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Parris on Rotherham's tick-box Timothy

Powerful piece (£) in The Spectator this week by Matthew Parris on the Rotherham foster care scandal.

Mr Parris was angry (as was I) by the Labour Council leader's response:

‘We are looking to make sure all the correct procedures were carried out before the decision was made.’

Mr Parris says:

Oh what a bleak, bloodless, chillingly robotic remark is that! I heard myself, on reading it for the first time, shouting out loud, ‘No, you tick-box Timothy! No! Your job’s to make sure the right decision was made, not that the right procedures were carried out before it was made!’

The terrible thing is that I can imagine come Conservative councillors putting their names to the same statement.

Later Mr Parris adds:

In my twenties I attempted postgraduate studies in political science at Yale University. What I’ve described above was very much what postgraduates were then confident could be achieved for the political process in advanced democracies. I remember my class — sane, clever young men and women — being given rulers, back-copies of the New York Times, a computer program, and the instruction to measure the number of column inches devoted to amelioration in East-West relations, then measure the column inches devoted to increased economic inter-dependence between the two blocs, then feed both sub-totals into the computer, and finally ask it to measure the correlation and tell us the result.

People believed that sort of stuff in the 1970s. Few believe it now. But it seems those few and their successors have been disproportionately attracted to local government administration. There is a community of town-hall zombies moving, little-noticed, among our wider community in 21st–century Britain. They’re not at first easy to spot. In their domestic lives they differ little from us; they live, love, sing, dance, socialise, marry and have children. But during office hours they revert to a robotic state. Their community survives — even thrives — by hiring each other, promoting each other, standing (sometimes) for elected office in each other’s councils, sustaining each other’s morale by professional networking and reading the Guardian together, and sucking the life out of any real person unfortunate enough to end up working in local government — until in despair he surrenders and quits.

Do get hold of The Spectator to read the whole thing.


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