Tag Archives: Theresa May

Government Strategies For A Dead Horse

I have been studying the decision-making and initiative delivery record of Theresa May’s government and as far as I can see, she manages by delivering statements of intent , plus a very clever device which appears to be problem-solving action but in fact, is totally meaningless.

It begins with three words: “We have allocated…..”  This phrase is followed by a large number.

Grenfell? “We have allocated……….”
NHS? “We have allocated…..”

This muddly and often protracted management method can be explained by analogy and the wisdom of those without PPE degrees, MBAs and other letters after their names.

The well-known and slightly modified analogy below should also be studied carefully by the real experts in dead horse flogging – Tory High Command –  especially when choosing Party leaders.

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to another is that if you find yourself riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

However, in modern government, because of the heavy
investment and re-election factors to be taken into consideration, other strategies
need to be tried with dead horses, including the following:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Threatening the horse with termination.
4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
5. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
7. Appointing an intervention team to re-animate the dead horse.
8. Creating a training session to increase riding ability.
9. Re-classifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
10. Change the form so that it reads: “This horse is not dead.”
11. Hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
12. Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.
13. Donate the dead horse to a recognized charity, thereby deducting its
full original cost.
14. Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.
15. Do a time management study to see if the lighter riders would improve
productivity.
16. Purchase an after-market product to make dead horses run faster.
17. Declare that a dead horse has lower overheads, is therefore more-cost-effective and therefore performs better.
18. Form a quality focus group to find profitable uses for dead horses.
19. Rewrite the expected performance requirements for horses.
20. Say things like, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.”
21. Increasing the standards to ride dead horses.
22. Comparing the state of dead horses in today’s environment.
23. Declaring that “No horse is too dead to beat.”
24. Do a Cost Analysis study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
25. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory or Ministerial position.
26. Create a government subsidy to retrain dead horses
27. Appoint a dead-horse ‘Czar’ in order to return to 4 (above).
28. ‘Allocate’ a large amount of money so that the dead-horse goes away.
29. Highlight the shameful historical treatment of dead horses by the Opposition in an attempt to win the dead-horse argument.

The. Management.

Remember Hale and Pace when they were funny?  This isn’t about them – but it is about Management, Organisation and Decision Making – with maybe a quick nod to Leadership.

The context? The ramshackle mélange of lawyers, doctors, local government employees, lecturers, teachers, journalists, farmers, political organisers and city types which makes up the UK Parliament.

Some of them even end up running Departments of State with massive resources and budgets which are measured in tens or even hundreds of millions. Many are unsuitable for management and even less suitable for leadership but………. with a system which promotes from within a very limited talent pool, the strangest of people rise to the sort of power which those of us who grew up in a mostly meritocratic and competitive corporate environment can only marvel at.

Four out of our five most recent Chancellors were either Lawyers or History graduates! Our present Prime Minister studied Geography. Our Foreign Secretary is an Oxford Classics graduate (that’s Latin and Greek to you and me) and our Defence Secretary has a degree in Social Sciences!

There are English graduates and Philosophy degrees. There’s a medical doctor and even a media person. There’s a statistical sprinkling of those ubiquitous Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduates but some say that PPE graduates never quite learn enough about any one subject…….ideal MP fodder!!

But you may ask ‘What has a degree got to do with anything?’

On the face of it – nothing at all….but it is Organisation and Management which run departments with Leadership showing the way…..and if there is no leadership and an inability or unwillingness to take decisions, there is a lack of progress with decisions being consigned to investigations, reviews, inquiries and commissions – which in reality are no more than misused government devices which cleverly disguise intransigence and moribund passivity into action.

The only other place I have seen such a disparate band of individuals attempting to act as a team was a motley crew of  so-called ‘middle management’ in a very well-known company’s marketing department. There were graduates of every flavour imaginable – but they neither had to lead, manage nor take decisions. The corporate damage that they could inflict was negligible.

The clue as to the unsuitability of many (most) MPs to administer billions of pounds on our behalf is to be found in the type  of individual who chose to study a particular subject…..but there’s more…..

So-called ‘Communication Skills’, exemplified by an ability to talk whilst being insulted is certainly not related to any ability to lead or manage and yet, it is the skill which is prized above all others.

Currently, (as always) there is talk of future reform of the House of Lords reform and hopefully that is where any reform will remain….in the future.

Before training its beady eye on the Other Place, the  House of Commons would do well to pause and think about its own fitness for purpose.

 

Q: How many MPs work at the House of Commons?

A: About 10% of them.

Tokenism in the Cabinet

Without sounding disingenuous or racist, I was very disappointed that Mrs May chose her new Home Secretary with an all-too-obvious reference to the Dulux Autumn Shades Colour Chart.

Sajid Javid is only average but of course, he does have the advantage of being of Pakistani extraction. He was quite at home being bland and keeping out of trouble in low key ministerial jobs as well as providing the Cabinet with its token Asian.

He is an ineffectual ‘good guy’ who had already been promoted to well above his level of incompetence – an attribute he shares with Mrs May.

However, he does NOT deserve the poisoned chalice of the Home Office.

Can I say ‘Mother Theresa’ yet ?

MAY2

It’s becoming a bit of a craze….. The highest office in the land being passed on like an old pair of trainers.

Gordon Brown tried to rule without a proper democratic mandate and now , not to be outdone, the Conservatives are about to crown Mrs May as our next Prime Minister.

The five-year fixed parliament rule means that Theresa May cannot go to the country with a General Election without the approval of two thirds of MPs. Unfortunately, it is extremely unlikely that many MPs would vote for an election – especially those on the opposition benches.

Her Majesty’s Opposition has not yet established how many leaders it needs. It will probably end up with TWO. One for the parliamentary party and  one properly elected according to Labour’s own rules…… Chaos reigns. Continue reading Can I say ‘Mother Theresa’ yet ?

Big Brother.

big brother

 

George Orwell may have been 30 years out, but he was right. Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Bill must not be allowed to pass into Law. I certainly do not want to traumatize some innocent Plod as he or she scours my web-browsing history…(It was for research purposes!). Rewind 20 years and we have the equivalent of the government saying: “We want to steam-open your letters before you read them but we’ll only have  sneaky little peek. Nothing to worry about. It’s all that terrorism y’know! It’s for your own good!”

Hopefully, once again…the House of Lords will protect us from a government which is becoming far too prescriptive and self-important.

Another case of Big Brother is Botching?

Closet or Cabinet?

Dr Liam Fox and now Oliver Letwin have given David Cameron the sort of distractions which he does not really need. There has been speculation about each man’s political future and the doom-mongers reckon that “it’s all unravelling”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A few years ago, I  had a meeting at Conservative Central Office (when the Party could still afford Smith Square) with Lord Freeman who, at the time, was in charge of Candidates. We discussed the possibility of me testing prospective members of Parliament so that the Party did not have to rely on patronage and the  depressingly amateurish local interviews which continue to be a feature of candidate selection.

Had we gone ahead  with the plans, the present Cabinet would have contained some candidates who would have been pre-vetted by me. In the event, it was decided not to go ahead with something which may have caused certain future Ministers embarrassment.  Mind you, this parliament has produced those who are managing maximum embarrassment without any external help.

However, in the main, DC has assembled a surprisingly able bunch of characters.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – David Cameron is a good, solid Prime Minister and, given the time, he could become a great one. There is just one thing holding him back – the lack of depth in his “one-downers”. The Cabinet.

Here’s the list:

Nick Clegg, William Hague, George Osborne, Ken Clarke, Theresa May, Liam Fox, Vince Cable, Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Huhne, Andrew Lansley, Michael Gove, Eric Pickles, Philip Hammond, Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Danny Alexander, Lord Strathclyde, Baroness Warsi, Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin, David Willets, Sir George Young, Patrick McLoughlin, Dominic Grieve.

No problems at all with the first five:

Nick Clegg has the most difficult job, both as a politician and nanny to his confused Liberals who, in spite of (mostly) enjoying  the aphrodisiac nature of power, are still a bit uncertain as to whether they are really participating or merely ballast. His sometimes diffident manner disguises a will of steel.

William Hague has grown into his job, in spite of the shaky start with Libya. He has credibility abroad which is probably one of the most important attributes of any Foreign Secretary.

George Osborne, unsurprisingly has been the recipient of more “stick” than any other politician but , love him or hate him, he has shown courage and tenacity and sometimes, downright stubbornness. Whether those attributes are born of economic understanding or just downright bloody-mindedness, remains to be seen. What is in his favour is that, unlike many others – he takes decisions and stands by them.

Ken Clarke has made the legal system accessible. I know that sounds a bit fanciful but in spite of his occasional too-straight talking , he is a great antidote to a legal system which makes bankers and their bonuses look like paupers. Currently, both the economy and David Cameron need a Lord Chancellor who at least “appears” non-elitist because sooner or later, we are going to scrutinise the multi-billion pound cash machine that is THE LAW.

Theresa May is annoying. However, she is good at her job and so far, does not appear to have put a a faux leopard skin kitten-heel-clad foot wrong. She too is not afraid to take unpopular decisions. Her handling of both the News International scandal and the inner city rioting was impeccable.

I would also add Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove to the A-team. IDS has proved that there is life after political death and has been delivering spectacular results with his pensions initiatives. He is both a great theorist as well as having a rare quality among politicians – he is a “doer”.

Michael Gove has been quietly ploughing the Education furrow  and shaking-up an over-bureaucratic education system and has not been afraid to take some very unpopular decisions. He too is a “doer”. His thinking on education harks back to the 60s when children were educated and not used as test and statistics fodder. 10/10

Philip Hammond at Transport also belongs in the A-team and is without doubt a star of the future. He is lucky though to have both Norman Baker and Mike Penning as Parliamernary Under Secretaries.  Norman the Idealist and Mike the “no shit”  British Bulldog. Philip Hammond is seen on TV as a government spokesman much more than you might expect from a Secretary for Transport.

Dr Liam Fox has been delivering what, on the surface has been a solid job – if not a bit over-influenced by the balance sheet. He has always looked like the Conservatives’ “nearly man”. Soon, he may be the “never really was” man – as his political career begins to unravel. He, in common with all politicians should remember that Perception is King. The current perception of him is now tending towards  the seedy.

Vince Cable was always going to be a problem and continues to be a bit of a thorn. He is a natural backroom boy and looks terribly uncomfortable in the back of a Ministerial limo. However, by far his biggest handicap is the fact that he is having increasing difficulty in disguising his Socialist views. He seems to be in permanent pain. Very soon, his political career will  describe the downward arc of the parabola. He is the Statler and Waldorf of the Cabinet and compared to some of the other youngsters is from the wrong generation. His obssession with the bankers is hurting his credibility because he has not managed to do anything about them and never will.

Chris Huhne is even more annoying than Theresa May (!) but his personal life and the alleged driving licence naughtiness has totally blown his credibility. He is lucky that he is a Liberal – otherwise he may have already participated in an exit interview with DC.

Andrew Lansley is running the NHS in the way that you would expect from a career Civil Servant. He is doubtless very able – as a Civil Servant – but the NHS currently needs a large dose of commercial thinking. Everything that he has put forward so far has been through the wringer. Wrong man in the wrong job.

Eric Pickles is a great man in every sense.  He provides the Cabinet with some Northern credibility. From a Labour family, this ex-Communist has travelled the entire political spectrum and is one of the shrewdest operators in Government. He is one of the few in Cabinet who is 100% suited to his brief with the advantage of being a working-class Conservative.

One Cabinet member who one could have been forgiven for thinking would, by now be running one of the great Departments of State is Francis Maude. He is a rock-solid operator and should, without doubt be on the real A-team. As Minister at the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General , he has been handed a temporary consolation prize. He has not peaked yet. As a former Managing Director of Morgan Stanley, he knows things.  Street-wise.

Oliver Letwin is Minister of State at the Cabinet office is DC’s Policy Adviser. Like many intellectuals, he appears to be constantly stressed and “away with the fairies”.  He is the archetypal analytical-amiable who cannot manage himself – or others – and has been given the “Special Projects” brief. He is currently the recipient of a press-roasting but, like a good luck charm, will always be retained in some capacity. It is a pity that other Cabinet members cannot spot “burn-out” when they see it.

David Willets, like Letwin is a white-hot intellectual who is good to have around. He is articulate and fiercely bright.  He would have done much better , had he not looked like a spud. His great disadvantage is a lack of any “street-cred” because he has always been a political “wonk”. Having said all that, he is the ideal person to be looking after Universities and Science with the advantage of being so clever that there isn’t a single other member anywhere NEAR as suitable for this job.

Danny Alexander is another (young) career politician and his appointment has always smacked of tokenism with the added suspicion that David Laws is hanging about whilst DC waits for a respectable passage of time before he invites him back.

Sir George Young SHOULD have been Speaker of the House and his present post as Leader of the House is his consolation prize.  He is marking time because he will probably be the next Speaker. In spite of a comparatively undistinguished Parliamentary career so far, he gives the Cabinet gravitas.

Next we have the Cabinet  “solid citizens”.  All are capable but not stars: Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Patrick McLoughlin and Dominic Grieve are all OK but will never set the world on fire.

Finally we have the youthful, Lord Strathclyde, or should I say Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde. As Leader in the Lords, he is a very safe pair of hands and is a Conservative straight from Tory Central Casting. A great asset to the Cabinet.

Baroness Warsi is Chairman of the Conservative Party and although a competent TV performer, she always sounds as if she’s reading from a Tory pamphlet. She is very likely to be reshuffled out soon. Bearing in mind that Perception is King, her appointment smacked of tokenism.

So, you see that , in spite of the elitist-millionaire tags, the Cabinet is largely populated by a very cabable and  solid bunch of operators –  although the real depth of talent within the Coalition parties is still a bit of a mystery – even, one suspects, to David Cameron himself.

This Cabinet has a good mix of experience, intellect and toughness.

Whether or not you share their views or politics – they are (by far) the ones who have the very best chance of extricating us from where we have landed.