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Thursday, 4 June 2020

Time for Boris to be bold

Everyone it seems is agreed. The PM must move quickly to deal with the most egregious failures of the central State exposed by the Wuhan virus. Public Health England, so obsessed with fashionable caprices that it neglected the nation's fundamental disease control measures; NHS procurement, so focused on gobbledegook management consultant speak that it became incapable of buying PPE, and a government reliance on disease modelling and projection so amateurish, bungling and confused that the code management would not have been tolerated in an Indian app factory.

Allister Heath in the Telegraph this morning is spot-on. The PM must act boldly, take the initiative, not be put on the back foot by an effective opposition and a rejoiner establishment. And above I will add he must not yield to the Whitehall establishment's siren calls that the answer to everything is greater centralisation, much as for Brussels the answer to every crisis is more Europe.

And whilst he's at it, he should scrap the Electoral Commission and replace it with a genuinely fair, neutral and unbiased body. The EC's actions over Brexit have been nothing short of disgraceful, partisan, partial and ultimately corrupt. And while scrapping HS2 would play well in the country, at a time when we will need government created economic activity to keep the economy alive it unfortunately fits the bill.

Above all, I would like to see devolution. Devolve everything to the lowest level at which it functions both effectively and efficiently. And it's the SMEs and small vigorous domestic firms that will burst forth from the coming economic carnage and drive growth and employment; abandon the global corporate behemoths crying for special privileges and billions. Keep BA as a national carrier - it's fat with QE cash and doesn't need tax aid yet - and maintain strategic industrial activities, but don't waste time or money trying to preserve 2019. Let it go.

Boris of all PMs should realise that the challenge he faces is also an opportunity, and he has a green light for bold moves, a restructuring of the central State and an unblinking focus on the future.     

28 comments:

DeeDee99 said...

Yes, PHE, NHS Management and SAGE need reform. But you can't just blame Officials for the fiasco; Officials advise, Ministers decide ... and the Cabinet have made some dreadful decisions - not least failing to close the borders in late February.

Hancock has undoubtedly worked hard. But he's also demonstrated on several occasions that he has an arrogant, authoritarian attitude and enjoys wielding power over the population. Anyone who so obviously enjoys being able to micromanage other peoples lives should never be given the power to do it. Since he's also demonstrated that he enjoys counting and reporting on pieces of equipment he's procured, he should be made Minister in charge of paper-clip procurement - a position where he will have no control over us.

HS2 doesn't fit the bill. Prior to Wuhan Flu, the business case for it was already extremely weak. Now it's non-existent since the days of large numbers of people travelling regularly for business meetings have gone for good since the country has proved over the past 8 weeks that in most circumstances, virtual meetings work just fine.

And the days of millions travelling into central London every day to work in an office are also at an end; working from home will become far more common. So the potential users to get on HS2 won't be there and they won't travel into London from their house in the Home Counties to get on it.

There are plenty of other infrastructure projects around the country that the money could be far better allocated to. If Boris pursues with HS2 it's because it is a political project, not an infrastructure one. He might just as well take £106 billon-and-the-rest and have a bonfire with it.

DiscoveredJoys said...

I've wondered about this several times - is 'reform' a better solution than 'destroy and rebuild'?

I've come to the conclusion that where functionality depends on (political) opinion bias will always 'shape' reform... so the Electoral Commission should be wound up and the functionality moved elsewhere, and the BBC should have the licence fee system withdrawn (over a few years if necessary, but ideally before the next General Election).

Where functionality exists under 'institutional ever greater centralisation', reform is possible, but needs new strong management team(s) with new terms of reference to relaunch the organisation. The NHS would be a good candidate, and also PHE. More controversially there should not be a long winded commission process to restate the organisation's purpose. Delay always works to the benefit of those resisting change.

Plus we also need the promised 'bonfire of the QUANGOs' to remove safe harbours for senior managers removed from sclerotic organisations.

It's all going to take time. My suggestion is that Boris concentrates on completing Brexit and selling off/defunding the BBC. Do both well and that will be enough for this Parliament. COVID 19 will not seem so important in a couple of years time.

DJK said...

Be careful what you wish for. Spain has responsibility for health policy devolved to a low level and it suffered just as badly as the UK.

Raedwald said...

DJK But Germany and Austria, with health policy devolved to the Lander, have had few deaths. Spain's problems are poor funding rather than devolution, I imagine.

Span Ows said...

I agree with DeeDee re HS2, total waste of money. There are literally dozens of other, better projects that would beenfit the whole country.

Also, scrap the crazy Zero 2050 and build 10 to 20 new nuclear power plants. Also, about 100 more prisons.

DJK said...

Over at ftalphaville, Izabella Kaminska has a great article analyzing the SAGE minutes to try to understand the many puzzling aspects of the government's initial response to the outbreak. The 200+ comments are also very good and informative. The jist of it seems to be that there was a plan, which was faithfully followed. Unfortunately the plan was for a flu outbreak, not for a SARS-like outbreak. This was combined with huge levels of complacency and inertia, both within SAGE and within the cabinet, such that they didn't change plan until the outbreak had already run riot in Britain, with the results that we now see.

I think the only good thing to say is that every official and government minister must know how badly they've failed --- they can read the same blogs and news websites as the rest of us. None of this will be reflected in the daily press briefings, but behind the scenes they know they've failed and are trying to work out how to fix it.

DJK said...

Raedwald: The USA has the highest level of health spending in the world, and a highly devolved and diverse system. They've also had a terrible Covid-19 result. Likewise, the NHS is a devolved responsibility to Scotland and Wales, but these have done no better than monolithic England.

To say that Germany did well therefore we should have a devolved health system like the Germans is a cargo-cult answer. I don't think there is a correlation between low death rates and devolved health systems, although I instinctively agree that a devolved system should be better.

Dave_G said...


Boris is no more likely to tackle those issues or stop HS2 as he is to prevent Sunak bringing in his Green New Deal.

The Quango issue is similarly unlikely to be touched as its a place politicians can send their useful idiots to keep them from direct mischief (indirect mischief seems to be acceptable by Parliament).

No, there won't be any change. The plans for centralisation continue apace despite the political opportunism that taking the 'other road' may offer. Boris is clearly NOT in control nor will he ever be.

I expect to see an increase in public protest over various issues of even foreign source but potentially home grown as people are further pushed into frustration by idiotic, expensive and clueless regulation on top of the economic stupidity and ludicrous (unnecessary) public control.

Its almost as if they want the result of a global conflict but by means of local protest.

Itscertaiy stopped anyone discussing the state of the banks.

Doonhamer said...

H2S.
Rails and other hardware made in China or India.
Rolling stock from Japan or Germany.
Construction workers from ....... anywhere.
Owned by some overseas conglomerate.
All great for British industry.

Running from the centre of one festering metropolis to another.

On the other hand look on the bright side.

Lawyers will be native.
As will the Diversity Executives.

Total aside. If some creature, a mammal, say a suicide, gets in front of a train travelling at over 200 mph, will the train even bother to stop?
The train will have to run automatically. No normal human driver could take the stress.

Unknown said...

I agree that we should build 10 to 20 new nuclear power stations. Some of these should be of designs that can use part-used fuel, of which we have a large stock that needs to be used up.

In 40 years time, the most prosperous countries will be those that have the most nuclear power.

Don Cox

DJK said...

I read Alister Heath in the Telegraph and much of what he says is spot on (he seems to have read Izabella Kaminska in ftalphaville). His only answer though seems to be to have a housing boom by building on green belt land. Spain and Ireland did this before the great financial crisis. It creates jobs, but not long term wealth. I would rather follow the pre-Covid Dominic Cummings answer of creating a UK version of the Fraunhofer institutes.

Dave_G said...


@DJK.The USA don't have the 'highest level of health spending' - they have the most expensive.

As for our own current health issues it is becoming clearer by the day that we have been either deceived (massively) or deliberately used.

Covid19 figures are unreliable at best, potentially (IMHO) falsified.
Most deaths (elderly) have been due to either Gov incompetence or deliberate policy.
The banning of HCQ treatment is a disgraceful abuse akin to deliberate removal of access to cancer treatment or dialysis.
Policies to control the virus have caused untold damage economically that should give businesses the opportunity to sue Gov for their malmanagement/collusion.
Banks and Big business ave been allowed to BENEFIT from this crisis and now, unsurprisingly, policies to further entrench globalist issues are rearing their ugly heads again.

Talk about 'not wasting a crisis' - especially one you can fabricate.

Raedwald said...

DJK - I was merely countering your own cargo cult response that because Spain had a poor result then centralisation was best.

Both we and the US were complacent - the US and UK were in first and second place respectively in the Global Health Security Index (https://www.ghsindex.org/) and yet we've had amongst the worst results. If we can normalise for other factors - obesity, demographics - then re-weighting these indices in favour of the factors that the lowest mortality did best on may give us a better picture of what works.

Efficiency and effectiveness are not value judgements - they are evidence based.

Dave from Bolton said...

What worries me about more devolution is that it's a nice theory but doesn't seem to work in practice. Look only at Scotland, Wales and, at a more parochial level, London under Mayor Khan.
Like free enterprise, devolution needs to be competitive where the poor performers are allowed to fail, yet such initiatives are blocked by accusations of postcode lotteries, level playing fields and so on, which no politician has yet demonstrated the guts to confront. Such conditions would also result in an even stronger pull of talent from the regions to hubs like London or Manchester.
As DiscoveredJoys says, the system needs destruction rather than reform, because only then will you get a Churchill or an Atlee to rise from the ashes.
Boris, I regert to say, is not a leader of that quality.

mikebravo said...

Dave from Bolton is correct.
The useless tories want to centralize everything as so many outlying institutions and local gov have neen captured ny common purpose/momentum types.
They would deliberately fail and blame the useless tories for cuts and the thick plebs would believe it.
Lies and propaganda spread by the beeb and the lugenpresse.

personalmusing said...

Devolution. Please devolve power to the individual not to my insane local authority.

Decisions should be made closer to those affected and better able to reflect local circumstances and preferences. Allowing individuals to make decisions is much better given the one-party state nature of most local areas.

Span Ows said...

Dave from Bolton. Yes, Boris talks the talk but certainly doesn't walk the walk.

Re Spain and who was it? JPM/anon always on about no detahs, zero deaths etc, well: "The Spanish government has stopped explicitly listing how many deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, switching to a contentious measure of how many people have died in the past seven days. Nor is it updating the overall tally of deaths as frequently or completely as before.

Breaking with its past practice, the ministry’s new policy adds new deaths to the running total only if they occur in the 24 hours before each daily bulletin. All other deaths are only added once a week, when the figures are revised.

After the changes were introduced in May, the death rates recorded by the health ministry plummeted."


The guy quoted in the article is, no joke, Mr Lazarus.

Follow link via: https://twitter.com/jburnmurdoch/status/1268450736398098433

jim said...

So, Boris waves his wand and devolves stuff to the provinces. What does that actually mean - County Council level? Borough Council level? Regional Enterprise wallahs. Or committees of professors scrabbling over how to waste £Billions on their hobbyhorses. All of whom only have one interest - themselves, scoring a big packet then a big payoff then a big pension for doing sod all all their lives.

Boris Be Bold. Sounds good, but an empty phrase. The difficulty is that devolution as a way to boost business is an untried model. Being up to your neck in sh*te is no time to be trying an experiment - unless you are really desperate. We are in the same boat as pre-Brexit and no further forward.

Perhaps we could re-consider our relationship with the USA. We could instead help the Chinese and others build up their semiconductor and military hardware and space technology industries. They have the money, we have the brains and expertise. The Yanks might get a bit ratty but they are hardly going to nuke us and all that secret stuff is likely so much flim flam. Remember all the Yanks have really got is a few software and IP licences, easily re-engineered. Leave yesterday's men behind, be bold.

Raedwald said...

Yes, I need to do a Localism post. Thanks to all for the reminder.

As to helping the backward Chinese catch up with us - yeah, great plan, Jim. Good piece by AEP today -

"“China is not a peer. People don’t realize just how much they have been relying on stolen technology. But stealing is not enough. You need the magic ‘know-how’ and that takes years of experience.”

The Chinese caught up fast after 2015 when the Obama administration cut off two Intel chips used by the military but creating a semiconductor industry is harder. “They are on their third ‘Manhattan Project’ trying, but they are not there yet. They are ten years behind on high-end chips,” said Mr Lewis.

Yet time is of the essence. The next five to ten years will decide whether the US alliance system or China controls the digital infrastructure.

Huawei was able to get around the initial US curbs on technology by purchasing chips from TSMC. The US Commerce Department has now shut this down. All chip manufacturers using US equipment, IP, or design software will need a licence before shipping to Huawei."

So ally ourselves with the Democratic Republic of California with whom we're on a par skills and tech wise, or with the authoritarian pirates of the PRC, ten years behind, dependent in piracy and theft, an our ideological opposite. Oooh. Hard choice ...

Anonymous said...

We've had Tory rule for ten long years.

We've got the NHS, the PHE, and every other thing that they alone have fostered.

Admit it.

They're a shower of it.

jim said...

Semiconductors and the tools to design and make them are too juicy a fruit to be left to the Yanks. Especially when they play petulant. Try this report:-

restricting-trade-with-china-could-end-united-states-semiconductor-leadership

from Boston Consulting.

Nessimmersion said...

DJK and others:
US death rates almost half are accounted for by on US state, New York which decanted the elderly into care homes just like our sainted NHS. Compare the rates for Florida which has a higher % of elderly with NY state.(Also interesting to compare Dem and Repub controlled states relative performance)
As regards devolution, the Spiteful Nannying Party is notable for its mad centralisation as long as it can throw Scotland somewhere in the title. Most Scottish public services are more centralised now than before, just on Edinburgh. As well as a reputation for stupidity and screaming incompetence the Natzis display a woeful historical ignorance, This is reflected in the even worse performance of those elements of the UK state under Natzi control, ie. police, fire, NHS, public health, education. It beggars belief but they all perform worse than England due to being more socialist. & more centralised.
Meanwhile the Tories at UK level have always been too frit to tackle NHS, citing bollocks such as its a National Religion or thats not a hill I want to die on.
This results in a 2nd world health service for the UK

Anonymous said...

DeeDee99 said @ 08:46

'HS2 doesn't fit the bill. Prior to Wuhan Flu, the business case for it was already extremely weak. Now it's non-existent since the days of large numbers of people travelling regularly for business meetings have gone for good since the country has proved over the past 8 weeks that in most circumstances, virtual meetings work just fine.

And the days of millions travelling into central London every day to work in an office are also at an end; working from home will become far more common. So the potential users to get on HS2 won't be there and they won't travel into London from their house in the Home Counties to get on it.

There are plenty of other infrastructure projects around the country that the money could be far better allocated to. If Boris pursues with HS2 it's because it is a political project, not an infrastructure one. He might just as well take £106 billon-and-the-rest and have a bonfire with it.'

You've got my vote mate. It's easy to call it a boondoggle, because it is. As you say there are infrastructure projects aplenty - that need immediate attention; maybe even some east to west rail track to be laid, in some o' them 'red wall' areas. Roads are in desperate need of attention. Bypasses. The odd bridge or three. We don't need 100 billion pounds worth of shiny new track built for the benefit of a tiny proportion (hereinafter called the subsidized) of the population.

Steve

Elby the Beserk said...

DJK said...
Be careful what you wish for. Spain has responsibility for health policy devolved to a low level and it suffered just as badly as the UK.

4 June 2020 at 08:55
=========================================================

As does Germany.

Where it worked very well. Central control and command health systems never ever ever work.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be 3 types of people:
Those that want to lead - the control freaks.
Those that want to be led - and be absolved of any personal responsibility.
And those that want to be left the heck alone.

Put me in the 3rd category.
M.

Anonymous said...

BA is Spanish.

Anon 2 said...

Anon W 23:19" BA is Spanish."
Yes. Having flown with them over a lifetime: first as a child (on a Constellation), most often later on 707s - and even later on 747s - I was horrified and disgusted to learn this when it happened. So much for everything we've fought for since the Armada.
I'll never go near them again, unless it changes.

Anonymous said...

@Span Ows and your prisons comment.

Are you American? That's how they keep the unemployment ratio low.

Perhaps it'll be in the new trade deal along with chlorinated chicken