Part 1 of Never in a month of Sundays can be read here.
At a political level for many years there has been a reluctance by minister to take personal responsibility for their actions. Yes, they are big on rhetoric but fail time and time again to deliver. Perhaps they have become accustomed to the polished-desk-comfortable-chair syndrome of the board room; it is extremely easy, as any senior manager or director will tell you, to believe that the information you are given is impartial or the best advice, and that your executive managers will actively pursue the direction or strategy that you or the board have decided.
Since the early days of the pandemic, we have had strategy after strategy announced, only to be followed by a ministerial ‘u’ turn as the media, vested interests, insiders or whistle-blowers leak information to the press.
The public, it was decided by somebody, must be frightened into not just following but obeying ministerial diktat. When this diktat was ignored or questioned by other professionals they were quickly labelled Covid-deniers by the media and guidance quickly turned to law enforcement and the quick suppression of conflicting opinion.
How many ministers have visited and worked (suitably protected) with an ambulance crew attending seriously ill patients in their own homes? How many ministers have visited the shell of a once vibrant and successful business now bankrupt as a result of their diktats?
Is it too much to ask that some minister or other actually makes a statement that gives a clear indication of the aims and objectives of this government, rather than what seems to be knee-jerk reactions to ‘events’?
One could say, given that we are now ten months into this pandemic and goodness knows how many ministerial broadcasts later, that it is not churlish to ask what are the aims and objectives and what strategy has been formulated to achieve them? Surely one of our 25 highly paid Ministers, under ministers and others that attend cabinet meetings physically or by zoom could actually propose something? It’s not that the government is short of advisers is it? If in doubt of the meaning of strategy perhaps they should Google ‘strategy’ to help them decide as all I have seen to date is a distinct lack of intellectual horsepower and intransigence purporting to be expertise and leadership and certainly not any recognisable management strategy.
That we shall, along with the rest of world, emerge chastened and with our lifestyles curtailed and economies nearing breaking point is not or should not be in question. What should now be concentrating minds is how to remotivate and enthuse a nation that, for the first time in its history, has been subject to laws made on the hoof and ruled by diktat.
Even the most law-abiding people are now, in a quiet way, starting to get on with their lives, despite being totally uneasy – if not frightened – by the actions of council officials, and the police seeking to – it can only be described as – frighten whole sections of the public, issuing fixed penalty tickets, often referred to as fines, and interpreting guidelines and laws as they see fit.
It is perfectly obvious to anyone not glued to mainstream print and broadcast media that only sections of the usually law abiding public is being targeted. Demonstrations are ignored, criminal damage is ignored, but people are arrested in their own homes after uniformed police enter to see if they have visitors, when police in their riot vans parade through the royal parks of London, and in Birmingham issue £200 fixed penalty tickets to people attending a memorial for the people killed in the pub bombings of 1974 which killed 21 and injured 182 people.
This activity suggests that highly inexperienced supervisory officers, butterflying their way to the higher echelons of the police service, have let it be known that they want what, in some police circles is known as ‘process’ – that’s arrests and reports to you and me.
Long gone are the days when the British Police Service and its officers were seen, and genuinely admired by people all over the world. Not even in the darkest days of the second world war did officers behave in the manner we have witnessed in the last few months.
The actions of a few officers during the industrial discontent of the 1970s and 80s caused, in communities all over England, serious resentment that took years to rebuild, something that the Home Secretary and the political Crime and Police Commissioners may, together with Police Chief Officers, dwell on as they stray more and more from the principles of policing by consent.
Many have warned about the politicisation of the police service which began in the Blair years. And we need, I would suggest, to reconsider our compact with the police service. We have surely not left them, but they have surely left us.
According to the Chancellor we have thrown £300 billion at the coronavirus problem and we are now back to where we started, but this time without the goodwill that many people, if not the media, were ready to give the government.
We have draconian laws to control freedom of speech, movement and assembly that, a generation ago, would have been unthinkable. These are not only unpopular but mostly as we have seen unenforceable without animosity and physical force.
The NHS is failing the very generations that have paid for it. Volunteers who raised millions to ‘help’ and those who came forward to assist were met with indifference and bureaucracy, while others were being paid handsomely in management consultancy roles, and if one report in the tabloid press is correct not only paid handsomely but able to claim expenses for meals as well.
We often hear the word ‘resilience’. Previous generations had it in spades but we now live in a society where many are unable to do anything without guidance, where many work in non-productive roles in the public services and believe their role and the bureaucracy is more important than the outcome.
We all have allowed a society which is not only risk-averse, but as we have seen during the last few months, expects and demands everything to be risk-free and totally safe, a society where many are happy to give freedoms away for their own temporary safety and are callous in their understanding of others who may be vulnerable and less fortunate than themselves.
The way not only the old and vulnerable but independent businesses have been treated by the media and ministers, while parroting the mantra ‘we are all in this together’ is, in my view, unfair and bordering on despicable and is creating yet another divide, this time between the public service employee and the private sector in all its forms.
So much then for the millennials and their nice woke society. If history is anything to go by, they will be in for great shock. It will be interesting to see how, with little experience or demonstrably little common sense, never mind practical real-world skills or experience, they solve all the mounting problems that ‘we’ will all face together.
With the example of the way Brexit and the pandemic have been handled, the rhetoric that somehow we can take on the global mantle of global Britain seems like wishful thinking, or should I say ‘Never in a month of Sundays’.