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Cameron wrong if he thinks sacking nine out of ten civil servants the answer to his problems

Posted on 11 May 2012 | 7:05am

Not much doubt which will be the most read newspaper in Whitehall today… the Daily Telegraph, which leads on a story headlined ‘worst civil servants to be sacked,’ and includes the remarkable line from a ‘minister’ that he is in favour of sacking 90 per cent of them, and paying the remaining 10 per cent lots more money.

Wow … talk about bold. I mean I know they don’t think much of ‘the State’, but this is dramatic stuff. And talk about how differently this story would have been projected had it come from a Labour voice under Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, when the merest hint of dissatisfaction with the ‘Rolls Royce’ machine was met with Tory and media denunciations of politicisation, undue interference and the rest.

The truth is that as in any organisation there is good and bad in the civil service, and a fair bit of indifferent. But there is also some very very good. Some of the brightest and best people I ever met came from the civil service, and not just at the top levels.

Both TB and GB at times felt the frustrations now seemingly being voiced by David Cameron. But he is making a big mistake if he thinks the answer is a massacre on the scale seemingly being canvassed.

His senior aide Steve Hilton, now off to America, made no secret of his feeling that the civil service was top to bottom mediocre and a brake on any meaningful change. But I can point to lots of policy areas in our early years in government when they made a real difference for the better both in policy making and implementation.

But they had to be well led by the politicians, and that is perhaps what is missing. One of the worst aspects of the current leadership of the country is the seeming desire to blame the whole time. Today it looks like it is the civil service copping it.

But whilst no doubt there are some in there who would struggle to find work elsewhere, there is plenty of talent and the key is making sure it is well used.

I can’t help thinking that getting them all to read about how useless they are, and how nine out of ten may be facing the sack, is not a very sensible form of leadership at a time when the leader is losing his reputation for competence, and being assailed from many sides because of a lack of strategy.

Ps … Sorry for ignoring the media organisations asking me to comment or do interviews on Andy Coulson’s evidence at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday, or Rebekah Brooks’ today. I am due at the Inquiry myself next week, so I won’t be saying anything until then, and won’t be replying to requests for bids.

  • Anonymous

    Just another rant by a Tory about the state and how much they detest it. They want us all to feel grateful we’ve got a job. Once we’re bowing and curtseying at they’re magnificence, they’ll just about be happy.

  • Presumably the plan is to outsource all the functions currently carried out by the 90% they’re dumping: tax collection, benefits payments etc. etc.

    This would certainly be good for their corporate donors, but based on my experience of dealing with my bank, courier companies, mobile phone operators, railway operators, airlines and the rest they certainly won’t be any more efficient and effective. I was a civil servant until 25 years ago and have worked in the private sector since then – believe me, the private sector can be much worse when it wants to.

    It’s possible that Cameron seriously thinks the private sector is somehow more efficient than the public sector, but I think he’s confusing profits with efficiency. Public funds given to private sector firms will be soaked up by huge and rapidly inflating director’s pay and much of it will disappear overseas never to be seen again.

    You’re right about leadership. Cameron and his colleagues have now sent a clear message to the thousands of civil servants who work for them that they think mos of them are worthless. As a leader, Mr Cameron makes a good PR man.

  • Ehtch

    Can’t stand these Coalites (anyone invented that word yet?) going for easy targets.

    It is a sign of a total lack of lateral thinking. Get your blinkers off, you knob headed Coalites.

  • “When posh boys get into trouble they sack the servants.”
     Dennis Skinner.
    The prism through which our two bold space cadet coalition leaders is seen may well be changing.
    Thoughts from the archives of the Royal Grenwich Observatory, on topics of astronomical interest –
    “In the late 80’s the RGO stood on the brink of a precipice. When Alec Boksenberg took over, it took a great leap forward.”
    Full speed ahead under captains Cameron and Clegg.

  • Chris lancashire

    Brilliant stuff Mr Campbell! Total none -story manufactured from an off the cuff comment. Keep spinning.
    By the way, Guido has some good stuff this morning.

  • Ian Scott

    “The big lesson that I learnt in that first term was that actually
    today’s politics is a lot more to do with structural change, project
    management and delivery than it is to do with ideological fixations,
    left versus right, or the notion that you can, by edict from government,
    change things.”. Tony Blair.

    David Cameron continually gives the impression that if he simply says
    something it will somehow happen and that the utterance constitutes
    leadership. He’s woefully wrong and he’s being found out.

    Some years ago I worked for an ex British Army Brigadier. He was an arch
    Tory but I’d have done anything for him. “The Brig” would never blame
    anyone for anything – he might, from time to time, refer to a “COMFU”
    but he would never pin the blame for it on the people who worked for him. A
    true leader. And he was a lot better at PR than Cameron too. 

  • Mark Wright

    It’s only a matter of time before this government starts blaming us, the electorate, for the lack of growth in the economy for just not working hard enough.

    I’d put money on some Tories already thinking it!

  • mightymark

    I thoroughly agree with this article. It is absolutely the case that the better led civil servants are the better they perform. The CS ccould also manage itself better particularly as to how personnel are deployed.

    However if the Government  wants to surround itself with “yes” men who will not point out the problems with their policies then getting rid of a permanent civll service is the ideal way to do that. And anyone who tries it will rue the day they did. You don’t have to believe that the civil service is a Rolls Royce machine to see that it is better than a model that only veers to the right (or indeed, the left).

  • Michele

     ‘Coalite’ sounds like smokeless fuel! 
    I think they’re far from that.

    I’ve liked the word ‘coalescence’ as it suggests all sorts of mucky unsavoury slimy multi-coloured substances sliding together and mixing like one of those psychedelic screen savers (I try to ignore the trumpy kind of aroma it suggests  though).

    I wondered whether there might be something on google about how they happen in chemistry and got slammed with this at the top of the results

    and then I gave up 😉

  • Michele

     I think I’d use ‘stupid’ rather than bold!

    This lot have shown themselves to be totally NotIntoDetail, they don’t appreciate the depth of projects that depend on more than gloss and packaging and being sold. 
    They aren’t workman or craftsman-like; I daresay they regard people that are as ‘little people’ (maybe even ‘their’). 

    They plainly felt that supercilious about the immense care and concern Messrs Brown and Darling gave to all the infrastructure they were building on so I’m hoping we hear more soon about how much advice from CS  Fox&Friend over-rode and which lobbyists ‘convinced’ them that our Harriers were worth pennies in favour of a speculative project from US.

  • reaguns

    I can’t get excited about this, because every government has said it and no government has done it. Sir Humphry should get motherfucking sacked and sacked hard! I’ll end this post here in case swearing isn’t allowed, but in the case of these scum its justfied.

  • reaguns

    What should be, but won’t be, done is to cut entire departments and quangos, even just for a year – and see if the sky falls in. Obviously it won’t, in fact it will be a lot lighter and brighter. Every time I have seen such a reorganisation there have been positive results in industry.

    Obviously the talentless should go. As should the talented but obstructive, in fact they should go first. And what about the talented and helpful? They should go too. After all if they are really so talented, think how much money they will make in the private sector, think of how delighted our industries will be to avail of all this new talent! Yeah right!

    As for who to sack and who not to, its quite simple “Here are my policy recommendations, you have spent the rest of your life trying to obstruct them, but soon I am going to sack the most obstructive members of the team, so carry on as you will and I’ll see you all in 2 months time, and less of you the day after that. Good day.”

    All the ones involved with the EU should be sacked today.

    I better make it clear, as noone else will, that we are not talking about normal civil servants working in Swansea and Newcastle here, but Whitehall.

  • reaguns

    I knew it, people think this is about sacking 9 out of 10 normal civil servants! No it isn’t, its about sacking 9 out of 10 of the Sir Humphry variety in Whitehall. The ones who deserve no sympathy.

    However, I have worked in both sectors too, you are absolutely right that when private companies get big enough, like banks, mobile phone operators and so forth, they are just as bad as the civil service, or indeed worse. Once they have monopoly or cartel power, which many of them have, we are in trouble. The answer is Jeffersonian, backed by Adam Smith. We need small companies and competition. We need every service provider to feel financial pain every time they give us bad service. This will automatically happen in a free market, but since we have at most a 50% free market and no political will for a more free market, this will never happen, therefore we need some trustbusting.

  • Libdem

    Must admit I prefer ‘coa-lite’ as they’re lacking in substance!

  • Libdem

    Couldn’t agree more especially over the EU!

  • Libdem

    How on earth can they manage to spend 280m on deciding whether or not the new aircraft carriers can economically take catapults? I suspect somewhere within the MoD there’s some Sir Humph lining up his next position in the defence industry!

  • mightymark

    Actually there are quite a few of what you call (I think I undertand what you mean) “normal” civil servants working in Whitehall while some policy work has in fact been devolved to Swansea and Newcastle. My old (central Whitehall) department was roughly 80+% “normal”. Moreover there is now (since about 1968) no formal class barrier in the CS so “normal” civil servants can aspire to much higher grades and I know quite a few who made it. Take that opportunity away and the time servers will probably be all that remain.

    You do realise I suppose that the logic of your second paragraph is that there would be no civil servants at all – perhaps that is your intention? If I have misunderstood that and your “yeah right” is ironic I can assure you that the private sector does indeed head hunt the best civil servants.

    As to obtruction I prefer Alistair’s view that civil servants work well where they are politically well led. The trouble is in part that ministers move too frequently before they have a real understanding of their brief. Only the other day as soon as the election results came out as bad for the Tories the journos and others started speculating on – yes you’ve guessed it – a reshuffle.

    On the EU you should be aware that few civil servants work exclusively on the EU. Most have such EU functions as correspond to their domestic duties e.g. food safety or air transport – quite sensibly I’d say.

  • Ehtch

    Play on Thatcherite, Michele….

  • Gilliebc

    I agree Mark.  Governments come and go.  But, a bit like royalty the CS is always there as a steadying force for good.  
    Much the same applies to the HoL also.  It’s of little wonder that transient and inept governments want to change things to suit their own short-term purposes. 

  • Ehtch

    ….but yes, your link is perfect, metaphysically.

    The mind is thinking unblinking, when your eyes and ears and nose and taste and feeling, is not involved.

    Sorry, got a bit metaphysically phillisophical then.

  • Janiete

    This was a political decision made, in large part, to embarrass the Labour Party. It speaks volumes for press coverage in this country that you seek to blame civil servants for Government mistakes.

    Presumably the same civil servants offered the same advice and information to the Labour Government as they did to the coalition. In their haste to rubbish everything Labour did and score political points, the Government arrived at completely the wrong decision, which they have had to reverse.

    This will cost the country a lot of money and is deeply humiliating for David Cameron, given how critical he was of the orignal procurement choice. No doubt that’s why he arranged for the U-turn announcement to be made while all eyes were on Coulson at the Leveson inquiry.

  • Langstroth

    In the context of central gov civil servants – what a good idea; I doubt the gov will have the gumption to do it. I’ve worked in and for a number of central gov depts and generally the upper and middle management were appalling and at times very obstructive to the point of bordering on being negligent, the “technical” staff at best indifferent. Yes there were some very good people – but they were alas always constrained by the organisation not helped. Radical reform is needed. It’s our taxes paying for it all!

  • reaguns

    Absolutely. Does anyone seriously believe that the top brass in the armed forces doesn’t know which type of carrier and which type of planes it wants? Of course not. This is a matter purely between the government and the defence contractors. The top brass should, however, have come out and said from the start “We need this type of aircraft carrier and this type of aircraft” then let the politicians either buy it, or buy something cheaper and answer to the public.

  • Dave Simons

     We’ve had monopoly capitalism for a century and a half at least and it’s the natural development of the capitalist mode of production. Big fish eat little fish, as in feudalism, where a lot of individual field strips in one big open field were later consolidated into a few big fields. If we start getting nostalgic for small companies and competition in a free market we are going down the same fantasy road as Margaret Thatcher and her ilk, and we’ve already been there and seen what it leads to in practice. Part of her fantasy was that ‘Private’ equals ‘Good’ and ‘Public’ equals ‘Bad’. I’ve also worked in both the private and public sectors and I agree with you and Andrew Cooper about their relative merits. I’ve witnessed more waste, stupidity and inefficiency in the private sector than would ever be tolerated in the public sector.

  • Libdem

    I agree over the political part and embarrassing Labour but come on are you seriously suggesting that the ‘re-design’ wasn’t even ballpark costed?

    The civil service is never held accountable by us, it’s always a political decision by a minister. The ministers presumably take best advice from the CS but it’s evident over many years just how much of this best advice is waste.

    I know it’s the torygraph but have a read:

    It’s indicative of the sort of waste that reaguns and myself will harp on about. These  sorts of contracts will be reviewed etc by the CS and the minister ‘expected’ to sign at the end of the negotiation process. It’s just one example of how poorly negotiated the contracts are.

  • Michele

     If it’s in the Toxi it must be true eh?

    During the past two years while PCTs have been rendered impotent do you imagine there have been no effects?

    If an NHS employee needing a printer cartridge or memory stick etc found it not available from their stripped-down PCT what do you suppose they should do, other than nip out and buy one with petty cash if there is work to be printed NOW?  Of course such a transaction would cost more than the PCT would have paid but it would have been a necessary ‘evil’.

    An American businessman bemoaned on radio just a couple of sad years ago, that UK PCTs were buying US-made hardware parts for one-fourteenth of what US healthcare companies paid. 
    The reasons for that are obvious, huge orders allow transport and other costs such as import clearance to be amortised FAR more thinly (not to mention the better first-cost that can be negotiated when buying in bulk). 
    That simple basic fact  about the supply side is something that Cameron knows nothing about, Osborne (despite the family connections) ditto and Lansley, whose wife trains lobbyists …… work it out what the NHS changes have really and truly been about and for whose benefit.

  • Michele

     Understood 🙂
    I simply think it sounds too clean for what is actually slimy, greasy and doubtless smelly.

  • Michele
  • reaguns

    Pleased to meet you Sir Humphry.

    Much of the civil service has one purpose – to provide employment for civil servants. In the past I have believed this has been the intention only of the civil servants themselves, but now I believe Brown and Blair saw employing more civil servants as a way to keep the dole queues down, and also as a way to create a client constituency, ie if they create 1 million more civil servants (they did) and 1 million more immigrants, the logic goes that this is 2 million more labour voters.

    We got 1 million more civil servants since 1997. Apart from the NHS, does anyone think the civil service has improved since then? No they work on bogus job creation, money wasting schemes like tax credits.

    Regarding the private sector hiring civil servants, either way I’m happy. If the civil servants are all incapable of holding a real job (and many that I worked with would be, or at least would have to speed up a lot to work in industry) then getting them off the government payroll is a good thing. On the other hand if they are very talented and hardworking – then getting them off the government payroll is a good thing.

    There are 4 types of civil servants:
    – Essential ones: Police, Army, and I’d include NHS (we can argue about where that line is drawn)
    – Non essential but useful (we can argue about where that line is drawn) 
    – Useless ones, who do not help the country or the economy.
    – Worse than useless ones, who actively damage the economy

    All of the departments that I worked in came under the last category. Many of the workers were efficient, but when their job is to administer a ridiculously complicated tax or benefit system, performing this job efficiently only damages productivity in this country. We should all have been sacked.

    Contrary to popular opinion in tabloids and among Question Time viewers, it would be more beneficial if the last two categories were on the dole. Ie it would be better if they were performing no useful function for £67 than if they were doing it for minimum wage or above.

    I believe we need simpler rules on tax, we need to get rid of things like tax credits altogether (and just lower taxes), we need to get rid of all the departments I worked on and a lot more after that, we need to simplify legislation. With political will it could be done, say we charge everyone a flat tax of 35% (or whatever rate) and no exemptions whatsoever, pay it or you get shot. Think of the civil servants, and also private sector accountants and lawyers that we could then set to work in the real economy producing money instead of consuming it.

    Please note, I am not one of those who says that no one in the public sectore “creates wealth” – many do, I’m talking about those who don’t. Ie if its a service that I would pay for in an open market if the government didn’t provide it, like health or roads – then it generates wealth. If its one that I wouldn’t, like tax credits or arts funding for example – then it doesn’t.

    As for the EU, the problem is that these civil servants depend on EU for a job, and for a prestigious one at that. So they are always intransigent about anything that is opposed to the EU. They are incapable of looking at the EU dispassionately and seeing if it benefits the UK or not. They have way more power than they should. As Upton Sinclair said “It is very difficult to get a man to understand a concept, if his job depends on not understanding it.”

  • reaguns

    I don’t accept that we’ve ever had capitalism Dave, America has come closer in the past (it is far from capitalism now as well.) Almost all monopolies have got their power through government support after they have lobbied the government for regulation that suits them but hurts small players. They always want to increase barriers to entry and its easy to persuade the stupid public that this is in their interests, ie human resource and health and safety laws look cuddly even when they have evil purposes behind them.

    If you are saying that in a democracy such as ours, we will never have true capitalism, because peoplw will always be persuaded to vote for laws that assist the crony corporatists instead… well thats a different thing, but if we had a small enough government then it wouldn’t have the power to help its cronies.

    In a totally free market, monopolies can arise through economies of scale. But for the very reasons we have just discussed, they will also start to suffer from diseconomies of scale, ie the large bloated companies start becoming more bureaucratic and costly, delivering poorer service etc. Provided there are no barriers to entry (free market) small companies can come in and eat up business. I have worked for a couple of such businesses, but they only generally arise in competitive industries like IT.

    You never get such a good service as when you are getting served by the owner of the small family business, when its his ass on the line if you don’t come back for repeat business. This “tyranny of the consumer” is what we should want.

    However, if are unable to have a capitalist society, or if we have a capitalist society and it doesn’t work – then we should force this to happen through trustbusting. Ie if the market doesn’t smash up cartels and monopolies, then the government should. Just as if the market doesn’t punish bankers who squander or money, then the government should.

  • Libdem

    I’ve given you an example of an acquisition I made on behalf of a government department before; perhaps you’ve forgotten. My experience was during the last Labour government whereas you seem to be suggesting that this all started just 2 years ago.

    Your American businessman quote is almost as believable as the newspaper……

    Out of interest, which newspapers do you read and which ones do you believe?

  • mightymark

    “As for the EU, the problem is that these civil servants depend on EU for a job”

    As I said, the whole point is that most DON’T depend on it – it is one aspect of their day to day duties.

    And if UK civil servants don’t look “dispassionately” at EU proposals it is prescisely because the are generally viewed with scepticism – not favour.

    One of my proudest moments as an official was from a relatively junior level, to have initiated the process (I examined very carefully the figures supporting the proposal and realised they were wrong) by which the UK took the lead and bulit a coalition to defeat an especially daft proposal the benefits of which were illusory and the costs of which would have been huge. My senior colleagues were nothing  but welcoming of my efforts and backed me all the way.

    Ask anybody involved in EU negotiations and it is the UK that tends (whether under Blair, Brown or Cameron) to be the most sceptical of proiposals from the Commissionand it is UK civil servants who do most of the leg work in opposing these or where there is no choice, defanging their worst aspects.

    Don’t think by the way, that leavimg the EU will help. If we did that we would need possibly even more civil servants to ensure that UK law and businesses were compliant with EU legislation so as to be able to sell into our largest market, but over which legislation the UK would have absolutely no say whatsoever.

    There is much else wrong with your post. Just to take arts funding which you mention. I wonder if you are aware of how much the UK earns through its arts, entertainment and cultural sector. How do you think the actors, musicians, artists and others are trained and have their initial experience before the best go on to earn mega millions for the UK in exports and tourism?  

  • reaguns

    We are never going to agree.
    I believe governments only essential functions are defence, and law and order. In this country, I believe it should provide a small, simple welfare system too, and the NHS.

    After that it should be minimised. I saw immense scope for cutbacks when I worked there.

    Taxes could be simplified, benefits could be simplified and tax credits could be abolished. This would free up 10s, even 100s of thousands of workers, and the salaries saved could be used to pay higher benefits or have lower taxes.

    Just one example, I spent ages working on a part of a system which worked out certain benefit changes, sometimes this particular benefit moved from £2.50 to £5 or vice versa. Due to stupid legislation we had to work out a system that would phase this payment up or down ie if the person was getting £5 then their award was reduced to £2.50 you didn’t just drop them in one go, oh no you dropped it to £4.50 for some time, then £4 etc. Things don’t work that way in the real world. If someone gets paid £500 per week then losed their job, they don’t get gradually dropped down, they go from £500 to £0. Just one of thousands of examples of pointless, expensive guff.

    As for the EU its very simple. They tell us what size and shape our bananas are, then we should tell them where to stick their bananas and remind them of the size and shape of our armed forces compared to theirs.

    Art: I don’t care what benefit we get from art, I don’t want it funded out of my taxes. Those who like it can fund it. So our art generates money does it? I doubt that very much when the cost is subtracted, but if its true: great! Absolutely no reason for govt subsidy then! If its a money spinner, the private sector will be happy to do it, and we’ll tax the profits instead. You might make a case for govt funding of science or roads, which involve large capital investment and sunken costs difficult (though not impossible) for the private sector to bear. But art requires only a very small investment.

  • Michele

     As you’re a rep for the IT industry you’ll have to excuse my lack of faith in your example/s. 
    There are brilliant designers and technicians in IT but  also there are sales teams.
    We only need to decide who’s being creative and objective rather than defensive or spiteful.

    I can swallow your lack of belief in what I heard, first hand, spoken by an American healthcare professional in a 45mins debate. 
    If he had made a mistake I’m sure he would have had himself edited pre-broadcast. 
    This was all during Obama getting his healthcare programme through its first stages, the debate participant had been over here for several months studying how NHS is structured (or WAS).

    Guardian and i.
    You ….. let me guess,  your diet’s Toxi and Wail?

  • Libdem

    Not bad, you got one out of 4. I read the Tele, Times, Guard and Inde when I have the time. I like to consider opposing views and try and keep an open mind.
    Can you say the same?

  • reaguns

    Saw Chris Bryant on Sunday Politics today, another impressive performance. I think he is much more impressive, much more, forgive the pun, straight, tough and honest than for example Chuka Umuna or Andy Burnham.

    Andrew Neil accused Labour of being too close to Murdoch and other things, Bryant admitted that, apologised for it (though stated it wasn’t him personally), said he understood the reasons (to stop murdoch papers eviscerating Blair/Brown like he had Kinnock.)

    Then he said to Neil “You worked for him for 10 years, you should apologise.” Its not quite the same, Neil is a free, private individual who can work wherever he wants, whereas governments in the pocket of newspaper proprietors are a whole other thing. Still it was a fairly gutsy response.

  • mightymark

    Well, we certainly won’t be able to agree or disagree until you engage directly with what I say as I have tried to do with what you say.

    It is increasingly obvious that your real beef is not with the civil service at all but with Government policy. If you can put together a coalition of forces that will get your “simple” tax, NHS and welfare in place and the civil service doesn’t fall as on any objective basis it should do, then will be the occasion to complain.

    As for the rest you also have I suspect an obvious problem with democracy whether you realise it or not. A  lot of what you presumably see as “distortions” to an ideal “simple” system result from democratic pressures on Governments over time. If you are designing a system for some kind of absolutist monarchy, Marxist state or worse where people don’t have much say in what they get then your “simple” systems might work, though of course they would prrobably throw up their own dostrotions over time that might explode without the benefit of a democratic pressure valve when things go clearly wrong.

    On the EU (of which I am frankly not as huge a fan as I once was) I think you have to ask why we are still members.despite consdierable scepticsim especailly in te Tory party. Few it seems, want to pull out. Mrs Thatcher played a blinder getting what she wanted out of it but never, so far as I recall, suggested withdrawal. You simply have to face up to the fact that the reason for that is that despite all the problems, on balance membership is good for the UK. And threatening them with our much depleted armed forces since the current goverment’s defence cuts is not going to cut much ice.

    On arts funding you clearly have not taken my point. The private sector will not be happy to contract with other than the relatively few stars and even fewer mega stars that emerge from the many lesser talents that the state funded system supports. Why for example should recording companies spend their cash training thousands of youngsters to read music or play guitars in the hope that one or two will become the (I hve ot be careful here or risk showing my age!) Coldplay’s or Adele’s of the future? Can you pointme to any country – even the USA – where that sort of thing happens?  

  • mightymark

    I have checked
    out some  figures here. In 2007 a report noted by the Work Foundation noted:

    entertainment industry is now as valuable to the British economy as the financial
    services sector
    sec   The examples and perspective in this article or section may not
    represent a worldwide view of the subject.

    Please [
    improve this article] or discuss the issue on the talk page.            setor


    1. As stated or indicated
    by; on the authority of: according to historians.

    2. In keeping with: according
    to instructions.


    ….. Click the link for more
    information. According to a new report. Cultural exports from Britain,
    including music, television shows and computer games, are greater than from any
    other country in the world, the report reveals.

    It declares the creative economy to be a “great unsung success story”
    which employs 1.8 million people and generates annual exports worth more than
    pounds 4bn.

    Independent research organisation the Work Foundation analysed the nature, role
    and scope of Britain’s creative industries on behalf of the Department of
    Culture, Media and Sport.

    It concluded the commercial landscape was steadily transforming because
    of industries powered by creativity – such as music, gaming, television and

    It denoted 13 industry sectors: advertising, architecture, publishing, radio
    and TV, design, film, music, software and computer
    services Data processing (timesharing, batch processing), software development
    and consulting services. See service bureau, SaaS and ASP. ,
    computer games, designer fashion, crafts, performing arts and the arts and
    antique market.”

    In 2010 following the Goverment’s expenditure review the BBC reported
    reduced Arts Council spending would see its

    government grant of £449m drop to £349m by 2014”.

    would seem to anyone but the ideologically blinded that we are getting a
    bargain for our arts spending.


  • Michele

    LOL (ie: he correct version of it, not your leader’s boss’s 😉 ).

  • Michele

    Given the info from Mark you might be interested to hear that most of the present batch of British super-successful recording artists are the product of state funding via state schools like the BRIT.

    I’m sure their success is due to their epic proper training and ability to perform live, now that record sales are not providing the biggest profits as they used to.

    As to their tax arrangements … it would be awful if, given the above, they had special ones.

  • Reaguns

    I was referring to “art” in more narrow terms, ie ‘art’ art, Tracy emin, the Tate modern and all that garbage. I don’t want to contribute a penny towards that.

    But you can expand the definition to include whatever you want, I don’t want taxpayers, especially this taxpayer, funding art.

    If its a profitable endeavour then the private sector will do it more efficiently, if it’s not then it shouldn’t be done.

  • reaguns

    Due to my device I might have to reply in stages.

    I find it hilarious that you accuse me of being against democracy, then go on to state the benefits of arts funding and the EU! If we had a referendum on arts funding and one on EU membership, what do you think the result would be? How about immigration and capital punishment? How much of a democrat are you really?

    I on the other hand believe in much more democracy than we have now, I believe the people should get what they want, provided individual and minority rights are protected.

  • reaguns

    Feel free to tell me anything I have not engaged on. Are you sure by “not engage” you don’t mean “do not agree.”

    On arts, I give not a stuff what money it makes and whether it would be funded by the private sector or not. If stopping funding art means no adele (who I like) then too bad, no adele. I like adele but I like cash and freedom more. If it means no Coldplay then that is reason enough to do it on its own merits! 🙂

    You are largely correct in your assertion that my problem is more with government than civil service. When the government enacts needlessly complicated and therefore expensive legislation, that’s its fault, not the civil service. However when the civil service is intransigent about following orders, or cuts, or further complicates the position, as it does with IT, it takes blame too. If I was to sack 500,000 civil servants, even though I blame the government I think those civil servants would consider that an attack against them.

    However, again I state, the issue of the 9/10 is in relation to the Whitehall sir humphreys, not the entire civil service as you want to portray it. I would love it if we had a government with the balls to get rid of 90% of the entire service, but seeing as no uk government has had that courage and this is the most cowardly (but not yet worst) government in living memory, they certainly were not referring to such a move.

  • reaguns

    Oh and as for armed forces, I was not seriously suggesting we put a gun to anyone’s head, but we still have the best in Europe even taking into account France’s advantages in certain areas.

  • Michele

     Based on your lack of success I suggest you keep trying.

  • mightymark

    Well one man’s art is famously, another man’s poison. Sounds like you don’t want to contgribute to  what you don’t like. Fair enough – I feel the same way same times –  I don’t think but you are going to have trouble framing a policy that reflects that wiothout a one man referendum every time a proposal for such funding arises.

    You are clearly ot prepared to engage on my point about the private sector not being prepared to fund the general training and rpreparation of the many from which the stars ultimately emerge.

  • mightymark

    I’m sure you are right about that, but if that wasn’t waht you were suggesting earlier – then what was it?

  • mightymark

    I didn’t say you were against demoicracy and to be clear, I don’t have any reason to think you are.

    What I said was that you had (or more strictly, would have) a problem with it since it would over time mess up your “pure simple” systems as people would want things changed to account for special or changed circ-umstances, anomalies sheer human cussedness etc. Only by denying democracy therefore could you keep your system “pure”. 

    I think you may neeed to reconsider everything you have wrtten here if you truly believe what you say in your last para. I think you are simply confused and quite possibly in denial too.

  • mightymark

    “Are you sure by “not engage” you don’t mean “do not agree.””

    Absolutely certain!

    I confess though I can not  engage with your view that you don’t care how much the UK makes form arts funding – you simply don’t like it and don’t want it.

    This seems to be a case not of politics but of pathology in which I regret, I have no expertise and cannot comment. .

  • Anonymous

    Mark has widened the goalposts of the argument. I am in favour of “free” education, including in art and music, and I think our current arrangements for that are fine (1 class per week till GCSE where you either take it up or drop it). If people go on to careers in music or art from that, great. I would give them that education whether it returns obvious direct financial benefit or not.

    I don’t however for one minute think that the British versions of Elvis and Michael Jackson would become welders were it not for these classes! People will always draw, write, sing, play music, form bands etc in their own time, no need for government manufacture of them.

  • Anonymous

    In relation to arts funding, I’m sure we are all regular readers of Boris Johnson’s column (after all, how could someone oppose his campaign if they didn’t know his point of view) but here it is in case anyone missed it:

    I don’t agree with him that we need a Tory in charge of the bbc. Surely we must accept regardless of our ideologies that we do not want the media too biased in either direction, and while we have the right wing sky, telegraph, mail, sun etc we must also have the left wing guardian, indy, mirror, channel 4 and bbc to balance this out.

    I also do not agree with his simplistic point scoring analysis of the blair government – I believe blair did begin reform of the nhs and education, and indeed further reforms would be much more difficult without him. He even made some inroads on crime, the only things he didn’t tackle was welfare and the civil service (he made that worse.)

    I do agree with Johnson’s words about art funding though.

  • Anonymous

    Oh my God, Chris Leslie, too smooth by far, soundly thrashed on the daily politics today. Reminds me on a cameroon Tory, all polish and pzazz, no substance.

    On the other hand, Rees Mogg was frighteningly good on friday on the show – still it won’t matter, looking and sounding like he does there is no chance of him getting anywhere.

  • Michele

     If you take a look at newspaper sales and note the shift in proportions of the overall total I think you might form a different opinion of ‘democracy’ yourself (at least for this topic).

    Democracy’s fine if it’s based on info and not on which paper has the most soft porn in it.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, doing replies at top of page see you there.

  • Michele


    You have some very weird ideas, are you about 80 and also grew up deprived?

    If someone has a talent and it’s the part of them that they are more interested
    than anything else, it needs and deserves nurturing before they get pigeonholed
    through basic school timetables.

    There is just as much value and quality in a person with natural skills that
    are creative or entertaining  as in someone
    that will always sail through academic exams.

    My often-quoted neighbour confided at the weekend how upset she is that the
    ‘Children First’ programme is out the window at her recently-academy-ised

    The north European idea of letting the child develop as a
    person till about age 6 before starting them on 3Rs, something that has often
    been admired here (which Toby Young is apparently following – going for play
    and physical co-ordination first) and which has always been the MO at Hill
    House (the most expensive ‘prep’ school in UK where children don’t even need to
    prove they know the alphabet till age 7) is no longer the way our privatised schools
    to move. 

    No more observations of the child’s politeness, willingness
    to work with others, conversation skills and vocabulary, no time for drawing
    and model-making/spatial skills, physical co-ordination/PE – every single hour
    now is about numeracy and reading; a 3pt report instead of a 7pt one; it’s no
    longer about the whole child (regardless of how broad or narrow their homelife
    might be).

  • Anonymous

    To Markymark: Replying your messages up here one at a time. You say that it is impossible for people not to contribute to things they don’t want without one man referendums on everything. What a quaintly simplistic view. I suppose it should not surprise me that you do no understand capitalism. What we do is, we have small government, we reduce the size of the state massively (or by whatever extent the electorate will allow.) Then, all those little pet projects such as art, can either lose their funding (if ministers decide it would be better spent on NHS, defence etc) or they can take the same percentage funds as they did before, which would be a cut in funds.

    But as long as you reduce the state, and everyone’s taxes, we then have our own earned money, in our own pockets, and we can do exactly what you just said was impossible – we can choose to contribute, or not contribute, to art and everything else. My word.

    Perhaps you should read an economics primer? Alan Johnson got bored of his, you can probably pick it up on your way through whitehall?

    Next you say that I will not engage your argument about the private sectors inability to fund stars. Do you think I am a 6th form debater? Again, what you mean by “will not engage with me” is “does not agree with me.” For some reason, despite your blatant lack of understanding of the capitalist side of economics (its fine to disagree with it, but you should demonstrate understanding of it before disagreement) you feel you are in a position to make authoritative statements which others should agree with.

    But I can repeat my engagement and disagreement with your position however many times you want (copy and paste is a wonderful thing.)
    If we stop funding art, and as a result we no longer develop so many stars in the private sector – I don’t care. I would be quite happy to receive a rebate of my share of the arts tax even if it meant losing every present and future recording artist, actual artist, scriptwriter and so on. I like Adele, but I prefer money. I am quite sure that Simon Cowell or Rupert Murdoch will realise that other people do want this, and will set about finding ways not only to fund it, but to make huge profits from it, which will then pay tax. Also we can import these things from other countries if they are stupid enough to subsidise their industries. But again, if none of those things happen, as long as my tax gets cut, I won’t care.

  • Anonymous

    As I stated I was joking.

    A simple point that no one in western europe has the capability to threaten Britain in any way, economic or military.

  • Michele

     Unfortunately Janiete it does seem likely from several news reports that the senior CS was at the time in favour of selling the Harriers for about a fifth of the cost of the then-recent refit, or were saying so.

    Presumably, as Labour had commissioned the refit, they’d been in favour of extending the Harriers’ service and our ownership of them.

    How on earth the senior CS managed to turn Fox & Friend away from that plan, or whether the CS were simply being discreet about F&F   ….. back to your point ….. to embarrass Labour even at half a billion ounds write-off ….  ?

  • Anonymous

    Oh aren’t you clever. Well you are not as clever as the people who disagree with you and created the worlds most powerful economies.

    Come back when your ideas produce a USA.

  • Anonymous

    Markymark: Again I’m not a 6th form student so you can stop talking down to me. Quite content in my academic, professional and financial achievements, I do not need lessons from a civil servant, the only civil servants I look up to are in the NHS and the Army, and I know you were in neither of those or you’ve have been poisoned or shot by now.

    Come on then, lets debate democracy. You said you don’t think I believe in democracy, I said I believe in more democracy than you do.

    You think my simple state would be voted down in a democracy. Parts of it would, parts of it wouldn’t, we are back to referendums again. America and Switzerland have smaller states than us and more democracy than us, whats your answer to that?

    I suggest you take your smarmy manipulative tactics to a suitable audience, such as question time or a 6th form class, I am not a pupil, and certainly not your pupil, so you can drop the history professor attitude.

    Your job wouldn’t exist in a genuine democracy, ie I and most people would vote to remove the likes of you from government subsidy and see how far your smarmy attitude gets you in the marketplace.

  • Anonymous

    “This seems to be a case not of politics but of pathology in which I regret, I have no expertise and cannot comment.”

    I would love to be an original thinker, but I am not, so if you disagree with my opinions, and say that I am pathological not political, then you are saying the same about John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Clement Attlee, Ronald Reagan and others. I am quite happy to be for them, and against you.

    Its a bit early for insults isn’t it, but hey why don’t I play that game too, in a more direct way: Go and get a real job you thieving bureaucrat.

  • Anonymous

    Markymark: Your turn to engage directly with my points. Try not to:
    – Pretend I am against democracy and call me marxist/stalinist or whatever it was!
    – Pretend I am pathological
    – Suggest that because I do not agree with you, I am not engaging with you.

    And for my part I will try to pretend I don’t think you are an overpaid parasite. Thats right, my insults are more direct, just like my democracy…

  • Anonymous

    The sun is right wing on crime and immigration. So are most people I meet.

    I am right wing on crime, but left wing on immigration. However the majority disagree with me.

  • mightymark

    Interesting concesssion – but its an artificial distinction that doesn’t take into acccout e.g. late development or the continuing need for support where it isn’t just about individual effort but group faciltities like local theatre companies. I’d accept that not every “great” artist is going to depend on state funding but given the other advantages of the arts in the widest sense, and the ralatively  small sums of public 
    alloted I’d be reluctant to risk it. Certainly it would need more than one person’s doubt (which I share by the way) of whether Tracy Emin’s unmade bed is “art”  to convince me to abandon state funding of the arts.

  • Michele

     I don’t read and don’t need to read Johnson’s column to know he has already proved himself a totally ineffective useless mayor.

    The only reason he won was the benefit he received from the hate campaign against his opponent.  I wonder if he socialises with the bloggers that assisted it?   

    Hell, if he’d stood up and admitted that he had no belief in such allegations about KL I might have voted for him for simply having a decent streak.

  • Michele

     ‘….  in the pocket of newspapers ……. ‘
    You mean like the ones that mocked so many good Labour politicians on snotty grounds till mid-90s?

    It’s a shame that over two years since the context of a certain note was explained :
    most rags are back to distorting as they always used to.

  • Michele

    Sigh ….
    People in private employment are even more likely to be in the pockets of their employer (and even moreso in the many years ago that Neil was with Murdoch – not that I expect the latter takes much notice of employment rights anyway).
    Being in the pocket of Rupert Murdoch meant toeing the line and conforming to what he wanted to be shoved down people’s throats.

    Some people who work for such bosses do not last eleven years, no matter how much they are paid. 
    No need to fess up that you’d manage.

  • Anonymous

    Well quite, you are not going to persuaded that arts shouldn’t be funded, and I will not be persuaded that they should.

  • Michele

    For your msg starting ‘The sun’ ….
    Yep, the fact that many people are right wing is UNDERSTOOD, how did they come to be so is the point? 
    Was it while glancing across from the rightwing ‘editorials’ to salivate about the 44Ds in the adjacent columns in the paper they actually CHOSE?
    Is it because they don’t get INFO in rags like them?  Is it because they’ve become incapable of digesting info?
    Sheeesh do you post such crap because you’re needy for acknowledgement no matter its type?

  • Michele

     It’s art as philosophy, just as so much writing is.

    She has an incre mind and whole industries have risen up around her in Shoreditch (IT Alley).

  • Michele

     Whether swearing is ‘allowed’ or not, why use that particular example?

    However, dubbyah.ay.enn.kay.eee.aaarrr – it’s late, night night  – don’t forget to really punish it eh?

  • Michele

     It’s the Americans whose costings have turned out to be so wrong and whose timetable is massively extended.
    Doubtless there are some IT ‘professionals’ somewhere in the pipeline (naturally a very nice clean air-conditioned pipe).

    There must be minutes of the meetings Fox&Friend had with the suppliers / lobbyists. 
    They should be scrutinised and questions should be asked about the information asked for or ignored.
    There must be penalty clauses about the schedule not being maintained.

  • Janiete

    Rather a lot of policies have been announced which at their heart were to make a political point (often at the expense of Labour) but have since gone pear-shaped.

    Their position on the deficit ‘as bad as Greece’ and ‘on the verge of bankruptcy’, although complete twaddle, was designed to wreck Labour’s credibility for economic competence. It just succeeded in completely destroying confidence and returning us to recession.

    The spat with Brodie Clark, I think was really about Theresa May trying to seize the ‘tough on security’ agenda. It has backfired spectacularly causing problems at our borders which weren’t there before. The same motivation was probably the reason for jumping the gun on the removal of Abu Qatada. Er … that didn’t work too well either.

    Likewise with the fuel strike that never happened. They were playing politics again as they know any strike story is bad for Labour. What a disaster, causing a fuel shortage without a strilke!

    The U-turn on aircraft is just the latest in a long line of unbelievable blunders. This must be the most naive, half-baked, incompetent Government ever.

  • reaguns

    That’s true, you don’t need to read his column to make a judgement on him being a useless mayor. I agree as it happens and with your sentiments about decency. I think Boris has good ideas but implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Is this because the mayor has limited power or because Boris is crap at it, or both.

  • mightymark

    Actually its worse than that – I’m an oversuperanuated early retired parasite!!!!!! Get it right man.

    You will see below that I expressly did not say you were against democracy (strewth – does anyone ever read anything here before sounding off!).

    On pathology your dislike of arts funding seems itrrational – but I am answering this before reading your other screeds so maybe you will explain it further – I live in hope. Same as regards engagement.

  • mightymark

    See above on the thieving bureaucrat. “Sticks and stones” reaguns old chap, “sticks and stones”.

    Are you quite sure all of the names you quote would have opposed public arts funding? Didn’t the Attlee Govt build the South Bank centre for the Festival of Britain? FDR ceratinly was heavilly interventionist in the 1930s and I am fairly sure (I stand to be corrected)  there was at least one publicly funded arts programme as an adjunct to the new deal in the form of a folk song collecting project.

    I suppose referring to the theatre arts in the context of Abe Lincoln (a hero of mine too as are most of those you mention) would perhaps be in rather bad taste!

    • reaguns

      I don’t agree with everything FDR for example did, nor everything Reagan did, but overall I admire them both. Its just to show that though someone may logically oppose the NHS for instance, there were successful historical figures of calibre who were for it, for example Attlee.

      Likewise though you may disagree with my free market views, there are plenty of distinguished figures who agree with me.
      I am not sure of FDR and Attlee’s contribution to arts funding, I would have thought they would be in favour of it. Whether it was feasible to do so in their time I don’t know, but if they were to take power in our modern economies I imagine they would be in favour of arts funding.

      I haven’t read your other replies, but again I must stress it is the likes of Tracy Emin, Tate Modern etc (you must forgive a philistine for having to resort to the same examples as I don’t know many) that I am against taxpayer funding for. I don’t mind kids getting taught music and art at school, or rather I am in favour and I think the current arrangements for that are well enough balanced.

      I hadn’t thought of the Lincoln art connection unfortunately and did not intend to give the impression that my disaste for art funding extends to the assassination of art lovers or artists!

  • mightymark

    Ooo ‘e’s angry isn’t ‘e!

    My job doesn’t exist as I don’t have one and I repeat I did not say you were against democracy. Nor did I say your simple state would be “voted down”. I said it would run up against phenomena that would compicate (or as you would perhaps say “corrrupt”) it.

    Are you aware that neither NHS workers nor members of the armed forces are formally classified as civil servants?

    I can live with the rest!

  • mightymark

    “You say that it is impossible for people not to contribute to things they don’t want without one man referendums on everything. What a quaintly simplistic view.”

    You said, or seemed to say, funding would be OK but not for Tracy Emin. I simply pointed out the consequence of  deciding on arts funding on the basis off one person’s taste. Reductio ad absurdam arguments can be useful to clarify issues.

    I am fascinated to know how you conclude from what you know of me (which is only what I say here) that I have no undertanding of capitalism. I am actually rather more of a supporter of capitalism than you might think having been active in Tony Blair’s campaign to change the Labour Party’s Clause 4 in the 1990s (cue some brickbats from the other side and your inevitable attempt to belittle that!). But I also am aware of market failure and as I said earlier one of the reasons (though only one – I also see an intrinsic good in it) I support arts funding is that I don’t believe private funding would be adequate to support the emergence of talent. I acknowledge what you say about possible alternative private funding but overall I don’t think I’d like to risk it and since you say

    “as long as my tax gets cut, I won’t care”

    I don’t care to put much faith in your arguments and would actually be rather foolish to do so.

    In conclusion I am not sure that what you describe is the only type of “capitalism”. I take the point that you want a minimalist state but that is more  about laissez faire. Such a system certainly goes with capitalism but other systems including some interventionist ones support it too. One of the problems wth the present Govt’s cutbacks/reductions in planned spending increases is that they have reduced public sector demand for private sector goods and services. In fact most public expenditure ends up back in the private sector including (whisper it softly) civil service slaries – or pensions (sorry that should have read -“gold plated” pensions).

  • Gilliebc

    ‘…………I’m an oversurperanuated early retired para…..’        

    Lol, good for you Mark 🙂       

  • reaguns

    I promise I am not angry – how angry do you guys think I get when indulging in one of my favourite pastimes on a monday evening!

    My insults were merely a more direct response to your indirect ones (calling me pathological and if memory serves Stalinist/Marxist) and your underhand manipulative behaviour as you seek to control the frame of the discussion. I hoped to draw a contrast between your indirect and my direct behaviour. I’m happy to drop this whenever you are, or am happy to continue pointing out and responding to your tactics.

    I’ll try to make a start in that direction now.

    Yes I accept that my ideal of a simple state would be unlikely, I accept that I want a smaller state than most people want, and in a democracy that should matter. However I believe if we were more democratic we would have a much smaller state than we do now, or maybe its more correct to say that parts of it would be smaller (some parts may well be expanded.)

    No I am not aware that NHS workers or members of the armed forces are not formally classed as civil servants. When I argue with people that Gordon Brown needlessly added approx 1 million extra civil servants, that I don’t think they improved anything, that it makes it more difficult to fund their pensions and so forth, I am usually told “Yeah but half/most of those civil servants were in the NHS.” Perhaps I have been using the terms “public sector worker” and “civil servant” interchangeably.

  • reaguns

    I would be willing to do without art if it meant lower taxes, even slightly lower taxes – what is irrational about that? What part of it needs further explanation?

    Again you have not told me on which points I have not engaged, and I can only come to the conclusion that, as with so many people, you feel that when someone disagrees with you it is because they have not engaged with you – after all how could anyone disagree with you when they see the tremendous force of your arguments, right?

    I get this enough times at work to recognise it when I see it. I tell someone I don’t think we should carry out their suggestion, they then try to explain it to me again and again until I have to say “Look, its not that I don’t understand it. Its that I understand it… and do not agree with it.”

  • reaguns

    Replying for a second time to this one because, due to an error in my browser, I didn’t see your first sentence. I assure you it is not my intention to hurt you either with words, sticks or stones! I do hope you say things like “old chap” in real life! Do you ever say “I am but a humble functionary…” (hoping that you may be a fan of yes minister.)

  • reaguns

    Well this is more like it. Please note that I am responding to this one last and have a slightly higher opinion of you now having read it.

    I have no wish to use brickbats relating to clause 4 if thats what you meant, or perhaps you’ll feel you have simply headed me off at the pass on that one.

    You are quite correct that most civil service salaries end up back in private hands, most government subsidies do. At least in the case of a civil service salary some of it gets enjoyed by relatively normal people for a while, present company excepted (only joking.) The question is would the country be better off if the money had been in other hands (I’m not starting that one here.)

    I am a believer both in capitalism and the welfare state. I want the state to do a couple of things beyond what it must do (ie defence and policing.)
    I want anything that can be privatised to be privatised (note I don’t necessarily think that mail, energy, railways etc are all good candidates) and I want everything else to be simplified as much as possible.
    This will put more money in my pocket, and give me more choice on what to spend it on.

    To stop waffling and address the two main points in your post above, you say:
    “You said, or seemed to say, funding would be OK but not for Tracy Emin. I simply pointed out the consequence of  deciding on arts funding on the basis off one person’s taste.”

    “I am fascinated to know how you conclude from what you know of me (which is only what I say here) that I have no undertanding of capitalism.”

    From the two points you raise above I conclude that you do not understand at least one of the nuances of capitalism, or markets. If, rather than the government taxing us a bit extra and funding Tracy Emin or an Opera House or whatever, if we keep that money we can then decide if we want to spend it on Tracy Emin, or the Tate Modern, or Adele or heavy metal or whatever. It would not be about one persons choice, it would be about everyone having the choice whether to support Tracy Emin (with cash) or not – it is the government funding route that puts this decision in the hands of one person, or a small number of persons. In that way, my suggestion is more democratic, it is a standard example of free market choice versus central planning, ie capitalism against socialism.

    You may understand but not agree, but you didn’t acknowledge the existance of the argument I have just put here, hence I concluded you were not aware of it.

    In a free market, there is money to be made from art. Simon Cowell or Andrew Lloyd Webber or someone will make sure they get product to the market and profit from it. Less commercial art may fail… because fewer people like it. That is democracy in action.

    If you are coming from the angle, well without arts funding poor people may not get a chance to become musicians and so on, well ok but they are already suffering they have less chance of becoming accountants, oxbridge students or indeed whitehall civil servants. Till we stamp out the things holding them back like crime and poor schooling that will continue to be the case, arts funding is not where I would start… though again I would rather fund an inner city arts class than Tracy Emin!

  • reaguns

    Reply to Michele from below re manufacture, focusing on 3rs rather than non academic talents which have “the same value”.

    Isn’t that a bit idealistic Michele? I might have been talented at football, someone else at singing, but is that really likely to have the same “value” as academic ability? I am just talking about monetary value. Should they be encouraged to spend more time on football/music and less on school, when only a tiny percentage of those who excel at football or singing will make a living from it whereas the majority of those who do well academically can then do well professionally/financially?

  • reaguns

    Michele either I am too thick or you are too cryptic, but please manage your sentences to me either way! I don’t understand: “No need to fess up that you’d manage.” That I’d manage… to work for Murdoch? To work for Andrew Neil’s salary?

    I absolutely agree that people in private employment are more likely to be in the pockets of their employer. When I worked for American contractors on government projects I was doing things I found repugnant – but it was a job, and a decently paid one.
    I felt like a lawyer must feel when they know their client is guilty, but its their job to defend them.

    I fundamentally disagree however that a private worker being in the pocket of Murdoch is the same as a politician being in the pocket of Murdoch. One is unfortunate, one can be borderline criminal, in the case of Hunt for example.

  • reaguns

    Its not a great situation when you have rabid press attacking Neil Kinnock on all kinds of spurious grounds.
    That doesn’t make it ok to go too far the other way.

    I am a fan of Tony Blair as you know, and I understand why he did what he did. Was it too much? Reading between the lines I think not just Andrew Neil, but also Alastair think it was. Two insiders. I don’t know what Blair thinks, I am sure he regrets what he had to do, but possibly would still argue that it was right, that he had to do it.

  • reaguns

    You mistaking me for a civil servant lol

  • reaguns

    Response to Michele re The Sun / how right wing people are.

    Well in my part of the world, people are fed up with crime going unpunished, or punished leniently. I have experienced a bit of crime and bit of police being unable to do anything about it (not their fault.)
    In my former part of the world, this feeling was amplified to the extent of vigilantism. I might add as well that the Sun is not a very popular paper in that neck of the woods.

    Also in my part of the world, a lot of people are anti-immigrant. They don’t see immigrants in the sun, they see them in local jobs, nhs units etc. To be fair, I think people have a much more positive attitude about that now than they did 5 or 10 years ago, sun or no sun. But if they become unemployed, but see immigrants in their jobs, this feeling will no doubt return.

  • reaguns

    P.s. thanks for the articles, I am well aware from Andrew Neils book, from his comments on This Week and other TV, and from Twitter, what he thinks of Rupert Murdoch, and the politicians who court him.

    One of the first things he says in the book is that Murdoch loves two things, business and politics. But where politics and business clash, business wins. For example Murdoch is for free speech and competition, hates monopolies. But he will throw out free speech principles to launch satellite in China, and is happy to stifle competition and enjoy monopoly when the monopoly is his.

  • reaguns

    Michele I’m impressed how well you can dig out articles from magazines I’ve not heard of, and relevant guardian articles from years back! Really, not being a smart alec, I am impressed – how do you do it?

    Are you part of a labour press review list or something?
    Or are you good at googling?
    Or do you have some system for keeping relevant articles organised and to hand when needed?
    Or have you just been lucky a few times!

  • Michele

     You’re aware of what he can say about Murdoch now.  Did he say it while employed by him?  I doubt he’d have lasted 11yrs if so. 

    His programmes are entertaining because he’s the biggest string-puller and am sure he’s a great mentor for the sidekicks but he’s been handed too much of a monopoly at the Beeb. 

    You know what other media companies AN is involved with, as in chairmanship of?
    He is not unbiased.

  • Michele

     Given the respite that the UK had and the massive recoveries it made ’97-’10 I don’t think I’d mind if we found out TB secretly gorges on jelly babies. 
    I doubt AN was an insider i.r.o. TB btw, when two such sides use each other I’m sure there’s not full trust or openness.
    TB could no more refuse to talk to NI (and risk its continuing enmity and ridicule of Labour) than any Labourite today can really afford to offer up their tummy for AN to tickle and feel kingly about.

  • Janiete

    Haha … me too!

  • Michele

     There was synergy about what Govt was doing from ’97 and although they never got behind Ken in ’00 his motivation is along the same lines (no pun intended re his huge organisation skills and understanding of all types of transport and just keeping the city moving).
    Your version of economics seems to be only  about the money no matter how it’s made and what it’s spent on or whether it’s spent at all, New Labour and Ken as Mayor were about growing the economy and investing it in people. 
    Given your professed hatred of banks I don’t understand how you slot in the result of what you’d have chosen (as in sticking all that extra GDP in one despite having already paid back great big chunks of the debt they inherited in ’97).
    They had it the right way round, you seem to have accepted capital should be our master or even ugh …… god.

  • Michele

     Tsk ….. aggggggh

    …… than any Labourite today can really afford to REFUSE to …… etc

  • Anonymous

    Michele I was already aware of a lot of what Neil said about Murdoch, one of those article was just a nice concise version of what he said in his book (of which I summed up some surprising things for you in an earlier thread – did you read it? Ie does Neil believe in keynesian economics or supply side? Answer – he believes in both at the same time. This is not a widely shared view by politicians, media or government.)
    There were some new bits though, and good to read it in concise articles.

    I’ll give you an example of two things I’ve heard him say, outside of his book:
    – That Murdoch will corrupt the Wall Street Journal, that its editorials will be similar because he agrees with them anyway, but that its news will no longer be impartial, will be influenced by Murdochs political and business interests, and personal whims.
    – On his This Week show two weeks ago, when a guest said Murdoch never directly asked for things from Blair or got them, and Neil said “I must move on but I’m so tempted to state the cases when I heard him do exactly that.”

    Yes I’m well aware that he is broadly speaking a Tory/Right Winger, though he doesn’t agree with Thatcher and Murdoch on monetarist policies, ERM or poll taxes.

    I am aware of his involvement with the Spectator / Barclay Brothers empire. And I would agree that many of the, particularly younger, people he gets on his show are playing ball with an eye to future employment.

    All that and I still think he is the best political/economic/news presenter and interviewer working today. I think he should have got a big role in newsnight rather than the lower profile/budget daily politics. Not sure he should have replaced “the politics show” on sunday either. It possible to do these things without ideology seeping out too much, Jon Snow and Jeremy Paxman are of different persuasion but still excellent, likewise Alastair, Piers Morgan, David Mitchell…

  • Anonymous

    Just meant that due to Neil’s position at NI around the time Blair took power he was privy to a lot of what went on, and continuted to have a spy network after that.

  • mightymark

    If I understand your argument this is the nub:

    “if we want to spend it on Tracy Emin, or the Tate Modern, or Adele or heavy metal or whatever. It would not be about one persons choice, it would be about everyone having the choice whether to support Tracy Emin (with cash) or not – it is the government funding route that puts this decision in the hands of one person, or a small number of persons. In that way, my suggestion is more democratic, it is a standard example of free market choice versus central planning, ie capitalism against socialism.”

    Yet you have accepted earlier a state role in defnce and law and order, You imply that the old nationalised industries (energy and rail) would be better back in state hands (part of rail is) something I’m not sure even I would want to argue, and you accept some welfare and NHS along I suspect with state funded education. I dont know how much all this would cost on its own but it would beinfinitesimally greater than the >£400m state spending on the arts.

    It is the sheer mismatch of scale that I find bewildering. I understand someone who says cut as much of the state as you can – health, education, unemployment/sickness insurance- and let people buy their own but all this fuss to give people back a fiver out of arts spending seems more like a weird obsession. If I have misunderstood you and the arts budget is merely symbolic of other areas of spending  you wish to cut then you would need to cut big ticket items to make the resulting tax cuts worthwhile and that is before we even consider whether it would be better to have these funcions in the private rather than the public sector.

    Just an idle aside – are we quite sure Tracy Emin does receive state funding i she ever did. Obviously her works are shown in public galleries but is her ongoing work state funded? I’d be surprised if it was.

  • mightymark

    Again you failed to read my post correcty I din’t accuse you of being a Marxist (as if!) /Stalinist – they are merely exampless of the kind of state (I think I mentioned absolute maonarchy too) where state provision could remain if  not small, then simple because democracy didn’t exist so could not complicate it. I am really trying to demonstrate that Goverment is complex not as you argue, because Goverment’s want to make job creation programmes for civil servants (howsoever defined) but because it represents the accretion of changes over the years that ordinary citizens, businesses and volunrtay groups have wanted and Goverment has granted – rightly or wrongly.

    I reeceived dozens of such lobbyings for change when I worked in Government. If you had a flat tax the same would happen. A  government led by you might stand firm against tinkerings – and maybe even be right to do so – but another government may not do so – for fair reasons or foul.

    The point is not whether you or I expect the state to be larger or smaller if we were more democratic. That is really just idle speculation. The point is that the state we have is the result of the democracy we already have.

  • mightymark

    In general I have nothing against free markets.They are certainly superior to Marxist state planning as a means of efficient if not always fair distribution  I simply don’t think they exist in their perfect form which is why state intervention e.g  to ensure fairness, is sometimes needed. You mention health – but why are you as a free marketeer in favour of publicly provided (and/or funded) health? Is it because you accept that here is somewhere that the market is imperfect, is it, as it is for many the NHS has helped, a  kind of emotional thing or is it because you feel the need to concede at least the most popular bit of public intervention ? Why not trust your free market instincts on health too – I know people who do.

     One argument often advanced is that there cannot be perfect markets where there is no perfect information. Basically no one can have all the information necessary to make rational decisions in every case.Does this apply in the NHS – and if in the NHS why not elsewhere – maybe even the arts?

    I am increasingly confused by the Tracy Emin thing. Would I be correct in thinking that your postion is that you oppose all arts funding at all beyond school arts teaching and in particular e.g. Ms Emin type art or is there a middle ground – some fundign might be OK as long as none of it goes to Ms Emin?.

  • mightymark

    No. Next.

  • mightymark

    This story from the BBC business news is interesting in this context, suggesting that business itself sees parnership with Government as important and further confirms the many such instances I came across during my civil sevice career. We have discussed the subject matter of the final paragraph below.:

    “UK manufacturers want the government
    to offer more practical support to the industry rather than “empty rhetoric”,
    according to a new survey.

    The creation of an “industrial bank” and a new focus on manufacturing skills
    are among ideas supported in the research by business advisers BDO.

    There’s also a call for UK companies to be favoured when public contracts are

  • reaguns

    No you don’t say it, or no you’re not a fan of yes minister? Its one of my favourite documentaries.

  • reaguns

    Yeah business wants subsidy, whats new.

    Look at the complaints in UK and Irish IT industries that they can’t find enough programmers. What they mean is that they refuse to pay the programmers, I know plenty who have not been contacted by these companies voracious headhunters!

    Your point seems to be “Look the businessmen/capitalists want government help.” Not so: If there is one group of people less capitalist than civil servants and government, its businessmen. The absolute last thing big business wants is free market capitalism. Protectionism and subsidy is what they want, though they have found more subtle ways of getting this over the years, regulation being a prime example.

  • reaguns

    Re the NHS, its a combination of all the reasons you have stated. Call it a contradiction if you will. I do not believe free market capitalism can deliver for everyone, hence I favour small government (not no government) to provide for instance welfare. In terms of the NHS, first of all I receive better service from the NHS than I do from many market providers of services. I suppose I have a moral objective to people “selling” health services for profit, rather than based on need. I feel that any citizen who falls ill in our democracy should be taken care of, even if they can’t pay for it. I feel collectively the rest of us can shoulder this whilst still maintaining a good standard of living. I am not dogmatically against some measure of market reform to make it like other european systems, but free at the point of use for poor people should be maintained in my view.

    You could say that its because I don’t trust the market for this. I believe markets deliver better than governments in most cases. But where they do not, or where there is sufficient fear they will not and its an issue such as health or security, I am for government intervention.

    And yes partly its not that I concede the most popular bit of intervention as you put it, its that we are a democracy and its clear that the majority are in favour of the NHS. Even Lincoln or Milton Friedman could support the system in these circumstances.

    Re perfect information, we should try to improve information (govt could easily sort out energy prices if they took simple steps to do so) but the consequences of imperfect information in health may be dire, whereas in arts the consequences are insignificant. And govt has even less perfect information than the market.

    Re Art, yes I oppose all funding beyond music and arts classes in school.

  • reaguns

    I am saying if we had a more democratic democracy, the state would be smaller. The state is smaller in Switzerland and the USA, and they also operate more democratic systems than us, ie open primaries in the US and referendums in switzerland for starters. If we were allowed to vote for or against a flat tax we’d see what happens.

  • Michele

    Re your …………. “On his This Week show two weeks ago, when a guest said Murdoch never
    directly asked for things from Blair or got them, and Neil said “I must
    move on but I’m so tempted to state the cases when I heard him do
    exactly that.” ……………..”

    – I’m not sure your ‘quote’ can be verbatim the first part was repeating what Murdoch had said himself at the Inquiry (one of those events you usually regard as wastes of money, even if this one does transpire to be a civilised revolution).
    – “I must move on but I’m so tempted” ……. yeah well, wouldn’t that be better viewed as being a bit slick and irresponsble (to the audience)? 
    Isn’t a bit cheap and easy?  
    Doesn’t he have the timepiece?
    Isn’t the monitor that we can ‘t see giving him exactly second by second countdown of the presentation?
    If he didn’t have the bloody time he shouldn’t just cast bloody aspersions.

    Is he still a tad servile to Murdoch or is his own empire in competition and which situation could be worse, in time? 
    AN’s monoply of BBC TV airtime is almost total. 
    He’s the one with the script, the one that can cut short the replies he doesn’t want. leaving the question he placed in the air.
    Oh he’s clever alright.

  • Michele

     I do use bookmarks and I do remember keywords from real books/articles so can usually find them but it’s all far from infallible.
    You also find that sooner or later a topic will come up somewhere else so a recent set of exchanges here is a repeat of many similar convos (and defamatory accusations) over the five or so years I’ve been posting (since starting to work from home to avoid the 2+hrs travel on top of a min12+ hrs working days). 
    Don’t like being on more than one blog at a time and usually find myself scrapping ….. I must have managed nearly a year here (after being banned from several such as Toxi’s)!
    Perhaps I can retrieve some stuff because the laptop’s not clogged up with cookies? 
    Last night for instance I was reading about a set of jugglers that have seemingly-recently reclaimed ‘faith’ while still claiming to be atheist, eebygum!

  • Michele

     I just don’t watch enough TV to comment and can never wait to turn it off after the very few daytime things I have on.

  • reaguns

    Your summation at top is broadly accurate yes.

    Re rail/energy, a private monopoly or cartel is not much better than a state one. The regulation ends up being too weak, or so strong that it might as well be state run. No easy answer on rail. Energy easy to fix. Mail works well already.

    Ok so your problem is with scale, fair enough you think arts funding a drop in the ocean compared with nhs and it is. But to me one is something we should do the other is something we should not, regardless of price. I’ll gladly take my share of the 400 million back.
    And yes it’s one of the things I would cut. I recognise others would have more financial impact ie the simplification of tax, benefits, pensions and regulations.

    And of course I believe we need government to provide law and order, and defence as a minimum. I believe in small government, not anarchy.

  • reaguns

    Don’t follow the bank/GDP thing

  • mightymark

    Documentary? Really?

  • mightymark

    Again, I don’t think you fully realise how large your “small state” would be if you do what I understand you as agrguing for here. I fear you are willing the ends but not the means.

    PS If I don’t come back swiftly on this or any other matter I may have replied to here it is because I am off to visit a good North European Social Democracy – high tax and social provision, but very high living standards and a business sector not notably worse hit by the reecession than any other part of the develped world. Maybe I’ll stay! – only kidding

  • mightymark

    I disagree – I think business is content to act as businesses should, but the nature of the world economy in which they operate is such that they sometimes seek Govt help or cooperation. So long as Govts. control monopolies and trade protection that oeprate against the UK customer then vis a vis the outside world I see no problem in our Govt cooperating with our businesses to the extent permissable under our international obligations.

  • mightymark

    As I said – this is speculative. The US has for historical reasons a generally greater suspicion of at least Federal Govt than the UK/Europe. I suspect that in the UK people would certainly favour the NHS and state Education in referundums. But here is a problem (only one of many) with referendums – what happens when they result in contradictory results e.g  lower tax and more spending?

    Another here and possibly linked to the one above – elections are largely about holding Govts to account.

    How do you do that when the Govt can credibly say “well you voted for this or that disaster in a referendum –  we recommended against it – don’t blame us.”

    Entirely agree on primaries by the way. A real way to ensure more representative govt.I’ve been a long term advocate of these within the Labour Party.  I think it needs to be decided by parties though, not Government. If a party becomes less representative than others because it doesn’t have primaries it will suffer electorally.

  • mightymark

    You clearly believe in small government – you keep saying so and who am I to disbelieve you, However apart for the minuscule £400m Arts Council budget you seem remarkably unwilling to say what else you would cut while the costs of a renationalisation programme (if i read your intent correctly) would be astronomical.

    Am I being very unfair if I summarise your views as
    “Prepared to strike but afraid to wound”?

  • reaguns

    Sorry my bad, the quote was not verbatim, and he wasn’t saying that it was time that stopped him giving the details, I presume it was legal reasons, it wasn’t to do with discretion or he could have just kept his mouth firmly shut with no hints.

    As for him controlling the interviews, well yes he does but I’m not sure what can be done about that – the interviewer controls the show. It wouldn’t be the first thing I’d want putting right on political interviews, that would be getting even tougher with politicians who answer different questions.

    Neil is not on newsnight which I think is the one he really wanted. I don’t think he is servile to Murdoch any more, I think there is a strong mutual dislike, though I think they recognise each other’s “strengths”. They fell out at the end of Neil’s tenure, Murdoch resented his profile, and when he offended a murdoch associate in malaysia he was toast. Then Neil wrote his book and all bridges were burned.

    As to which is worse… well I’ve never read the spectator so can’t comment. I read the telegraph, I suppose it is more right wing than any murdoch papers, but the barclays are too shadowy for me to judge. Hard to imagine worse than Murdoch though right?

  • reaguns

    As long as when the state assisted businesses get into trouble we don’t get told its a failure of capitalism.

    We’ll have to disagree – I am against corporatism and cronyism. In a developing country or a country at war an excuse can sometimes be made, but not in a developed country at peace.

    The attitude you state contributed to the long years of stagnation in India and Japan. No thanks.

  • reaguns

    Surely its far too close to the truth to be called a comedy… old chap.

  • reaguns

    Well lets discuss that one when you come back. Presumably Denmark or Sweden?

    They are great countries.

    They have both adopted a lot of free market reforms.

    Cut our state back to Law & Order, Defence, NHS, (simplified) Welfare and it would be very much smaller than it is now. Obviously it wouldn’t be small compared to anarchy, or even to a state with no NHS or welfare. But it wouldn’t be halfway between either, it would be closer to anarchy than to what we have now. Our state is over 50% of the economy now, my state would be probably 20-25%.

    Enjoy your trip.

  • reaguns

    Only partly – its not speculative to say that US and Swiss are more democratic, or that they have smaller states – thats fact. It is speculative to say that means we would have a small state if we became more democratic.

    I know all the arguments against referendums, and the negative aspects, but:
    1. Our current system has plenty of negatives itself. I would say more.
    2. There are ways to arrange them to avoid such pitfalls. Swiss and others manage just fine.

    The first problem you mention is real, but can be managed with sense. The second one, ie holding to account I don’t believe is a problem. If the people vote for PR, or the euro or whatever then I think the government can quite rightly say “Not our fault.” I don’t see that as a problem.

    I’m glad we agree on open primaries. I wouldn’t have had you down as a supporter of that idea, but there we are. I have heard that there is a bit of a cross party coalition among some backbenchers who are for this idea. I agree that it is for the parties to decide, and believe, like you appear to, that it would be to their own advantage to do so.

  • reaguns

    I think you are being unfair yes! You want me to state the things I would be willing to chop? Well how about I start by stating what I wouldn’t chop, you should be familiar by now but the 4 are:
    1. Law and order (more than just police.)
    2. Armed forces.
    (I would actually increase spending on the first two)
    3. NHS
    4. Welfare

    Everything else would be up for grabs, but I’d go bit by bit. I would be amenable to privatising some road functions for instance, but they wouldn’t be first in line and if I could achieve suitable savings without doing them, then maybe I would.

    Now for 3 and 4, I mean I wouldn’t cut the departments – that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t make cuts within them.

    The first thing I would do is work out what percentage we spend on everything now. Then I would work out what our tax take is, and allocate everyone the same percentage, but of our tax base rathern than our tax base plus borrowing. Thats drastic cut one.

    Second thing I would do is simplify all benefits and pensions. I would bring in one state pension rate only, and a negative income tax to replace all current benefits (apart from dla.)
    I would simplify the tax system, drastically (lots of ways to do that and I would probably do them all in year 1.)

    I would deregulate.

    I would abolish tax credits and here I would be contradictory, I would actually add one law to the statute books which says if anyone ever tries brownite tax credits again they get jailed! With a negative income tax, there will be no need for them anyway.

    And before you make any facile predictions about… well no actually I’ll leave you to make the facile predictions and reserve my answer for afterwards.

    And no I wouldn’t support a renationalisation programme!

    Mail: I would leave this alone.
    Energy: there are many confusing tariffs. I would design a government approved type of tariff and get everyone to print that in bold at the top of their tariff sheet. And allow a pure price comparison on that. They could add whatever other tariffs below.
    Railways: I would redesign the bonus structure, I couldn’t believe they were in line to get bonuses for failure last year. I would put in some penalties as well.

    Thats a reagunist fag packet manifesto for you.

    Of course you will rightly say that I could never get away with all this in our democracy! If I could do what I want I would abolish income tax altogether and start investing our pension money instead of spending it straight away.

  • Michele

     We speak different languages reaguns.