Wednesday, August 03, 2011

With weary predictability

... we gaze upon the report by the Daily Mail and its glad tidings that The Boy's much vaunted "bonfire of the quangos" has been a dismal failure ... like so much else he has touched. At least 4,500 civil servants have been taken on since the election in May last year by Government departments and quangos – three times the number that have been handed compulsory redundancy notices.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact and the Committee on Climate Change are among the quangos which have been busy recruiting. Extra staff have been taken on while many parts of the public sector are making swingeing cuts to front-line services.

And, of course, we predicted this, back in September last year when we observed that there was no sign of any attempt to address the root cause of excessive regulation and officialdom, which gives rise to excessive civil service employment. That probably meant, we said, that this highly publicised initiative was just window dressing.

We revisited the subject in April when we reminded readers about the brave new world of Major's deregulation initiative, going back to the Conservative Party Conference on 9th October 1992. I put my heart and soul into that ... going down to London at my own expense (always at my own expense ... never a penny in expenses) to see officials at the "deregulation unit", writing reports (in my own time), and endless discussions, talks with MPs and ministers. Been there, done that one, got the tee-shirt.

You know, what people very often dismiss as cynicism and negativity on this blog really isn't. There comes a time when you've seen it before, seen it done badly, seen the same mistakes being made, and the same inadequacies paraded, and you know it's going to fail. That isn't cynicism. It's realism.

Now, one could launch in and explain why, in very great detail – but they are no more prepared to listen now than they did last time and the time before that. Having spent thousands of pounds of my own money and invested huge amounts of my time, one is simply not prepared to go through the same thing all over again, to exactly the same effect.

But that does not mean that we have to sit on the sidelines whingeing. This blog, at least, is a vehicle for projecting thoughts, the forum for discussing ideals and airing criticisms. There has to be a better way, and we are stumbling towards it.

During that original round of deregulation, in Major's time, I recall talking to a minister (I can't remember whom), who said it was all about money. Cut the money and you cut the activity. That, in itself, curtails the amount of regulation and interference.

What was happening at that time, though, was the creation of the Sefra, the Self-financing regulatory agency. Booker and I coined the term to describe this new type of agency. A lot of the so-called "quangos" are not quangos at all – they are Sefras.

The idea got some political traction at the time. But it was quietly squeezed out and forgotten. The bureaucrats had discovered an endless source of wealth. They were not going to give it up lightly. We revisited the subject on the blog, but look up Sefra on Google and you will struggle to find any references.

This in part drives Referism. Don't get bogged down in detail. The civil servants are good at that – they excel in it. They'll suck you in, exhaust you and then spit you out, dispirited and poorer, without having achieved a thing. Go for the money.

Interestingly, we see here in the Mail article, a reference to Redwood, who is fronting the story. Booker and I spent a lot of time with him back in the 90s, recruiting what we thought was an ally, trying to explain how to get the deregulation movement off the ground.

Then, as now, we found a man unutterably vain, interested in the issues only for what he could get out of them, in terms of personal publicity and career progression. You might wonder why a man who is so capable is not in high office in government – and that is the reason. None of his contemporaries trust him to, for that very reason - confide in him and it'll be all over the newspapers the next day, with his name on it.

And so, the wheel goes round and round. With weary predictability, these initiatives fail ... they always fail, because they are ill-founded. But we are coming to an end game. We can no longer afford it, and the public mood is changing – slowly, all too slowly. But there is reduced tolerance for the "parasite class" and all that goes with it.

Eventually, therefore, the system will crash and burn. It has to. Even now though, this could be avoided, if people only listened. But they don't. The mistakes of the past they insist on repeating, and will continue until they bring themselves down. All we can do is help them on their way.