Teflon Civil Servants, who never feel the heat


by Paul Knocker

In case you missed it there was a very revealing article in the DT in June headed:“Teflon Civil Servants, who never feel the heat”

The report by Christopher Hope and Richard Bacon was based on their recently published book -“Why every government gets things wrong, and what we can do
about it” and the publication of the Coalition’s “Major Projects Authority” annualreport, which most people have never seen, this showed that 31 of the largest  projects were on the amber or red critical list.

The public rarely see anyone in Whitehall being held to account and career progress is often unaffected by spending cock-ups, which may have cost the  taxpayer millions. Examples include Sir John Gieve, permanent Secretary at the Home Office 2001 to 2005, when the department’s administration collapsed and
the NAO “disclaimed” the accounts after discovering they were adrift by £26.5 billion. Sir John went to the Bank of England as deputy Governor in charge of  financial stability and was at the helm at the start of the banking crisis. Sir John was replaced at the Home Office by Sir David Normington, fresh from the  Department for Education’s £90 million “Individual Learning Accounts” fiasco.

In Birmingham, Lin Horner was the returning officer during a postal vote-rigging scandal that an election court said “would disgrace a banana  republic”. Tesco bags of uncounted votes were discovered in the council offices. She became Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency. The Commons Home  Affairs Committee criticised her tenure for its “catastrophic leadership failure”. Then she popped up as permanent secretary at the Department for Transport and  was one of the officials connected with the West Coast mainline franchise – costs to the taxpayer c.£100 million. Her next appointment was Chief Executive of  HMRC !!!!

There are many more examples, including Local Authorities, and today in the DT is an amazing exposure of the BBC’s top management and their redundancy
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12 responses to “Teflon Civil Servants, who never feel the heat

  1. I suspect that the imitation of China (and European states such as France and Prussia) in the creation of a Civil Service by both Britain and the United States in the late 19th century, was a mistake If a minister is responsible for the mess ups in their department – should not the minister decide who is employed by the department? Otherwise declaring the minister responsible makes no sense.

    “But the minister will employ friends – and it opens the door to corruption” – of course it does, but corruption is about the least bad thing about government (the real harm is done by people who think they are doing good). Someone like 18th century SIr Robert Walpole may have been interested in profiting from office, rather than in Social Reform as 19th Century Disraeli was – but Disraeli’s Social Reform did vastly more harm (especially over time) than a bit of petty graft by Walpole and co did.

    Still all that be as it may – the American Federal government at least functioned moderately well (by the very low standards one must assume in government) till the Civil Service was unionised (the same is true at State level – contrary to popular belief there are plenty of government forms to complete in Texas, but unlike the unionised government machine of California at least the Texas bureaucrats are not so drunk or stoned that they will lose your forms and make you fill out new ones) – after which it became a farce (combining the Social Reform ideas the Progressives with the corruption and incompetence of a unionised machine “you-can-not-fire-me-I-am-part-of-the-union”, the worst of both worlds).

    The American Civil Service was unionised by an Executive Order of President Kennedy – I do not know when the British Civil Service (and the non Civil Service part of the government machine) was unionised.

  2. To be fair I should give the pro Civil Service case – it can be seen historically in American context (a British contrast is more difficult – as one has to compare different time periods). Missouri has historically been a State dominated by political Machines and next door Kansas has historically been a State of professional independent government (Town Managers and so on).

    People, for example, have historically pointed at honest Kansas City Kansas – versus corrupt Kansas City Missouri. But I suspect that Ian B. would have something to say in defence of the ways of the State of the Outlaw Josey Wells, versus the Puritan types next door.

    However, Kansas is not a unionised State – for a unionised government machine one has to look to States such as New York, Illinois or California. One does not have to be an anarcho capitalist to think that government is utterly awful in such places (a mixture of high minded, but wrong headed, Social Reform – and all the corruption and incompetence on top).

  3. Nick diPerna

    Once you reach a certain level in the bureaucratic food chain there is no coming back down.

  4. Paul;

    This is something I should spend some more time on researching, but my impression is that the city machines and “city bosses” problem was at least in some cases “talked up” by the Progressives for their own ends; Atlantic City seems to be a good example; the motivation in that case seems to have been a distaste at lots of people going there and having fun including, to the horror of the Progressives, large numbers of blacks (whose living standards and spending power was, like everyone else, rising, and thus they could afford to have fun at the seaside.)

    The Proggies positioned themselves (as ever) as “saviours” of the people from corruption, whereas really what they wanted was to replace other “city machines” with their own corrupt, oppressive machine politics.

  5. On the post itself, all one can say is that this is our new Upper Class. And it is by orders of magnitude the worst we have ever had.

  6. Well Atlantic City was a Republican Machine – so I will give them a pass…. (no just kidding). There was some bad stuff (real bad stuff) – but the rule of Progressives did not tend to get rid of the corruption (it just added big spending “Social Reform” on top of the corruption). And, yes, some of the leading Social Reformers were corrupt Machine politicians themselves – such as Mayor Wagner in New York City after World War II. Or Mayor Curley (famous for the “Curley effect” – driving English heritage people out, by high taxes and regulations, so that his own people could win every election without much effect) in Boston back in the 1920s and 1930s.

    But even the honest Progressives (such as Mayor Lindsey in New York in the 1960s) were terrible – utterly terrible.

    As for Britain….

    “Ever” is a major claim Ian.

    Worse in their brutality than Henry VIII?

    Worse than William the Bastard?

    What can be said is that the modern age rulers are worse than any rulers we have had since the rule of Parliament was established by the Revolution of 1688 – and (yes) a lot worse than James II or Charles II also.

  7. Hugo Miller

    Common Purpose

  8. Yes Hugo – when someone talks about either Common Purpose or Agenda 21 they are dismissed as paranoid, however they are real (very real).

    Even local councils (made up of elected members most of whom have never heard of either Common Purpose or Agenda 21) have their policy directly and indirectly influenced by this stuff.

  9. They must all
    1-Be sacked without compensation
    2-Have their pensions (every penny) confiscated
    3-Be stripped of all “honours” and titles and the like–the public record must show that this has been done because they are useless traitors and stooges or active agents of tyranny and evil.
    4-They must be blackballed from ever again holding any job of higher status than Dubcek-like street-sweeping.
    5-They must be sacked and told the above in a sudden and unexpected meeting. They must be told that they will not be even allowed to return to their desks. They must be told they will be escorted off the premises by security staff–and they will be–but only after said “security” staff have beaten the shit out of them–males and females alike–true equality will prevail.
    6-Finally they will be carried out battered and beaten and dumped in the gutter outside their previous place of employment. On the pavement nearby a large table of drinks–lager, stella etc, (leavened with an ironic salvers of the drink enjoyed by the fallen arseholes–champagne cocktails, Pymms, pink gin etc, etc )will be provided for a specially invited group of London’s foulest, filthiest dossers, male and female alike. With their bladders fully charged with the free (paid for by the fallen’s next–and now phantom-pay packet) drink, the dossers will quickly repay our generosity. They will walk over, 6 or 7 at a time to the former grandees and, (while he or she is lying there, dazed and bleeding, trying to parse out and process what has happened to them) piss on them en masse.
    7- One more elaboration occurs. After these people die, whatever else family, friends put on the tombstone, plaque etc(“Dearly Beloved Thieving Arsehole” etc) The marker must have, in gold leters at least one Imperial foot high, the word “SCUM” in heavy capitols. OK, I think Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlow is prob correct here with his final words from the Big Sleep “What did it matter etc” but what the hell.

    It is a good thing I am not a vindictive man.

  10. Julie near Chicago

    Paul, there’s nothing paranoid about being paranoid about Agenda 21. I should think anybody could see that, if they trouble to look up official documents starting with the Rio Conference which are readily available online. But then again, the worst thing that can happen to a person after being called a R-r-r-raaaaacisssssst is to be called “Paranoid” or a “Conspiracy Theorist.” The SHAME!!!

    • Julie – even when I have had local council papers in my hand that quote (sometimes word for word) Agenda 21 stuff (without the magic words “Agenda 21″) if I mention the fact then I will get “funny looks” (the classic British way of implying someone is insane). If one produces evidence and arguments – one just gets more “funny looks”. And, as I have a short temper (if I went into a rage this really would “prove” I was insane), this is an area (as with “Common Purpose”) that I have learned not to discuss with my fellow elected members (apart from a few of them).

  11. By the way Julie – Happy Independence Day, it is unfortunate that you have lost independence (in a bit-by-bit process that goes back long before Barack Obama was even born).

    As Mr Franklin said – you have a Republic “if you can keep it”.

    Perhaps if his design for the Great Seal of the United States has been accepted, things might have been different. Such signs and symbols do matter.

    The rattlesnake flag and the motto that went with it, would also have been good.

    I once hoped the libertarian movement would become interested in such things – but the “libertarian” left seems to have destroyed any real chance that libertarians will be the “saving remnant” I hoped for in my youth. People who might rebuild civil society even if things fell into chaos. Envy (“Social Justice”) and the double talk of Plato’s children (the academics and so on) have cut off such hopes.

    Both libertarianism and conservatism (yes I am a Frank Meyer person – fusion) grow weaker (on both sides of the Atlantic) and the new generations desire “free stuff” not freedom, just as they reject the vast effort required to maintain the cultural institutions (such as the family) upon which a free society depends – indeed they have been taught to despise such things.

    The left (the collectivists who hide under the false mask of freedom – preaching “liberation” and planning slavery) are everywhere – even in Texas (which rejected “Common Core”) they were found to have brought in Social Justice teaching into at least 80% of the schools.