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Monday, 22 July 2019

Boris is right - the dreary pessimists must pack their bags

I think today will be the last Monday - at least for some time - that Boris Johnson's column appears in the Telegraph. His final appeal is for an end to the gloomy prognostications of failure, the hangdog jowls, the droopy bitter eyes, the negative vibes. When he moves into Number Ten, we can be sure at least he will not be dragged down by a depressive, negative neighbour - Hammond has already been pictured packing, and will be gone before Boris arrives. His main point is that fifty year ago we put a man on the moon. Solving an issue of a customs border in Ireland is piffle. 

I've lost count of the times on construction schemes when I've been told it can't be done, it's impossible, the cost will be prohibitive. The reason I was picked to deliver so many 'difficult' schemes (and they are still trying to get me to do so - despite my strict instructions to my agent as to my very picky criteria for new work) I believe is that I had a reputation for being 'agile' at a time when the term wasn't even in the vocabulary of the management consultants. Usually all it took was a quiet and sympathetic chat with the boss of the engineering / design consultancy, telling them I understood if the task was too great for them, if they couldn't cope. There was no shame in it. We would arrange their quiet replacement by another practice. Fee-earning firms don't expect to be sacked - they expect their word to be gospel on the feasibility or not of some scheme aspect. Nine times out of ten it did the trick. You see, the task was very rarely impossible - more often the key consultants just didn't want to do it my way.

So I am with Boris on this. I've had a working lifetime of dreary dullards predicting failure and a lifetime's experience of proving them wrong. Boris writes
And I am afraid that there are technological pessimists – some of them apparently in London – who seem genuinely to think that such technical solutions are impossible, that they are a kind of logical contradiction, a mythological species that we will never see in this universe. Are they right? Of course not. There is abundant scope to find the solutions necessary – and they can and will be found, in the context of the Free Trade Agreement that we will negotiate with the EU (and this is common to both candidates in the current leadership contest) after we have left on October 31.

It is absurd that we have even allowed ourselves to be momentarily delayed by these technical issues. If they could use hand-knitted computer code to make a frictionless re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere in 1969, we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border. There is no task so simple that government cannot overcomplicate if it doesn’t want to do it. And there are few tasks so complex that humanity cannot solve if we have a real sense of mission to pull them off.
For a final column, that's not bad. 


Anonymous said...

I'ts a lot easier to find a rule as to why something can't be done than to do it, and finding that rule gives the finder a sense of authority/power that they haven't earned.

It's funny how attitudes can change when it suits. I was looking at a young black woman on the bus and thinking that when she goes looking for a job the question will be, "Why can't we employ her?", whereas for a young white man the question will still be, "Why should we employ him?" - same problem, (find an employee), different solution.

DeeDee99 said...

The backstop wasn't the only appalling feature of the Barnier/Robbins Surrender Treaty. The whole thing needs to be scrapped and a Free Trade Agreement negotiated; but that will take time. The question now is, how BoJo proposes we manage relations until such time as the FT Agreement is in place. If it involves us abiding by EU rules, the EU dictating to us and the ECJ overseeing the process we won't have left.

RAC said...

My favourite line there..... "There is no task so simple that government cannot overcomplicate if it doesn’t want to do it." May had got that down to a fine art form. Thank The good Lord that we can KISS her goodbye, and good riddance.

Dave_G said...

Politicians are experts at finding problems to solutions.

Anonymous said...

"Fifty years ago another country put a man on the Moon."

While the USA were putting a man on the moon, the British had cancelled Blue Streak & Black arrow rocket propulsion systems.

right-writes said...

This is something I actually have direct first hand knowledge of.

When I used to work on a contemporary of that IBM computer (x3 actually), with the same operating system in 1974, there came a time when they needed to be upgraded.

So a couple of specialist engineers were flown from Rochester,MN to Finsbury Circus in EC2, their job was to install an extra 1/2mb of core to the three systems. Since the old core was supposed to work seamlessly with the new core, it took a degree of expertise to make the connections... The word "knitting" was used then in the same way as it was used here by Boris.

My point was that it wasn't particularly difficult, it just required the correct procedure to be performed.

Yes at the time it was an unusual thing to do, since the number of computers of this size in London at the time was countable on the fingers of one hand.

What we didn't need were a couple of engineers that told us it was not possible.

Neither did we need people to tell us that we are mistaken, that we actually saw something different... as someone did to my comment today.

So anyway, Boris is right, the Irish border question is solvable and any impediments are deliberate inventions, designed to placate the anti-democrats.

Edward Spalton said...

Jacob Rees Mogg recently wrote an article in the Telegraph which displayed an apparent ignorance which seems to be widely shared. As the editor did not use my response, I repeat it here

"Having been opposed to our EEC/EU membership since 1972, I am surprised that such a financially astute gentleman as Jacob Rees Mogg asserts that critics believe that "behind the border" non tariff barriers will suddenly spring up" when we leave.

The barriers already exist to protect public health and technical standards inside the EU's internal market. It is our leaving, as Mrs May demanded in her Lancaster House speech of January 2017 or if we leave with a "No Deal", which places us outside the border and therefore subject to those controls.

The EU could not abolish them just for us without facing demands from every other country in the world to receive equal treatment under WTO rules".

Anonymous said...

On the subject of trade doom mongers pedal the illusion that Customs Clearance is still carried out by men with clipboards individually checking every case and carton. If that was the case our trade would have abruptly come to a halt sometime around 1952 and airfreight would be pointless. State run institutions move glacially slowly but business waits for no one.

Saito said...

Yes, tally ho chaps. Who needs help from the EUSSR to get our ship back!

Chins up!

APL said...

Saito: "EUSSR to get our ship back!"

Stenna Imperio ( owned by Stenna Bulk AB - CEO Erik Hanell) maybe registered in the UK, but it's owned by the Swedish.

The crew "from India, Latvia, Russia and the Philippines" --Sky News.

Are we actually going to use a foreign owned tanker which the owners were too tight to crew with a British crew as a pretext to attack Iran?

Somebody, somewhere desperately wants the West to attack Iran.

None of our business, I'd say.

Span Ows said...

Agree APL.

Re Boris, we can all speculate what would ahve happened had he won back in June 2016. However, that ship has sailed. I know I have written the same thing here before but what really gets me down is the high optimism of the Brexit/Trump shock was totally wasted. Let's hope now BoJO can tap into the people's optimism and grit, sack all the shysters; get efficient, brave, smart, real Conservative people in to do the cabinet jobs.

Anonymous said...

Saito .. no worries. UK will simply rely on the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) headquarters in Northwood to coordinate the mission.

Mark said...


Absolutely. It's not our ship or crew or cargo, it's just registered here.

I believe that means this country oversees regulatory aspects of operation, I'm not sure it means we are obliged to defend it.

If the latter were true, most shipping surely would be US registered.

If there are Latvians on board this Swedish owned ship what is the EU - you know that globe straddling behemoth - going to do about its "citizens", winners in the lottery of life that they are.

It's the superpower here isn't, not us.


Span Ows said...

"European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) headquarters in Northwood"

5 minutes from where I lived for nigh-on 20 years, EU NAVFOR...LOL