Who ARE these people?

Priti Patel is an elected politician.  More than that, she is the U.K. Home Secretary and a leading figure in the newly-elected Johnson government.   More even than that, she is charged with putting an immigration policy into action which will limit the migration of unskilled workers whose presence in UK is arguably a drain upon the economy – a responsible task requiring dedication and efficiency. 

So when her Permanent Secretary, Sir Philip Rutnam, tendered his resignation and levelled an accusation of ‘bullying’ against Mrs Patel, he trained the media spotlight on an aspect of governing that counts for its very existence upon maintaining the lowest of profiles.   And to me, at least, that raises a number of questions the answers to which are long overdue.

What is the most important component of Sir Philip’s job description – I mean, aside from being the head honcho in the Home Office?  The word ‘Permanent’, because permanent is what he is, or was, had he not decided to throw in the towel so publicly.  His job was to answer directly to Mrs Patel and to lead his department in facilitating her brief.  He, and those beneath him, are Civil Servants. 

Civil Servants are not elected.  They do not have to subject themselves to public vote every five years.  They are career beavers who should form the engine room of policy for whoever is elected.  Their employment structure is secure, with retirement and a healthy pension at the end.  At their best, they are the steadying influence behind a volatile electoral system.  They make sure there are plenty of logs in the store.  But beavers have another use for logs: they build dams.  At their worst, Civil Servants are a stultifying, reactionary crew whose principle career ambition is to keep Friday afternoon free for golf.

Is mere reluctance to accept change at the root of Sir Philip’s quarrel with Mrs Patel? The speedy implementation of new regulations promised by the Johnson government is demanding and certainly not conducive to short working weeks or comfortable evenings at the club.  Or is there something more sinister here?  Lately, the stolid, wooden efficiency of the old Civil Service seems to have been supplanted by an altogether more media-aware and loose-tongued institution.   For example, almost every move by Mrs May’s cabinet was ‘leaked’ from somewhere in the system before it was announced, or even fully ‘fleshed out’.   Under Mr Johnson’s stewardship, there has already been a purge at The Treasury, with one member of staff having been almost literally ‘frog-matched’ out of Downing Street.  Did Sir Philip act pre-emptively?  Was the Home Office about to be similarly scoured?

Speaking personally, I am not particularly a fan of Mrs Patel.  For me, her public speaking fails to inspire.  She is, perhaps, determined rather than passionate; but that does not mean she is a bully, or capable of ‘ranting and shouting’ as her accuser claims.  Those at the top of the Civil Service, known these days as ‘mandarins’, are all male. Since 1983, the 12 Principal Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister have all been men; while women form 53% of Civil Service staff, none have reached mandarin status.  It is a male preserve that several female ministers claim to have found obstructive and critical.  Priti Patel is a British citizen of Ugandan Asian parentage – it shouldn’t, but does her ethnicity also have a bearing on this situation?

I find it distressing that at the heart of one of the most gender- and racially- tolerant nations in the world, at the seat of government that ought also to be a paragon of intelligence and the paradigm for equality, there is this arterial sclerosis of sexism and racism.  I have experienced communism festering in the wormholes of the ex-industrial towns of the north (more of this in another blog) but xenophobia rampant about the tiller of power?  Surely we should expect better?


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The Sirens of Brussels


A word from Divvin (that’s an English County next to Zummerzet and just down the road from Darsit, if you’m wonderin’).

Now, my Darlin’s, ‘tis like this.

Other wick we had a vote, see?  ‘Twas like ever’body got to ‘ave a say about how us felt ‘bout the immigrants an’ that, an’ we all turned out and we told ‘em, no uncertain fashion, like, what us thought we ought to do.  Leave that there Eurpoe Onion thing from the Brussels!   Yes!   An’ it turns out we didn’t want nothin’ more to do wi’ no Onions, and ‘ow we wanted to go out by ourselves.  Aye!

Well, turns out we were wrong, see?   ‘Cause all these ‘ere thinkin’ people says we should stay in, an’ ‘ow we faces certain ruin if we don’t.   An’ we says to ‘em, see, it was a Democratic Decishun, but they say that don’t count, ‘cause apparently they won’t get so much money if us makes ‘em leave, and they won’t be able to live in they there nice London apartments no more, or travel around this ‘ere Eurpoe to get better jobs, and stuff like that.   They says we bin lied ter, an’ un-screw-pew-lus people, they led us up the garden path, an’ that.  We jus’ voted ‘cause of the immigration, see?  Aye.

So they goin’ to change wha’ we want to what they want, and that’s o’y fair, ‘cause we’m jus’ ord’nary people, and not great and good like they are.

So, seems to me that all these ‘ere clever people, they on’y peddle that there Democracy to us when they want us to see things their way; and if we don’t, then they got to twist it about until we do.  Lawyers, and Ac’demics, and that, they knows what’s good for us, don’ they?  An’ learned people, they thinks we’re too thick to unnerstand ‘bout Eurpoe.

See, I voted ‘cause I didn’t think that there Onion was goin’ anywhere.  I thought that my country is what serves me a livin’ an’ not none of the Brussels.   They’m got strange money that they keeps printin’ with no vaalue behind un, they keeps poorer countries strugglin’ for a livin’ an’ it’s not long afore we becomes one of those, if we stays in, like.   They keeps takin’ our money and givin’ us less back than what they takes, they makes rules we can’t keep up with, and my sheep dip’s more ‘ficient at keepin’ out the nasties than their immigration pol’cy.  They destroyed our fishin’ ind’stry, they put the cost of livin’ up for all of us an’ they make us tax things we shouldn’t, don’t they?  And we can’t take so many people!    Now, that’s not racist, nor nothin’, but us got a dooty to house and keep the people we already got.  It makes sense, see?  If my neighbour, he don’t put no fence up,  his sheep gets all mixed up wi’ mine an’ they overstocks my land while I feeds ‘em for ‘im for free.  Seems simple sense to me.

But there.  I don’t know nothin’.  I may know the price of livestock an’ ow to run a business, but to you they ac’demics I’m jus’ the peasant who’s ‘pinions you thinks you can ignore – I’ll jus’ tug my forelock as I passes you by and you can try to forget it’s me who does all the work, who keeps your nicely feathered beds stuffed an’ makes your country run.

So, talk your way into believing you are doing the right thing in trying to overturn the will of the people with your contrived arguments and Machiavellian tactics.   Buy your politicians and your expensive lawyers; pay the media to find a case for you to make.  But if you do, and you succeed in contraverting the will of the people you will finally write the obituary of  British democracy, and prove the lie you have been trying to disguise for so many years.

And I, at least, will stand against you, tooth and claw.  And I will never, whatever ‘democratic’ compulsion you thrust upon me, mark a ballot paper again.

Monday Morning Rant – From a Conversation with Joe

Why is Joe important to me?  Maybe because he’s one of the legions of people who live alone, who are not easily employable, and who, for one reason or another, rely upon the State to support them.

Joe is not ‘lazy’.  With his history of mental illness, I doubt he has a real concept of what the word means; nor is he a ‘scrounger’ in any comfortable sense.  Like almost all those the middle class try to cram into the freeloader mold, Joe doesn’t quite fit.   For a large part of his life he was institutionalized until the State in its wisdom decided he should be cared for ‘in the community’.  At some stage the same State decided he was well.  So the care bit stopped.  ‘Support’ took its place.

There are a small number of jobs for people like Joe.  Unfortunately, there are a very large number of Joes.

Joe is a council tenant.  He has a two-bedroomed house which the State now says is too large.  In the latter half of this year his housing allowance will be cut by fifty percent.  He has few other allowances – no child allowance, for example – so when the cut comes he will not have enough to live on.

The State has two answers:  either take on a paying tenant for the room to make up the difference, or move to smaller accommodation.    

Health and Safety now pieces itself into the argument:  before he accepts a tenant, Joe must satisfy fire regulations and install fire doors to his council let.  No, the council won’t do it; they’ll only prosecute if it is not done.  Joe does not have the four-figure sum this installation will cost; and everyone else involved is happy to ignore the speculative nature of such an investment.  After all, who can guarantee a tenancy?   Even then, incidentally, the council must approve his tenant – a process that, to go by most council procedures, could take months:  Joe’s budget just about gets Imagehim from week to week.

So, Joe must move into a single-bedroom unit.  Problem?  The councils and housing associations have no single bedroom units.  There is a massive waiting list for those that are already in place.

For years both legislative bodies and private house builders have concentrated upon the more versatile two- and three-bed units.  There are hundreds and thousands of those.  Even landlords in the private sector have predominantly larger units:  they attract more rent – they make economic sense.

Economic sense is the quality it seems our rulers conspicuously lack.  In a move that is intended to save money and drive those who for generations have lived off the State into work they are in danger of causing a housing crisis of epic proportions – a situation likely to cost five times as much as they save.   Not that this is unusual for British Government – they have enviable expertise in the area of profligacy and waste.  I just hope Joe does not have to count himself among the victims of this latest splurge.

Increasingly, the vox populi can be heard referring to ‘New Victorian Britain’.  If only it were so.  Yes, deprivation was extant in layers of Victorian society, and no, there was no welfare state; but in that dog-eat-dog world at least there was precious little regulation either.  You might install a tenant in your attic and another in your coal-house, and no-one would know or care.  Today we are regulated up to our eyeballs, pressured by commerce to the point where we no longer have control of our own minds and watched relentlessly by cameras on stalks, statistical monitoring and – shall we say – ‘zealous’ policing?   Poverty has a different complexion in the 21st Century, but it is no less real.

No, I am not a Socialist or a Communist or any other ‘ist’.  I hold no high expectations, whatever their political colour, of the loathsome gnomes who rule us but I wish – oh, yes, I wish.   I wish we might forfeit our pretensions on ‘The World Stage’ and accept we have no place in Middle-Eastern wars.  I wish we might cease supplying ‘foreign aid’ to plutocrats in the hope they will let us drill their oil, and I wish we might, just for once, begin to treat our own people with respect.