Friday, September 26, 2008

Brown's Control Freakery is Paralysing Government

When Tony Blair went, we all thought we were getting a return to Cabinet government. And so it seemed, for a bit. But then stories began to emerge about Gordon Brown wanting to micro-manage every department, rather than look at the big picture. Today CommentIsFree carries an article by Martin Kettle (no friend of the Conservatives) which contains a fascinating anecdote...
A few weeks ago, one official confided an extraordinary story to me. Four years ago, ministers decided that Britain's South Atlantic island possession of St Helena needed to have an airport. If planes could land on the tiny island, more than 1,200 miles from the nearest continent, its economic and demographic decline could perhaps be turned around. Plans began to be made. The airport was scheduled to open in 2010.

Earlier this year, the Foreign Office finally asked the Department for International Development to sign off on the airport. The file went up to the secretary of state, Douglas Alexander. But instead of giving the go-ahead himself, Alexander was required to pass the decision up to Downing Street. Brown insisted on reading all the papers in the St Helena file and afterwards asked personally to see all the tender documents, in case they did not give value for money. I am told the papers remain in Downing Street and that no final decision has yet been taken.

It would be hard to find a better example of a decision that a prime minister in times of trouble should not waste his time on and one that should be delegated to ministers. What would Napoleon have said? But the St Helena episode has become a Whitehall byword for a lethal combination of micromanagement and indecision.

If ever anything summed up the hopelessness of Brown's style of government, this does. And the thing is, he will never change. His government is being paralysed by Brown's insistence that the whole shabang has to be run from Number 10. Perhaps if he trusted his Ministers a little, they might - from time to time - rise to the occasion. Sadly, we are unlikely to find out.

Hattip James Forsyth.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe there's more to this than meets the eye though - could it be that the UK is planning to give away St Helena and the PM wants to make sure not much more is spent on it before we do? What better way to kill a project than ask for the papers and failing to return them.

John Bull said...

This says everything you need to about this power-drunk, disgraceful Labour so-called "government".

It's no wonder that, with every passing day, more and more of the Great British people say to themselves "I thirst for a Conservative government. They will give us our country back."

Newmania said...

Great post..I am on the same shtick today

In ten years of trench warfare with Blair, Brown has also broken the treasury it. A senior source told the Spectator it is ,“Riddled with cronyism and sycophancy “, and a, “shadow of its former self “.Its role as a giver of economic advice has been emerded with additional responsibilities Brown grabbed .Running the tax credit system and micro managing wealth creation with endless tax sweeteners and gimmicks It overlaps and elbows with others in a chaotic and ill tempered turf war.
Brown is , in this sense , uncannily reminiscent of Hitler ( I know I know ,sorry but its true ....). The Nazi State was not Germanicly efficient it was a mess. Hitler positively encouraged petty rivalry , deliberately doubling up on areas of responsibility so as to ensure no-one knew what was going on. This made the Fuhrer the god like centre , and Brown has the same instinct even if it costs us working government .Vince Cables gag only got half the point .Mr. Bean and Stalin are not contrasts , they are aspects of the same problem ,the clowninish incompetence of control freaks .

He must be stopped

Anonymous said...

There seems a lot of truth in the article. The key is that it is some of the staff - and several leading Parliamentarians around him - who have brought this into No.10. They dont seem to realise that the Prime Minister's job is to lead government and not some faction within a party. Brown himself knows this now - and he has jettisoned some of his long serving staffers - more of the long servers will go very soon - and those Cabinet Ministers and Ministers closest to him but behaving badly might find themselves spending more of their time looking after the kids or listening to the opera. Brown has been very very badly served by these people and with loyal senior members of the Party telling him how much some of his closest allies are hurting him he is now hearing that message.

no longer anonymous said...

Does sir john bull never shut up?

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:01 - so it's all the fault of the advisors, eh? You should consider working for the Russian media, that's what they always say about Putin and his cronies' latest monumental screwup.

I find Private Eye have it right in their "from the desk of the Supreme Leader" pastiche - Brown is a control freak number one. He can't bear the thought of anyone else deciding something.

But what is his true political agenda? He often lets this slip with little turns of phrase in interviews. He appears to be a clueless neo-liberal monkey with precious little understanding of the reality of either the markets or modern economics. He regurgitates cynical little "public-friendly" "explanation-oids" with no regard for the true facts, but beneath all the devious blather you can tell he has absolutely no idea, and I mean no idea at all, of what is really going on.

Tremble ye nations of the earth - the mighty credit default swap crash is coming and Bush, Congress, Brown and all their dreary little neocon henchpersons can do nothing to stop it.

Anonymous said...

However much Drippy Draper and his henchman try to infiltrate blogs, and however much Brown's dogs of war try to dish dirt on all and sundry the simple fact is this: Brown is a horrible man, running a non-entity Government, surrounded by nasty people, and the British public have seen him and them for what he and they are. Cameron deserves his opportunity, and the quicker for this country he gets it, the better. Go Brown - or to put it more sincerly: Go forth and multiply Brown. We don't like you!

Dominic Allkins said...

Oooh... do we think that Anon (4.01pm) is another one of Mr Drapers motley crew??

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Why is BBC 1 not showing the presidential debate tonight?? not everyone has BBC 24 in this country.

dalesman said...

It didn't come as a surprise when I read that article.

It's just another reason why this man has to go soon.

T England said...

Isn't that example just one of the reasons Labour MP's are SO fed up!
They are treated like immature little kids who cant take decissions for themselves :o)
ROFL!

Gareth said...

Anon 4.01:PM,

It's Brown's fault plain and simple. If he doesn't actually want to control all aspects of the everyday running of the country he should be a big enough man to say 'this is not my responsibility' and pass it back to the departments that are afraid to make decisions.

Though there are good reasons they are afraid to make decisions - Brown's temper tantrums, clammy hands on the purse strings and desire to take credit for anything remotely positive.

Conand said...

OK I admit that I thought for about two days that we might get a return to cabinet government too.
I was being a bit naive. NewLabour(ish) doesn't trust anybody. Not the Police or Doctors, teachers, the public, charities, the armed forces etc etc.
They only really trusted The City and that turned out to be not very sexy at all.

Unsworth said...

Brown trusts no-one, so no-one trusts him.

As to "and afterwards asked personally to see all the tender documents, in case they did not give value for money". How do we know what Brown's reasoning (if that is the word) was?

Never, ever, take Brown at face value. A proven congenital liar, he dcoesn't even know when he's doing it.

PSJ said...

It's the citizens of St Helena I feel sorry for. At this rate, they will never get their blasted airport.

As far as giving them away is concerned, I don't think that's on the agenda, since to my knowledge nobody else has ever put in a claim (not like Gibraltar or the Falklands).

Lola said...

I quote: "Brown insisted on reading all the papers in the St Helena file and afterwards asked personally to see all the tender documents, in case they did not give value for money.". Well, as he has never had a job in industry in his life I doubt - no, I know - he would not have a bloody clue what he was looking at in a set of civil engineering tender documents. What. A. Total. Prat.

I beginning to come round to everyone else's opinion that he is deranged. I have given him the benefit of the doubt up to now as he is a Good Dad. But, no more. He is finally demonstrating all the signs of manic lunacy. Them Hitler in the Bunker spoofs doing the rounds on youface seem to have got it about right.

Anonymous said...

One thought for all those salivating at the prospect of getting rid of Brown and replacing him with Cameron. What are the essential policy differences between them on the financial sector and the "light-touch" regulation that has allowed speculation in credit derivatives to run amok, creating the current crisis and leading Robert Preston, BBC blogger, to propose today that people buy gold coins, shotguns and baked beans as defences against the imminent collapse?

Er, none. Cameron is a light-toucher through and through.

So that's all fine then - one shipload of NuLab fules slavishly admiring the city traders with dribble coming out of their vacant expressions will be replaced by another.

Something for us all to look forward to.

Lola said...

Iian, one question. Does Cameron know how to delegate?

scallywag said...

Whereas I can understand McBroon not being entirely happy with Mr Alexander's credentials to evaluate the airport scheme and the associated tenders, his own are probably non-existent.

This tale undoubtedly reinforces the strongly held view that the man is unhinged and seriously delusional bordering on dysfunctional.

Kicking the decision into the long grass will place it in the company of some 50 or so reports commissioned by the clearly sub-prime minister. It's what he does as he dithers.

He's obviously as daft as a brush, but the lack of anyone with the backbone to engineer his prompt removal, if only for the good of the country, probably highlights the real state of the country's finances and the abysmal state of the Treasury.

Nobody in their right mind want to have to clear up such a dreadful mess. Hence, no takers.

Bill Quango MP said...

I used to work for a boss like brown.
Decisions took ages and every minor thing needed approval. It was a company that had very good control of costs and discipline, but hopeless innovation. Within a few years it even lost its ability to motivate personnel as there was more emphasis on not screwing up than on accomplishing something useful. Very Communist atmosphere, with predictable Communist results.

Anonymous said...

The Fuhrer also thought he was an architect.

Croydonian said...

Marginally off topic, but apparently the St Helena Labour Party ceased to exist in 1976.....

Guthrum said...

I have worked for people who do this, too scared to make a decision, too scared to let somebody else make a decision, eventually the decision is made for them by circumstance, then it is all out of control. Nu Lab to a T

Anonymous said...

"Brown is , in this sense , uncannily reminiscent of Hitler The Nazi State was not Germanicly efficient it was a mess. Hitler positively encouraged petty rivalry , deliberately doubling up on areas of responsibility "

Yes Newmania, this had ocurred to me too. It is good that the PM took a close interest in St Helena but there are only so many hours in the day.

I suppose one good thing is that the Brownite inertia has so far preventde Alexander quietly slipping the contract to a Scottish company

or the French.

One to pass a fine tooth comb over if it ever gets started.

Blackacre said...

Don't think anyone really wants St Helena so doubt that is the problem. Brown does not have the skills of a PM. Blair had them on this point - no way would he have been interested in this issue and that is just the way it should be. Brown was known long before becoming PM as one to sit on decisions so this is not a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Where's Osborne? Not on TV...

Anonymous said...

Gordon Brown's control freakery encompasses the charity sector, especially the likes of Oxfam, not just government departments, to enable him to play the shining knight of Africa riding the Oxfam horse! Gordon's minions- Shriti Vadera and Justin Forsyth (one a former Oxfam trustee and the other a former senior manager)- are constantly barking orders at Oxfam's directors, orchestrating campaigns and suggesting proposals for Oxfam and Dame Barbara to implement.

Andy D said...

The most fun this on the blog is getting to be 'spot the draper posts'....

David Lindsay said...

Thank you for this - been in hospital, so missed it. I was born in Saint Helena, and my mother's family is entirely Saint Helenian.

My grandmother was for some years a member of the Legislative Council, and one of my uncles is one of the two captains of the ship that goes between there, here and Cape Town. He supports the airport, though - it is indisputably the right way forward.

David Lindsay said...

Oh, and the very first comment on here, give it away to whom? There is no non-British claim.

You must be thinking of Margaret Thatcher, who took away the Saint Helenians' British passports (restored by Blair, for all his other faults), who refused to recognise the Muzorewa-Smith Government in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, and who invited the Argentines into the Falkland Islands until they took her at her word and actually shipped up there, at which point the Royal Navy had to stage a sort of temporary coup without which those Islands would be Argentine to this day.

The Remittance Man said...

Perhaps if he trusted his Ministers a little, they might - from time to time - rise to the occasion.

Hghly unlikely given the quality of the material currently occupying ministerial positions, I'd have thought. It's true that Brown is a micromanaging control freak, but it's also true that given the miserable dirth of talent he has available he probably feels compelled to check everything.

It's a case of reality* reinforcing bad psychology.

*It's probably safe to say that Brown's personality has also played a part in the evaporation of talent from government. But then so has the socialist tendency to spread its tentacles into every aspect of British life - what little ability was and is present is being spread way to far.

Anonymous said...

So what will McBroon do with the tender documnets?

Is he a part of the formnal; contract assessment process? If not and he interferes in the decision that may well be a breach of EU Tendering Rules (bless them).

The penalty for a breach of the rules can be payment of the full value of the entire contract for any company treated unfairly. This is just what happened with the contract for the windows in Portcullis House where the Government awarded the contract to a British company instead of a cheaper European competitor and ended up having to pay them both.

So, whatever Brown does, he may have already contaminated the whole process. Oh what joys for the beleagured contruction industry. You dont even have to win the tender, just apply and then sue because the Government has broken the rules again.