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Saturday, 13 September 2008

The comrades do so love forms

Labour is the party of form filling. Brown can claim a true success in having introduced tens of thousands of new forms to the nation over the past decade; forms for the police to fill in, forms for doctors to complete in duplicate, forms for teachers to manufacture in scores, and forms that every corner of the public services spend at least half their time sending to each other. The nation is drowning in Labour's forms. Last year I even had to fill in a form to get a form; at my local council's 'service centre' I first had to fill in a form explaining why I was there. 'Skip licence' I wrote. When my turn came to see the clerk in the little booth, I thought that would be it; I had my debit card ready to pay. Oh no. Another form was reverently produced and I had to go away to fill it out. When I reached the head of the queue again and found myself back in the little booth, this time being allowed to pay for my skip licence, I asked jocularly 'do you have a complaint form?' and without batting an eyelash she reached for a massive forms carousel sprouting blank forms of every rainbow hue. 'Only joking .... no, really.'

You see, forms are the tool of the central State. All decisions can be reduced to systems. Central planning and resource allocation needs tractor production statistics in vast amounts. Counting and monitoring are as important as doing. Decision making cannot be devolved; no one has discretion. The form thus acquires a mystical and holy status under Labour; the form has power.

The Evening Standard told us last night what Gordon Brown's main game plan was to avoid a leadership election. You won't be surprised to learn that it's to hide the forms.

Every year before the conference, Labour MPs were sent a conference bundle that included as a matter of course a leadership challenge nomination form. This year the form wasn't included; MPs would have to ask for one personally by writing to the General Secretary. No form, no leadership challenge. You can imagine Brown chuckling maniacally at a stack of hoarded blank forms on his desk; never mind the numbers of opponents in the PLP, he had the forms and without them they were powerless.

Only Labour.

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