H/t to Iain Dale this morning, for pointing me in the direction of Dennis Sewell’s excellent article. I confess I had given up reading the Spectator, but shall return to the fold if they are going to run articles of this quality.
I had been pondering Hopi Sen’s chilling piece yesterday on the way in which Labour have made it impossible to remove Brown before the next general election, despite the many ‘hopeful’ pieces that say ‘Brown is on his way out’; it seems that short of Brown choosing to resign, he can only be removed by a vote of more than a fifth of Labour MPs calling for a leadership election – which in itself calls for a vote at the next Labour party conference – and there isn’t a Labour party conference between now and the General election. Game, Set and Match. There is no way to depose the man.
That in turn set me pondering on the legislation Labour are setting in place – pace the bear trap embedded in the Child Poverty Bill making future governments liable to judicial review if they fail to meet the targets which Labour themselves have been unable to meet, to reduce the mobile ‘child poverty’ target.
Et voila! Along comes Dennis Sewell, with facts and figures to give you nightmares, of the Labour ‘cronies, placemen and political stooges’, in control of vast quango budgets, who will seek to continue to exercise the control freakery for which Labour has become synonymous.
With 700,000 employees and boards that read like a who-was-who of the Blair/Brown era, the quangos will represent Labour’s stay-behind fifth column. Not only are the quangocrats implacably opposed to the Conservatives’ reform programme, but they are better placed than even the wiliest Sir Humphrey to thwart change and mount a guerrilla insurgency against public spending controls.
We bloggers have been obsessed with rooting out a cure for the irritating verruca that is Nu-Labour’s wildest excesses; the control of public dissent – the censorship of the Internet; the permission required – and refused! for public demonstrations; the MPs expenses, now being investigated by a woman who has herself benefited from an enviable second home allowance. A verruca, however, is merely surface damage; the real danger is the silent killer, the spreading tentacles of an octopus like tumour that has invaded every sector of public life.
Yet card-carrying, politically motivated placemen represent probably less than half of the problem. Even more sinister is the way that the new recruitment practices ensure that even the politically non-aligned appointees have a bureaucratic, centralising mindset. A creeping credentialism threatens to circumscribe ever more narrowly the pool of potentially successful applicants for senior appointments. The loyalty required is not so much to the Labour party itself, but to the bureaucratic method.
Preferment goes to those already established within the system, and those joining public bodies from outside tend to be either the sort who have been schooled by one of those faintly repellent leadership organisations such as Common Purpose, or have been recruited from the big accountancy and management consultancy firms, most of which have been complicit in this government’s serial failures.
In the same manner as Hopi Sen’s devastating assessment of the impossibility of removing the Prime Minister, so have these appointments been ‘dug in’.
By the simple ruse of stripping away the Prime Minister’s powers of patronage and establishing an independent appointments system, the Labour nomenklatura have dug themselves in for the long term. Many of the most ideologically hostile quangocrats have notionally won their positions on merit and the legal obstacles to their extirpation could be immense.
In the 1970s, Britain was convulsed by the labour pains of Margaret Thatcher stripping the Unions of the power they held over government. I urge you to read Dennis Sewell’s article in full – and weep; you will realise that far more painful surgery is ahead of us for parliament to regain control of government. The bear trap legislation, not least the Human Rights Act and the Lisbon Treaty, and the power of the Quangos, the cancer that has been Nu-Labour extends into every part of the body Britannic.
The verruca was the least of our troubles.