ideological myths that they perhaps should be – being the ideas and musings of a few ‘great thinkers’ that they actually are, the horrid reality is that the Twentieth Century saw misguided politicians and activists implement nearly all, with benefits to all but the relative few being very hard to find, whether those concerned have become substantially wealthy or alternatively live the life of a despot or their ‘chosen few’ within non-democratic regimes like North Korea as a result.

In itself, the travesty of one set of politicians romanticising over socialism when it has been tried, tested and demonstrated to be the flawed ideal for any wider population that it actually is, whilst another set continue to believe that markets ruled by money will consciously cater for every not-for-profit need of the wider population upon which its rapidly growing financial wealth is almost certainly now farmed, is simply too significant an injustice to put into words.

Yet the bright young things, the think tanks and the party leaderships of all political persuasions remain fixated on the idea that clever, confusing and complicated ideas can always win, never accounting for the reality that ideas are themselves developed on perspectives, which when created looking upon a destination from the benefit of distance are never the same once we have completed the journey to get there.

Socialism, Capitalism and the forms in which they are delivered are all based upon subjective but nonetheless real truths. Truths which are themselves prerequisite in order for any follower or exponent to believe in or more likely identify with in terms of their own life experience, in order for an ‘ism’ to become a ‘movement’ of any kind.

But these specific or myopic truths are far from all encompassing. They do not make allowance for the nuances of change and they certainly do not make account for the rules of (mis)interpretation, which for the roll out of any idea through the process of transformation to their practical form or policy, present a very real and all too often realised form of serious danger.

In uncertain times like those in which we live, the smallest self-serving truth shared between many through the process of group-think can be enough to eclipse the many others which should for us all have far more meaning, and it is here that any ideological fights between right, left and anywhere in-between should really be seen in their true perspective as the journey and outcome that they ultimately are and guarantee to be.

Socialism can only succeed by forcing the masses to behave as if they are all the same, whilst Capitalism relies on allowing the few to believe that they are fundamentally different.

Objectively, neither philosophy or pathway is genuinely truthful and both are for those ‘selling’ them as self-serving in purpose as the other.

The void created by the long absence of original thought in British politics over a number of decades and through Governments constituted by politicians of all sides does not need to be filled by ideas drawn from text books and the bookshelves of old.

Yes, history needs to be fully regarded for ALL of the lessons that it can teach us, and amongst this, the thoughts of the economic ‘giants’ should be gleaned for the value from each and every perspective, whilst we maintain a healthy regard for the fact that in the case of all these widely lauded ideas, individual perspective is exactly what they are.

What all of the political parties can no longer escape – should they genuinely wish to ensure their long-term-electability, is that the war of ideologies has long since been lost. The electorate may indulge ideas when to them there is no possibility of personal cost, but will always look for the policies which are going to make a positive impact upon their own experience of life in the ‘right now’.

Whether it was the European Referendum or the General Election in June of this year, ‘keeping it real’ – whether policy is perceived to be good or bad – has become the key ingredient of contemporary electoral success.

Capitalism can only work for all if it becomes responsible and reflective of consequence, whilst the Socialist ideas which are genuinely on the side of right can only do real good for all if there is an acceptance that idealism has to be kept in practical check and be considerate with the ideas, hopes and fears of each and every individual too.

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