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Single issue Parties or Movements (Covid Related) don’t win General Elections (All-issue), especially in a climate when there are so many other issues that people face

September 8, 2021 Leave a comment

What’s the number one issue of our time?

Covid? Education? Lockdowns? Social Care? Vaccine Passports? Black Lives Matter? The Driver Shortage? Afghanistan & The West’s Relationship with Islam? Labour failing as the Opposition? Brexit? Freedom of Speech? The ‘Great Reset’? Cross-Channel Immigration? Social Mobility? Cancel Culture? The Cost-of-Living Crisis? The Housing Crisis? Inflation? China? Knife Crime? A Conservative Government?

The chances are that for you the answer could be any one of the above, or none of them at all. And of those, the way that you see that issue could itself be different than any number of other people, who could again think differently about the same issue as everyone else.

Yet the most difficult and challenging thing to get your head around when you think about issues affecting the public in this way, is that nobody is wrong. Different people just see the same things in different ways because their experiences of them and of life up to that point have been different. And it is important to recognise and accept that in this broadest sense, no matter how many different views of the same situation exist, none of them are wrong.

With all that is going on in the world around us, it may seem like a strange time to be discussing the mechanics of how different people think. But with Government and therefore the Public Sector which it runs effectively out of control, a moment in time like this one may never have previously existed where the importance of recognising the mechanics of the differences between us has been so important for us all to absorb.

My motivation for writing this blog – like a number of them before, is the situation that we collectively face going forward, where a so-called Conservative Government has been making and implementing decision after decision both in response to Covid and also before, based not on what’s best for the Public, but based on what’s good for the politicians and what’s best for all of ‘them’.

Regrettably, we are walking through an age or chapter of our history where experience doesn’t matter, but the platform and profile you have most certainly counts. So, irrespective of how the voice or speaker got there, if that voice has something to say about the issues that we relate to in the way that we relate to them too, they become the voice of reason and the one that we choose to follow – no matter what the real nuts and bolts of these or the wider issues might well involve.

You may listen to one or more of those voices yourself. People who speak passionately and knowingly about one, or perhaps several of the different issues that I listed above. Yet the problem that we all face, often without even knowing it, is that the outcomes that we want in respect of the issues that we want addressed can only be achieved if we apply the same approach to all the different issues that are important to everyone.

People want change. Yet at the same time that they see so many people saying the same things that they think, feel and believe, nothing seems to be changing. Instead, it all just seems to be getting worse and worse.

The things that you feel are the ones that need to be changed, can be changed. But those things important to you will only be changed if you can see, feel and embrace the importance of all the other issues that everyone else is facing too.

Those lined up or lining up against the Johnson Government today appear to be great in number. But when the next General Election comes, which is planned for 2024 but is likely to be a lot sooner, there will no alternative available on the ballot papers right across the Country for anyone or anything political that is doing the work necessary to connect all of us and all of our issues – no matter how different – with policies and an approach that is as effective as it needs to be, whilst doing all that is necessary to reach across.

There will be The Reclaims, The Reforms, and many others who are selling change and a difference to what we already have in the way that they see it. Yet the elephant in the room for all of them is and will continue to be that they are behaving as if the problems we collectively face are just one issue, overlooking the reality that the only reason UKIP, The Brexit Party and Vote Leave won EU Elections and the EU Referendum was that people saw those votes as being purely about just one issue or thing.

I have no interest in doing any of the voices who speak on behalf of these or many other organisations down. In fact, I would like all those who oppose this tyrannical and self-serving form of government come together and do all the things necessary so that we can collectively succeed as one.

But coming ‘together’ in the way that it will need to happen in order for us to succeed will simply not happen whilst all of them look at our political system and continue to think that this situation or any of the problems we face can be solved by rattling on about only one thing.

Furthermore, it is not enough simply to pay lip service to all the other issues and think that by publishing manifestos or any other kind of marketing-based ‘promise’ that enough people will suddenly see and share the same point of view, and then propel you into government as the political option of choice.

To succeed now, you must connect. We must ALL connect.

People want to be treated and respected as adults again. Yet this is something that the political parties in parliament and our councils have long since forgotten to do. In fact, they are so drunk on the perception they have that voters have no choice but to vote for them, they no longer believe that connecting with the people is something they need to do.

They will not change whilst they retain or have any hope of obtaining power. And once they have been removed and have lost that, these are not the people we will want to give the same chances to hurt us all as they have been doing all over again.

Covid and everything related to it IS a single issue in electoral terms and so it is necessary for those who want freedom to return and embrace the conversation, debate and need to address all of the issues that are facing our society today, so that the electorate no longer believe that the only way the issue important to them have a chance of being solved is to see the existing mainstream Political Parties as the only option or choice.

Politics is a game and there is no way to escape this reality if you genuinely want to see us all embrace and facilitate change.

Single issue politics in a multi-issue political world will not solve any problem and it is only by becoming a multi-issue political movement that the single political issues for us all will ultimately be solved.

Changing Politics for the better Pt 1: Public Sector Reform

September 6, 2019 Leave a comment

The key aim of my discussion on change in politics is to talk about Brexit and the possibilities that it opens up to us more openly, and how a good Government can go about putting the ideas underpinning A New Politics into practical and meaningful form.

In the first instance, it is easy for us to assume that these changes can come about just by changing the way that Politicians think, or replacing the Politicians themselves. But the reality of changing the way that Government and the Public Sector works is so very much more.
One of the reasons it has become so important that we get the right Politicians in place, is because the Public Sector itself has as a result of EU influence and poor political management over many years, become rotten to the core.
The Public Sector has become for many senior officers one big gravy chain with tentacles that reach outwards and far beyond. There is a protectionist culture in place from top to bottom that shies away from responsibility and passes the buck onwards an upwards – usually to consultants who actually add nothing new, rather than simply getting the job done, which is after all exactly what all Government Officers and Civil Servants are employed to do.
Rather than the priority of Public Services being to serve the Public, the focus has become all about the people who are employed within its jobs. The employment rules and regulations and bottomless pits such as the Local Government Pension Scheme are a gargantuan drain on just about every resource.
And it is because it has become so very expensive to employ staff directly and to keep up with the legal obligations to those staff that once were, that significant incomes generated by Council Tax and Business Rates go nowhere near as far as they should.
Poor Management, management based on self-interest and management which is incompetent whilst selling itself as knowing better than elected decision makers is at the core of this rich malaise.
Any original thinking that could find solutions to the problems is restricted by all the rules that being tied to the EU has put in play.
And the rich mix of key positions of influence in the Public Sector being filled by people who really shouldn’t be there, entwined with the incompetence of politicians who are in it for themselves as simply assume that the executive is there to decide what work to do, rather than being there to do as they are told, means that the whole Public Sector System is failing us. Is too expensive to run. And is at the mercy of idiots who have concluded that getting more money from Central Government is the only way to get anything done.
A Good Government will immediately embark upon top to bottom Public Sector Reform.
To begin with it could:
  • Create a new code of ethics and protocol that requires all public employees to fulfill both the obligations and live up to the responsibilities of their jobs.
  • Ban the use of outside consultants, agencies or temporary staff to carry out work that a public sector employee could do.
  • Ensure that Employees and the expectations placed upon them are realistic and where extra is required from them, that they are happy to undertake additional work voluntarily if that is the most sensible way to get things done.
  • Stop councils and other public sector bodies contracting out services to profit making contractors and agencies.
  • Reform and remove the guarantee of the gold-plated pension schemes and put them on a par with those in the commercial world.
  • Reverse the reforms that Gordon Brown enacted to Pension Schemes in 1997.
  • Remove the Working Time Directive and any Employment Rules that mean the employer has to prioritise the rights of the Employee above the execution of the job and the responsibilities that they were employed to do.
  •  Put a fixed, realistic and mandatory pay scale in place for each and every level, role or position, placing the emphasis back on jobs in the public sector including the benefit of putting something back, rather than being all about what the employee can gain from being in the job that they do.
  • Take appropriate steps to stop ambulance chasers and everything that contributes to the culture of blame. Public employees need to know that they are trusted to do their jobs and to adapt to circumstances rather than having to do everything based on a risk assessment first in case they should be accused of intending to hurt others in some way, or do something that could otherwise be interpreted as being wrong

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

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