Monday, January 26, 2009

Sir Humphrey: in the firing line

Speaking of Bishop Hill, I notice that His Ecclesiastical Eminence recently had an article on LabourHome, of all places.
While flicking between channels on the TV today, I came across the evidence given by Lord Birt to the Parliamentary COmmittee on Good Government. This was a bit shocking.

One of the things which he said that struck me was that apparently the Prime Minister (I think he must have been referring to Tony Blair) was all in favour of reforming the drugs laws a few years back, but was unable to do so because of the coalition of civil servants that opposed him. Birt's words were that the civil service just had too much invested in the status quo.

My conclusion was that in essence the elected government of this country was unable to achieve its aims because the civil service did not accept its proposals.

The question then is, who exactly is in charge? Does it actually make no difference at all who the electorate choose as its government? Do we simply get what the civil service wants us to have?

Those of us who were avid fans of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister would not find the above to be particularly surprising. Fucking irritating, yes: surprising, no.

Might I point out then, that when your humble Devil finally takes his rightful place as Prime Minister (or Grand High Dictator. Whatever) of this currently benighted country, he will make it a personal mission to sack every single Civil Servant in the highest three grades.

All of them will go—without exception. It is intolerable that this country should be ruled by unelected bureaucrats (whether here or in Brussels). And who knows, perhaps that will be an added incentive for all of those who believe that the Civil Service is a job for life...


TheFatBigot said...

The civil service can prevent change only when ministers allow them to do so.

Our problem over the last 11 (oh god, it's approaching 12) years is that incompetent ministers have not allowed them to do so. "Reform" after "initiative" after "action plan" after "result of consultation" has been forced through by the government.

Can anyone really suggest that the civil service is responsible for the constant fiddling with every aspect of education? Or the fiasco of GP contracts? Or the way unemployment figures are fiddled? Or the utter mess and waste of tax credits? Or choosing CPI rather than RPI as the inflation measure against which interest rates should be set? Or removing effective regulation from financial services? Or introducing a new crime for every day since the 1997 election? Or selling gold at the bottom of the market after causing the market to collapse by saying you are selling gold? Or legislating to allow hundreds of public (and private) bodies the right to enter people's homes? Or emasculating pension funds through tax? Or ruining thosands of pubs and restaurants by forcing them to prevent customers from smoking and turning them into former customers? Or treating a friendly nation as a terrorist state? Or ... or ... or ...

These were government decisions taken by ministers and voted through by lobby fodder. The blame lies in one place and one place only. It does not lie with civil servants.

Anonymous said...

DK, if you had to choose a PM from Blair, Brown and Sir Humphrey who would would it be?

Anonymous said...

The civil service is more powerful than most people beleive, just that they hide behind ministers skirts. These are the people who want power but haven`t got the courage to stand for election.

"He who has the ear of the prince becomes his mouthpiece "

I wish a full expose would be done about these people.

John B said...

"Or the way unemployment figures are fiddled? ... Or choosing CPI rather than RPI as the inflation measure against which interest rates should be set?"

Yes, definitely, for these two - the unemployment stats are based on ILO definitions, as created by civil servants in the UK and abroad; and the switch to CPI was based on independent advice from the National Statistics Agency (bringing the UK in line with what was considered international best practice).

Oh, and assuming you're referring to Iceland, the 'terrorist state' thing is rubbish.

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