Sunday, November 07, 2010

Depression ...

...or recession, whatever. The news from the austerity front is bleak. Ireland? Well there is always the free cheese. Greece has other compensations.
If Greece weren't so beautiful – if we had a different climate and lived in a different environment without our nature, light and sea – this country would be a very depressing place. Instead, here in Aigio people wake up, take in the sun and somehow feel they can keep going.
Well, I don't think that one will work here. Shall we go back to the cheese? No, let's just be nasty to scroungers (and make sure they can't fight back). Nothing like a bit of malicious moral superiority to perk up middle England over its marmalade in the morning.

Mind you, we are still locked in the phony war; who knows whether we will be fighting them in the dole queues or lining up to collaborate in abject surrender when the cuts start to fall. What I am sure is happening is that the right in Britain, and this includes Orange Book Liberal Democrats and not a few New Labour Third Wayers, are part of a political realignment currently taking place. Austerity may be a European fashion statement, but social policy bears an American stamp. At the same time, Labour is unsure of its direction. Does it take to the hills to mount an outright social democratic resistance or find convenient sophistries to cosy up to a consensus that it see as its only chance of winning power once more?

Much will depend on the impact of the cuts to come. Tim Horton of the Fabian Society is with the resistance.
Horton argues that if the idea of the UK coalition government is to pare down services and the role of the state too much in the name of the big society, then it will not work. The British, he says, will not accept it.

"The Tories have long looked to the US Republicans for their inspiration. But they will struggle to import the same kind of politics to the UK. Britain was not founded on a tax revolt, and Brits are highly attached to their public services. That's why David Cameron spent the election campaign promising to protect frontline services."

I'm not too sure. If the coalition hangs together - ambition and power make a pretty strong super glue - it might just deliver the anti-Labour majority in the electorate to the ballot boxes. I suppose it all depends on whether the anti-Tory majority can mobilise itself. And tonight it looks as if the Greek government may have survived its first electoral test. What will emerge from the economic test is another question altogether.


Overtiredandemotional said...

Mr Horton, and most on the left, confuse public services and their means of delivery. Overwhelmingly the latter is the subject of criticism given that over manning, and inefficiency are seen as typical of public service.

The criticisms are sufficiently often well founded to make anyone ask whether a given service is being sufficiently well delivered and then, inevitably, to question the service itself.

The left instinctively screams murder whenever any criticism is made of public services, or any proposal is made to deliver them less expensively. Is this wholly unconnected with trade union intersts as well as the interests of those who populate the left in parliament? Are public services incapable of either self criticism or third party criticism?

The fact that, a couple of weeks ago, my son was given first class treatment by the NHS (and it was as good as or better than I had any right to expect), does not mean that the whole NHS or public sector is beyond criticism. It is time for the debate to mature. The public sector needs a better advocate than Mr Horton

The Plump said...

The left instinctively screams murder whenever any criticism is made of public services, or any proposal is made to deliver them less expensively.

No, the left, or more specifically the people who actually deliver the services, scream murder and feel suicidal at the same time (bipolar - the lot of us) when faced with yet another scheme to deliver those services less expensively, dreamt up by some policy wonk, political advisor or stupid columnist who hasn't got a clue about how any service works or the people who use it and who totally ignores our screams that this wonderful new system of theirs is either going to actually cost a huge amount more or will wreck the bloody joint (usually exporting its costs to another service that picks up the collateral damage).

that over manning, and inefficiency are seen as typical of public service

Jeez - 1970's maybe. Today, cut to the bone is a better description. Oh, sorry, you are right after all - but only if you are talking about management - layers and layers of self-serving, usually useless and destructive, always overpaid, unproductive managers.

Getting rid of those would be a help. But when I say managers, I do not mean administrative staff. They are the ones who keep the place running and allow the 'front-line' staff to actually be on the front line.

If you want effective reform, if you want to genuinely reduce costs, talk to the people who actually do the job, rather impose schemes based on the half-baked theories of the ignorant.

Overtiredandemotional said...

Plump distaste (or loathing?) for managerial culture is something anyone can share. Horror at the mega fees paid to consulting arms of the big four accountancy firms ought to direct some obvious cost cutting in that direction.

It is too easy, though, to leave, if that is what the Plump suggests, the decision whether and how to reform to those who work there.

If governemnt imposes changes, then there has been a failure to carry the workforce which may be deliberate on the part of the government or on the part of a public service union which will be instinctively resistent to change.

Change will sometimes be driven by a wish to improve quality, but more often to save money. That involves unpleasant decisions with often unforeseen consequences. As I said, there is a need for a mature debate which I do not see happening any time soon. Unions and governemnt departments have power and influence at stake. All esle is incidental.