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Thursday, 9 July 2020

Public blunder - it's Crimea all over again

A tempest is blowing through the complacent hubristic corridors of power in Whitehall. They have been tested and have failed utterly and humiliatingly, and now they must face the gales of change.

NHS central procurement and NHS and PHE central testing, we were told yesterday, wasted £25bn due to incompetence, a confused commitment to central command and control, a concentration on fashionable management nostrums and jargonistic pabulums rather than on efficiency and effectiveness. It was the rule of dire and dismal senior managers with a focus on reducing sugar in breakfast cereal rather than saving lives. It is the grossest and most culpable mismanagement; indeed we have seen nothing like it since the debacle in the Crimea exposed the manifold failings of army management.

You may know how the media and the telegraph shone the disinfectant sunlight into the dark establishment corners of mismanagement, blunder and stupidity in Crimea. Medical and logistic failures. Troops with no tents or winter clothing, no means of preparing food hygienically, inadequate medical care, flogging at the wheel, a system of buying commissions that left the army in the command of idiots and fools. The British public at the time were outraged - but the establishment aristocrats who ran the army closed ranks and blocked all attempts at reform, for a while at least. It took Prussia's thrashing of the Kermits and an establishment panic that eventually allowed Cardwell's reforms of 1870 - 1881. Barely a generation short of powered flight and the cinema we stopped flogging servicemen.

The Whitehall establishment will make the same impassioned defence of their blunder, malfeasance and incompetence as did those cretin generals back in the 1850s. They are as far out of their depth now as they were at the time of Crimea. They have no place in office, no place in power, no place in control of our taxes and no place in a democracy with a government with a mandate to cleanse them.

Pre-Nightingale NHS hospital in Crimea - disease prevention by PHE


DeeDee99 said...

Operation Cygnus highlighted how unprepared we were for a pandemic. Instead of forcing PHE to rectify the issues raise, PM May and Health Sec Jeremy Hunt suppressed the report.

The utter shambles of the past 6 months is at least partly a consequence of the CON Party's appointment of the most useless PM in our history in an attempt to overturn the Brexit result. Jeremy Hunt also has questions to answer.

I have no faith that Boris and Cummings will cleanse the Whitehall Augean Stables any more than he will clear the Westminster one. A PM who, on taking Office with a mandate to deliver Brexit, immediately appoints high profile Remainers to the House of Frauds has no intention of delivering the real change this country needs.

So what if PHE/NHS wasted £25 billion. There's always the Magic Money Tree which Sunak has discovered in the garden of No.11 ..........

Arkus said...

Its the entire State sector - from top to bottom. All of it ... useless

Jack the dog said...

Brilliant post Radders.

DiscoveredJoys said...

There is an underlying problem with long established government in particular, of any stripe. Cabinet Ministers and Prime Ministers talk smoothly of solutions to problems implying that they will be implemented shortly. This flies in the face of actuality. Nothing significant happens without a change in law, and changing/creating laws takes time, often years - many laws never happen because they become the pawns of political gaming. Then the changes have to be implemented within budgetary cycles and this takes time and lack of money might stifle the changes at birth. And then the lawyers get involved exploiting loopholes or poorly design for the benefits of their clients. The Civil Service are habitually inclined to avoid change too, and they have their fingers in every stage.

Now I'll be the first to agree that sometimes slow lawmaking and slow implementation of change can be a good thing. But even the politicians and Civil Service recognise how cumbersome the system is... why do you think there are so many Statutory Instruments used?

I expect what you need is big politically powerful people to single-mindedly push change through against resistance. I wonder if Dominic Cummings is that man in the Conservative Government at the moment? No wonder so many want to have him sacked for upsetting their pleasant lives with changes. I hope the Government don't spread his efforts too thinly as there's plenty that needs fixing.

Hoof Hearted said...

We need Health vouchers to purchase decent healthcare, education vouchers to help purchase a decent education for our children NOT LUNCHEON VOUCHERS. Try again Sunak oh and whilst you’re at it defund HS2, scrap the foreign aid budget and stop spaffing money at the NGOs.
£25bn for overpriced PPE and a useless test and trace system. We could have bought 2 carrier groups plus aircraft and still saved money. How the heck are this lot of pathetic troughers going to navigate us through Brexit?

Span Ows said...

First it needs anyone (all parties) who studied politics and has only worked in politics to be culled. Then all procurement (all departments) given to actual 'buyers'. You mention the Crimean War. Same in the Penninsular War. Same in The Gulf War etc.

Read a great piece by Jag Patel this week, from 2017 (Defence procurement: where has it all gone wrong?) who concludes: "It is hard not to conclude that the existing procurement process was created to serve the career interests of people in the pay of the State than for the purpose of procuring equipment for the Armed Forces which is fit for purpose, adequately sustained in-service and constitutes value for money through-life"

jim said...

Well, we're in the hole for well over £300Bn and that's just this year. Yes, I'm sure the top brass are dickheads but Covid caught everyone with their panties down. Except the French and the Germans and, well you know the list. So, £30Bn is chicken feed, don't even waste time on a 'report' that will be ignored and gather dust. Just move on.

BTW, UK is now level pegging with the whole of the EU all added up when it comes to the death toll. A message there somewhere.

Strife brings innovation. Think of the Battle of Morengo. Hungry officers, an innovative cook, a few stolen chicken, saltpetre boiled out of gunpowder, a cavalry breastplate, some pot herbs, a camp fire and the world receives Chicken Morengo. The dish lives on, the battle almost forgotten.

The big question is what will this Covid strife bring us. Getting rid of needless property developers? Or chicken nugget shops that put litter all over the place? Possibly, but getting rid is the easy bit, what to replace with is the big problem. Therein lies the rub. Wars used to push innovation, plagues not so much.

The Crimea fiasco brought about a change in the way the army was run. Not because anyone cared about the soldiers but because there was a risk we could lose. Losing would mean invasion and losing land and stately homes. That would be serious. That is what drove mid C19th thinking. So far Covid is not that kind of threat - so no worries and no change.

Raedwald said...

Jim - a sound point at the heart of that, that we need to win over (or vanquish) the new establishment - no longer the landowners, but the supranationalist cosmopolitan elites. Signs are that we're giving them enough of a slapping for them to consider at least meeting us .. but the attrition of vested interests has hardly yet started. Let's make them beg a little.

As for the chicken shops, they will emerge as the winners. Rishi has allowed the free market to choose which food leisure establishments survive - and it will ne Nandos, the fried chicken shops, cheap pizza joints, Indians and kofte and kebab houses. Thus infuriating at a stroke the health fascists who wanted the State to choose which food shops survived - based on healthy eating, natch, rather than popular choice.

I love the free market.

DJK said...

The management of the Covid-19 epidemic has been utterly shambolic. I just find the incompetence that has been on display deeply, deeply embarassing.

Today we learn that the govt managed to sped £15 billion on PPE. How is that even possible? Plus another £10 bn on the not working (world beating!) track and trace system. Yet still, current C-19 case numbers (excepting Scotland and N. Ireland) are about the highest in Europe, and deaths have far outstripped anybody else. I don't know about tempests blowing through the corridors of power but British governments since WW2, except perhaps in the early eighties, have been one long succession of failures, content to manage decline and muddle. Boris and the nonentities around him are just continuing the pattern.

Dave_G said...

A system that allows, nay, encourages clueless, easily led and IGNORANT employees to be manipulated by careerist mandarins is as effective a 5th element as any you could 'seek past' the invigilators.

As mentioned, the problem starts at the top and these office-chair generals need culling in favour of those with experience in the private sector. Start by offering leadership positions to former/existing business owners at remuneration levels they can't resist with a mandate to reduce costs and increase efficiency as per private sector demands with appropriate bonuses for efficiency and savings.

They used to say "if you can't, teach" - it seems to be also that "if you're thick/manipulable, state".

There should not even be 'state' control of business-like affairs. It belongs to the people and should be run by the people.

Wessexboy said...

Blogger DeeDee99 said...
Operation Cygnus highlighted how unprepared we were for a pandemic. Instead of forcing PHE to rectify the issues raise, PM May and Health Sec Jeremy Hunt suppressed the report.'
In fact the NHS Board meeting 30/03/17:
"Purpose of paper:
To provide the Board with assurance that NHS England and the NHS
in England is prepared to respond to an emergency."
So apparently, the Board of the NHS were comfortable with their preparedness. When do the Govt. become responsible for this delegated responsibility?

Unknown said...

An assumption in this post is that there are plenty of capable managers who could replace the incompetents at the top of the NHS or the armed forces. I doubt if this is so: my experience is that good managers at any level are rare. Most managers are out of their depth and struggling.

Second point: 89 per cent of the problem is covered by the text of the original edition of "Parkinson's Law". If you can find a copy, it is worth reading, or reading again.

Don Cox

Anonymous said...

Slightly OT but my Great, Great Grandfather was in the 46th (South Devonshire) Regiment of Foot during the Crimean War - Battle Honour for Sevastopol. My Great Nan, who I met and was still alive (age 94) when I was 9 in 1966, actually new him as a young girl. He gave her the musket ball that was removed from his thigh after the Battle of Alma. Very tall lady she was, and despite her class very elegant.


Mark The Skint Sailor said...

I have yet to see any serious discussion regarding the Common Purpose organisation and the reduction in standards of leadership.
Ever since the rise of Common Purpose during the Blair years, there has been slippage of general leadership standards. Platitudes that seem to come out of "The Common Purpose Book of Excuses" like "lessons will be learned" roll off the tongue and identify brainless so-called leaders put in place not because of their aptitude, but their social network.
It's like the modern-day Masons, but far more insidious, embedded at the highest levels in local and national government, the NHS, The Sciences, Education, the armed forces and emergency services.
Common Purpose has graduates in high level roles across the services that control our lives. Yet it is so secret that no-one knows the things that are discussed in their meetings.
You have to wonder why it hasn't come under serious scrutiny. Especially as it's graduates are so easily identified just by the similarity of the words and phrases they use. And their complete incompetence.
I do wonder if this is yet another Common Purpose cock-up.

Oldrightie said...

This dreadful, arrogant and unaccountable Civil Service also has contaminated Councils. Overpaid managers appoint their pals to NHS Trusts, council departments and a whole raft of jobsworth incompetents and self interested, lazy cretins. Despite furloughing these same people, on full pay, not 80%, I doubt many people have even noticed their drop in an already paltry work output.

Nessimmersion said...

Re the UK death toll mentioned by Jim which apparently equals the whole of Europe.
I can't find the huge death toll in the ONS figures.
Perhaps its the UK press suffering from combined TDS/BDS and maskerbation syndrome.

jim said...


Check out the FT coronavirus Free-To-Read new deaths graph.

Could be a wicked lie, but I doubt it.

Nessimmersion said...

Yes, just having a look.
Hector Drummond is looking at 6 monthly deaths against 5 yrly average.
FT is looking at weekly deaths against weekly average.
You can play with graphs and get any result you want if Project Fear is the aim.
Similarly theis video on You're a Tube is very good, its an Irish doctor who is not on the Project Fear team evidently.

Equally interesting is this one from Sweden:

Ultimately we won't know if indeed there are excess deaths until the end of the year, even that though doesn't account for a mild flu year followed by a harsh one which is why a 5 or 10 year average may be of more use.
It will be interesting if US lawyers ever start pushing on the excess mortality in care homes caused by decanting elderly from hospitals and refusal to dose with HCQ trifecta.
How far does responsibility for wrecking an economy run?
Should entitlement to a pension paid by the taxpayer end if you have knowingly pursued a ruinous course, i.e. Boris and Ferguson.
Yes you are allowed to make mistakes but can you expect the taxpayers impoverished by your actions to fund your retirement?

Anonymous said...

So the Tories maintained your alleged levels of uselessness in the Civil Service for ten long years, just so that they had someone to blame for when they really messed up?

Look like that to a lot of people.

Sobers said...

"Its the entire State sector - from top to bottom. All of it ... useless"

Ding ding ding, we have a winner!

It matters not what 'reforms' are put in place, the new body (which will be the old body with a new logo and new chief exec) will still be infested with the usual Common Purpose Guardian reading Leftists, and despite any attempts to make them do what they are supposed to be doing, within a few years they'll be off following whatever Leftist nostrum is the flavour of the day. You could close PHE down, sack everyone and start again with all new staff, and within a decade it would be identical to the old PHE.

The only way you could reform the Public Sector is to legislate that the political affiliations of the staff must match those of the country, at all levels. Otherwise Conquests Second Law of Politics will apply without fail.

Dave_G said...

Sobers - isn't AI made for this specific purpose? Sourcing, ordering, supplying and delivering without any human intervention? Heck, even I could write a routine to collate source/demand.

Suppliers upload their inventory and price/availability, users upload their requirement and schedule - voila. Robots (akin to Amazon warehouses) chuck it on the back of a lorry.

The whole principle of human intervention in such procurement systems is now outdated.

John Brown said...

Unknown @ 09/07 11:27 :

As well as applying Parkinson's Law you also need to apply the Peter Principle.

Raedwald said...

Trolls - stay OT, please

John Brown said...

It was always going to be difficult for our elected government to govern whilst opposed by the swamp composed of the heads of the civil service, the educational establishment, the BBC and most of the MSM, the quangos, the judiciary and all the institutions such as the NHS, PHE, etc. all of whom are EU supporters and all trying to bring down the government if not the country.

The government should use the Covid-19 pandemic to flush away this swamp.