To Archive List PageThe First Butler Report gave the prime minister a reprieve by using heavily coded civil service language to avoid saying anything much. The unsolicited Butler II gets somewhat tougher by calling Tony Blair's approach to government "shameful" and "bad" and offers a starting point for analysis.

The main charges . . .

. . . include side-stepping Parliament, picking policies designed to grab headlines rather than provide benefits for New Labour's customers and listening only to political advisors who tell Prime Minister Blair what he wants to hear rather than to civil servants, who might offer inconvenient but sound reasons why his ideas won't work.
   Blair always places too much emphasis on selling, he seeks too much central control and he goes out of his way to avoid reasoned debate. The classic example of this is the way he chose not to give the public the full story on what the 'intelligence community' was saying about Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction in order to secure a mandate for war in Iraq.

The Blair administration has become notorious for reaching its conclusions in small, unrepresentative groups consisting of cronies and placemen and other people who can be relied upon to reach the 'right' decision and ignore inconvenient facts. And Blair prefers to delegate powers to unaccountable quangos packed with 'the right sort of people' rather than those in (political) touch with what is going on in the country and the opinions of the customers.

The Cabinet, padded with people not up to the job (Estelle Morris) and Blair's arrogant cronies (Peter Mandelson, Lord Falconer), no longer makes decisions; it merely rubber-stamps Blair's pre-formed decisions. Indeed, criticism is not permitted and proper debate has been abolished in New Labour circles. So it is no wonder that:

  • the Blair regime makes silly mistakes and nobody is accountable any more.
  • Parliament lets through huge numbers of bad bills because the cannon fodder will do as they're told and keep their brains (if they have one) switched off.
  • Lord Butler finds it shameful that the unelected House of Lords has to curb the Blair regime's excesses when the elected House of Commons doesn't.

One of the really serious problems . . .

. . . is that the Prime Minister feels driven to destroy British institutions (the House of Lords, the office of the Lord Chancellor, the legal appeal system, the BBC, etc.) and replace them with a dog's breakfast bearing his personal brand. He also has no conscience about inflicting his personal gimmicks; Cool Britannia, the Millennium Dome, converting Britain into a group of regions via his ambition to have a series of regional assemblies, etc.; on his customers.
   But perhaps the worst aspect of New Labour is the feeling that the party has to justify its existence by passing more and more laws and inventing new regulations. Its failure to take advice and think things through has the result that the new laws are always a dog's breakfast and the legal profession makes hay (and a lot of money) by running rings around them (including the prime minister's own wife).
   Even so, the government is so sunk in a culture of control-freakery that it feels obliged to take charge of every aspect of life by passing new regulations and then preening itself before the administrators of the European Union as Good Europeans who will do everything the EU requires, no matter how silly or how much it damages British interests.

The most wasteful aspect of Blair's control-freakery . . .

. . . has to be his Targets. The police, the NHS, schools, social services, local councils; all have to waste time massaging figures to meet arbitrary targets which are intended to make the government look good rather than provide real benefits to the customers.

"Waiting lists are down!" the government proclaims.
   But not because more customers are receiving a particular service but because customers are not allowed to join the waiting list.

The most dishonest aspect of Blair's control-freakery has to be the culture of spin. New Labour defends charges of politicizing the civil service by saying that its object was merely to remove 'poor communicators'. What is left unsaid is that the real object was to put in place people willing to spout the party line and serve the interests of New Labour rather than the British taxpayer.
   Now that the civil service has been corrupted successfully, every official announcement has to subjected to one or more of the following tests:

  • What have they left out? – the most obvious examples being the caveats of the 'intelligence' community from dodgy Iraq dossiers.
  • How often have we heard this before in a different disguise? – how many times has this amount of 'new' money been announced before? Twice? Three times? Four times?
  • Why are they telling us this now? – the New Labour spin doctors are notorious for burying the government's big failures under the news of something terrible happening abroad.
  • Why are they telling us this at all? – usually because the government doesn't think it can get the public to buy some spectacularly bad plan but it does think the people will swallow a diluted form out of sheer relief when the government announces that it is scrapping the first version.
  • Why are they not telling us the true position? – the most recent example being the Foreign Office's reluctance to issue realistic figures for the numbers of British citizens killed by the Boxing Day 2004 tsunamis in case a number with 3 (or even 4) digits reflected badly on the government and reminded everyone that the prime minister had chosen to stay on holiday in Egypt rather than dashing home to take personal charge (but achieve nothing useful).

This government is trying to become self-perpetuating . . .

. . . by creating a vast army of minor bureaucrats, monitoring officers, inspectors, etc. who have a job only because of the level of New Labour's interference in the lives of its customers. And who have a vested interest in keeping New Labour in place so that they can continue to draw their wages.
   Worse, Tony Blair is doing his best to separate all connection between the concepts of 'reward' and 'failure'. Which is why John Glieve, whose serial amnesia at the Home office helped to sabotage the Budd Inquiry, got a knighthood in the 2005 New Year Honours List; Doug Smith was made a Commander of the Order of the Bath after failing completely at the Child Support Agency; and Richard Bowers, head of the Strategic Rail Authority (abolished in 2003) got a CBE.

So what's to come?

More of the same but with an added note of hysteria. Prime Minister Blair has shown over the last 7 years that he's a dabbler who can't think through the details that make a Big Idea work. So we'll get more bribes and more promises which will be broken as soon as the election is out of sight, and more spin and lies.
   Worse, the hysteria will spread to Chancellor Gordon Brown, who is becoming increasingly desperate for his turn in the top job, and everyone else who thinks he can take over from Blair.
   Brown's latest Big Idea, for instance, is a post-World War II style Marshall Plan for the Third World. But as he is such a compulsive meddler, any such scheme is bound to make his catastrophe of a tax credit plan for poor people in the UK look like a resounding success in comparison.
   So while the other hopefuls scrabble for attention, all the poor old customer can do is watch a lot more of the nation's wealth disappear into New Labour's black holes and hope for something better to come along.

Note: This report was compiled according to official New Labour standards of accuracy and verification.

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