Friday, May 19, 2006

The Home Office has not just lost control - it's given up trying

Tom Utley makes several good points here. Civil servants will be delighted to be so completely exonerated for their apparent incompetence. I think he misses the main point however. Labour has not merely "overdone it" with its "eye-catching initiatives", or failed to analyse the burdens they place on loyal civil servants. The Labour Party seems to have deliberately hijacked the resources of the Home Office, and other great departments of State, for party political purposes.

The prize in a General Election (this may come as news to John Prescott) is the ability to appoint the men and women responsible for leading the various Ministries and Departments of State. Those Minstries are there to implement our laws, manage our government institutions, defend our borders and so on. Labour's Ministers have given scant attention to these responsibilities. Instead, under the guidance of the Party's spin doctors they have focussed entirely on agitprop. Many initiatives were clearly made up "on the hoof" in response to the previous day's headlines. There was simply no time for the relevant Ministers to take advice, to cost them or to prepare sensible plans. When the following day's headlines satisfied the Party's political requirements, the Ministers moved on.

Perhaps this is why, under Blair, Ministers do not take responsibility for their departments' performance. They resign only when the spin doctors advise that, politically, the game is up. I am sure it never once occured to Charles Clarke (or David Blunkett before him) that it was any part of his job to enforce the laws concerning illegal immigrants. His career prospects depended not on that, but on securing good headlines for his boss.

It is interesting that, if I am right, the government has neglected all its duties for nine years yet still - until very recently - remained popular. The people seem to have preferred political soap opera to real public service. The current scandals may have exposed massive incompetence, but I fear Blair (or, if not, Brown) will be able to spin his way out of the problem. Certainly, the response has been classic New Labour - more new, unfunded, unplanned but eye-catching initiatives. That is still more plausible to the voters than any promise of solid attention to detail. How could voters take such a promise seriously if given by John Reid, for example, given that he is the "Reshuffle King" and will be out of the Home Office before he has had time to understand the extent of its failures?

One has to ask, how valuable are most of the State's services to the people, if the machinery of government can be neglected for almost a decade, without anyone noticing?

Telegraph | Opinion | The Home Office has not just lost control - it's given up trying

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