Friday, October 15, 2010

Bonfire or damp squib?

The Cleggerons promised us a bonfire of quangos. The Independent, amongst others, is not particularly impressed. We share that view and was planning to give the issue a good going-over today. The MSM is crawling all over it though, and this is one instance where you don't keep a dog and bark yourself.

Even The Daily Telegraph is being sniffy, fronting a story headed "Bonfire of quangos 'is a smokescreen that will cost money'". The strap-line reads: "Ministers have been accused of reneging on promises to start a 'bonfire of the quangos' and of simply moving many functions elsewhere in Whitehall".

That's about the size of the problem, and the measure of the dereliction. Quangos and the rest are instruments of government. To get rid of them, you have to get rid of their functions. Then the organisations wither on the vine. Simply to abolish the organisation achieves nothing. The functions must then be absorbed into the general government machine, or another way must be found of fulfilling them.

Also, the whole idea of quangos was to give their functions greater visibility and transparency, so that their costs would not be buried in departmental budgets. On this basis, to re-absorb necessary functions into the respective ministries is a retrograde step.

That the exercise is turning out to be "smoke and mirrors" seems to be entirely consistent with the Cleggeron experience. Elsewhere, in the letters column of the Telegraph, we see a letter from Sir Paul Judge, headed "myth of spending cuts", telling us that the coalition government is not planning to reduce its expenditure.

It is planning to increase it by nine percent, from £697 billion in this financial year to £757 billion in 2015-16. Smoke and mirrors indeed.

On the same page (print edition) there is a leader headed, "We must put a stop to the EU budget scandal". One is tempted to say, "who's this 'we' white man". But weariness descends, even at this early hour. You an huff and you can puff, but you will not blow my house down, said the little piggy. This is piggy politics, and the EU just shut down the slaughterhouse.

Thus, I'm going to retreat into working on the Battle of Britain narrative today. I'm having an interesting time exploring a new thesis for the origin of "the few", which is addressed here. Views, as always, would be very welcome on this comment thread - otherwise, comments on the thread below.

On a housekeeping note, it is good to see the forum so active. The spammers are back in force though, so if you want to join the forum, let me know by e-mail, so I know to look out for your application. Meantime, you could look at this video on climate change. Hmmmmm.

It makes an interesting contrast with this, which records the Guardian report telling us that while the EU's emission of CO2 declined by 17 percent between 1990 and 2010, this apparent progress is bogus.

If you add up the CO2 released by the goods and services Europeans consumed, as opposed to the CO2 thrown off by the goods and services they produced, the EU is responsible for 40 percent more CO2 in 2010 than in 1990. The EU, as the Guardian puts it, has been outsourcing pollution — and jobs — rather than cutting back on greenhouse gasses.

Smoke and mirrors is only the half of it.