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Stephen Glover writes:

"We could simply blame civil servants… It was civil servants who ordered duff helicopters - the MoD is notoriously wasteful … But we can't simply leave it at that."

He then asks: "Will the Conservatives be any better?"

And who ordered the duff helicopters?

A clue: July 1995 ...

"it might be necessary for the next Conservative Government to insert a lot of outsiders into the Whitehall machine in order to ensure that our policy agenda isn't frustrated by civil servants who oppose or don't understand our objectives"

I confess I was under the impression that one of the reasons the Labour party have proved to be so inept at implementing their policies is because they have replaced the top levels of civil servants in the same way, someimes with highly paid management consultants who have been raised on a target and tick box mentality. Don't ignore the career senior civil servants who understand how the levers of power actually work.

Competence is going to be a central issue in the next election, be it collecting dustbins or running the economy. I have just put a poll on my blog on Gordon Brown's performance as Prime Minister. Please take a few seconds to drop by and vote.


I like Maude's law even if the percentages might not be quite right. Implementation ain't sexy but it's essential to the success of project Cameron.

I kept waiting for Maude to have a brainwave when he was Shadow Chancellor.

And before anyone mentions stealth taxes that was Robbie Gibb.

The premise is wrong
Politicians have fallen so far in people's estimation because the country is in decline and no one, anywhere near the levers of power, has a Plan B. The current political consensus is not delivering on the objectives of ordinary principle. Politicians are eunuchs either in thrall to Brussels or to a zeitgeist that resonates only in SW1 and N1.
Politicians have covered up this impotence by spending billions that have been proved to be wasted and by using statistics to "prove" what is self-evidently false. (The most glaring example is grade inflation in education).
Until someone comes along with a Plan B then the public will continue to despise politicians. This is not a situation which requires the measured and steady implementation of reasonable incremental improvements. The public can see China and India rising, can see militant Islam, can see uncontrolled immigration, see the oil price rise, can see Grade A students who cant write, can see inflation not measured by the CPI can see increased taxes and reduced money to spend, can see murders and muggings on their streets and the loss of civility in Society generally.

They can also see that there is no politician in Britain, no matter how large his allowances, who has the least idea what to do about any of it.

It's simple really - Our Government and our politicians do not run this country anymore. The EU has taken over and left the "British Regional Council" with the boring crumbs. And people wonder why there is no trust or respect for our politicians anymore.

How can people be engaged in domestic politics when the 3 pro EU main parties are fighting over the handful of uninteresting policy areas that they have any say so over?

Posted by: Bazzer | June 05, 2008 at 11:03:
The EU has taken over and left the "British Regional Council" with the boring crumbs. And people wonder why there is no trust or respect for our politicians anymore.

If we really have only got the "boring crumbs" left to deal with, why is the current government still making such a hash of running the country?

We can't really blame the tax cock-up on the EU, can we? Or any of Gordon's other screw-ups...

I'd put closer to 5%, 5%, 90%.

On contempt most politicians are intellectually lazy and would rather go with the party line rather than sticking their necks on the line and coming up with completely orginial thinking.

When I see the calibre of some of the people on the backbenches in parliament I am shocked by, and hold contempt for, their lack of gravitas. When I compare these nonentities with some of the groundbreaking thought on Conservative Home and other blogs it makes me wonder where the real political forward thinking lies? It certainly isn't coming from the government backbenches anymore.

Parliament has lost the ability to think, to debate effectively and to deliver. Perhaps the intellectual ballast now lies outside of the parliamentary process? The time has now come where we need a new type of parliamentarian, one that lives in the real world, has had real-life experience and is plugged into the political thought flowing from blogs, the political reasoning that is literally coming from ground level.

You link to the Taxpayers Alliance. On this subject they say:

"The solution isn't to find politicians with different backgrounds but to avoid relying on them to deliver effective public services. Instead, we should hand control back to civil society."

Which is, as I understand it, the Conservative intention, to remove the state from service delivery:

"The framework theory of the modern State sees government as having two basic roles: to guarantee the stability and security upon which, by common consent, both the free market and wellbeing depend; and, much more controversially, to establish a framework of support and incentive that enables and induces individuals and organisations to act in ways that fulfil not merely their own self-interested ambitions but also their wider social responsibilities."

In Nick Herbert's recent speech he said:

" Reform does not mean central planning or direction. It should be enervating and empowering, setting the framework to shape personal and local services. It should return freedom and discretion to professionals while holding them accountable for the outcomes of the services they provide. It should allow dynamism and consumer focus while holding to the public ethos"

Direct state action is after all a recent thing:

"For three centuries, well into the 20th, the state was small, and played a supervisory rather than an active role. In the famous metaphor, it was the umpire, not a player, in the game."

Nick Herbert probably means 'energising' or 'invogorating'. 'Enervating' means the opposite, that is, 'weakening' or 'fatiguing'.

I think politicians are attacked from the wrong direction. They seem mainly to be three types: legislators (therefore lots of lawyers), marketeers (DC falls into this camp I suppose) or enablers (the nitty gritty backbenchers who solve constituents' problems). Very few have had to implement anything complex in their life nor do they have the aptittude to do so.

The politicisation of the Civil Service is an issue when you look at the appointments made to quango governing bodies but doesn't really go down into the depths of the Civil Service management that actually get things done (or not). The problem here is more one of self belief (the ability really is there) and the back covering.

Somehow we have to create an effective link between politicians and their thinktank policy buddies and the Civil Service beyond the technocratic systems(and the nearly gibberish language)currently used. I suppose it is all about accepting responsibility and, certainly with the proposed increased used of the voluntary sector, an acceptance that failure will happen.

This all means a higher risk political and government culture from that currently in place, which may be unacceptable to voters (and even more so the EU).

Civil servants in the UK – whether in central or local government, government agencies or quangos – make a distinction between policy and implementation.

Policy is of course the superior in their view as it sets out what is to be implemented.

Thus policies are usually elaborate, closely argued, sophisticated and often detailed in a language that is arcane to the point of being unintelligible. This is particularly the case with anything emanating from or addressed to Europe.

Finance and funding aside, the implementation of policy is usually given less attention. Very rarely is policy accompanied by an action plan to show who is responsible for what and by when – commonplace in any private operation.

Politicians come and go but they all have short time horizons. The 'do something' imperative can result in policy development but implementation is then overtaken by the politician moving on or his/her attention being diverted to the next 'do something' imperative.

Thus we have series of policies and strategies prepared that are either ignored or partially or badly implemented. Think of any subject; airports policy, energy policy are two that come to mind.

It used to be said that UK civil servants always seek to hone and finesse policy to ensure that it is complete and coherent whilst giving little attention to implementation. In France they give little attention to detailing policy but rather put their emphasis on implementation – making policy work is the dominant role for the French civil service.

Something we could learn from.

You missed out "50% balls"!

It certainly will have to be if and when we do take over because a lot of stuff is going to be contrary to the Human Rights legislation, massivley unpopular withvested interests and a lot of it will have to be dubious in terms of EU law and we'll have to fly that like the French do. Pass the law and wait for the rap on the knuckles.

"Since becoming Mayor Boris has brought high quality individuals into City Hall. Tried-and-tested business people like Tim Parker, Patience Wheatcroft and David Ross are helping to cut waste and oversee the Olympics. Successful social entrepreneurs like Ray Lewis are helping with the fight against crime".

Very sensible.
"Since becoming Mayor Boris has brought high quality individuals into City Hall. Tried-and-tested business people like Tim Parker, Patience Wheatcroft and David Ross are helping to cut waste and oversee the Olympics. Successful social entrepreneurs like Ray Lewis are helping with the fight against crime".

Also very sensible.

The success or failure of democracy depends on a tripartite in which politicians, public and media have to take some responsibility for the society and communities they live in.

Dave B reminds us that politicians aren't very good at implementation.

Bill Brinsmead tells us that civil servants aren't really interested in implementation.

Hayek said that government just doesn't have the bandwidth to know what's best. A million consumers/producers will always outperform the Man from Whitehall.

That's enough to explain why New Labour is such a mess. They don't understand what went wrong because they believe in government by Fabian "rational, factual, socialist argument."

So, the solution to the implementation problem is to make sure that the government doesn't do it.

Some might suggest that it wouldn't hurt to find out why e.g., Tesco, staffed by very average people, is so good at implementation.

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