Blaming the Civil Service for Coalition policy failures will do more harm than bombs

The idiot: "A person lacking professional skill, having bad judgement in public and political matters, characterised by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private, as opposed to public, affairs."

The idiot: “A person lacking professional skill, having bad judgement in public and political matters, characterised by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private, as opposed to public, affairs.”

“If Universal Credit is a flop, then it will prove our current Whitehall set-up is failing. But if it succeeds, it will be no thanks to the Civil Service either.”

So says a Spectator article apparently examining why Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship policy has received an Amber/Red status warning from the Major Projects Authority.

If it works, the government will take credit; if it fails, the government will blame the Civil Service. Never mind the fact that the plan is trying to make three incompatible computer systems work together, in real time. And we haven’t even discussed the pros and cons of what the government wants that system to do, what it will mean for people who will be forced into it, or what it signifies for the wider economy (in one word: trouble).

No – because this is the Conservatives’ latest wheeze, in case they don’t get elected in 2015: Blame the Civil Service for everything, cut it back, and leave the actual mechanics of government unusable by anybody who follows them.

So let’s put a few things straight right now: The British Civil Service is the most well-developed, professional and able government organisation on this planet. Its officers are highly competent and are able to provide expert advice and assistance on any project to which they are applied. I know this because I have worked within a government department where they did not take incompetence lightly and they knew how to weed out underachievers – the same government department responsible for Universal Credit, as it happens.

The ministers responsible for foisting this unworkable policy on these professionals, on the other hand, are a group of amateurs from an organisation that treats politics as a game. They have no prior training in their jobs, other than perhaps expressions of interest in Work and Pensions, at the same level as a hobby.

Look how Sue Marsh describes Iain Duncan Smith – the Secretary of State – in her excellent Diary of a Benefits Scrounger: “He went to a council estate once, saw some frightfully poor people and thought he would sort out ‘welfare’ because, well, they couldn’t possibly need all that food and warmth and bedrooms and stuff.

“With his trusty right hand man, Lord Freud, failed investment banker (and yes, related to Sigmund and Lucian), who famously sorted the whole new plan out in three weeks, with no knowledge or experience of social security at all, clutching the Daily Mail as their handbook, what could possibly go wrong?”

Everything. And it’s no surprise to anybody (apart from the Conservative Party, it seems).

These threatening noises are not the first indication of trouble within the Civil Service. It is, in fact, deeply troubled as a result of Conservative – not Coalition – agitation.

Vox Political reported in February on Michael Gove’s for-profit plans to halve the Department for Education’s administration, with 1,000 job losses and the closure of six regional offices. Almost one-third of remaining staff will switch between teams working on time-limited projects, a plan that almost guarantees that these projects will be poorly-executed.

One presumes the Civil Service will get the blame when they are – even though, again, Tory bad planning is the real culprit.

The Spectator article describes the Education situation in the following, stunningly-blinkered, fashion: “Michael Gove owes his success in reforming schools not to the alacrity shown by his department in signing up to his agenda, but to a superstructure of advisers that he brought in to operate above the existing officials.” In other words, he brought his ignorant mates in to force their foolishness on the professionals.

No wonder Vox Political reported in February that “the changes have created an atmosphere of disillusionment across Whitehall, with two-thirds of Britain’s most senior civil servants now so demoralised that they are considering quitting public service, according to a survey by the FDA union.

“How will our public services function if everybody who knows how they work has walked away in despair?”

The answer is, they won’t. The Tories are banking on it.

That is why these dangerous idiots must never be allowed into power again – and when I use the term “idiot”, I do so with reference to Athenian democracy, which describes an idiot as a person lacking professional skill, having bad judgement in public and political matters, characterised by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private, as opposed to public, affairs.

That seems an accurate description of the entire Parliamentary Conservative Party.

27 thoughts on “Blaming the Civil Service for Coalition policy failures will do more harm than bombs

  1. Bill Kruse

    I doubt they’re unloading on the civil service to destroy them and make the UK ungovernable, it’s just IDS and his toadies trying to establish a scapegoat to save his job so he can carry on portraying himself as the great reformer. UC failed not because IDS is bonkers but because he’s a great visionary who was let down by his underlings, they’ll say. I gather from what I’ve been reading here and there the groundwork’s already being prepared for this.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I think you’re right about what they’ll say but the result they’re not seeing, even though it’s already happening, is the demoralisation of civil servants, leading to desertion of their posts – they’ll go somewhere they’re better-treated.

  2. guy fawkes

    I know you said you have legal experience and have worked in government departments and why you probably defend the “law” so vociferously, but the laws are made to use against the working class who is being disallowed legal redress via legal aid reductions, so will have to represent themselves and put up with legislation that is usually stacked against them.
    when it comes to lying civil servants I personally have been a victim so would not defend them in the slightest.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Under a Conservative government, I would mostly agree with you about the way laws are devised. They are devised by Conservative politicians (idiots, as defined in the article).
      As for the behaviour of civil servants, I can only write from experience.

  3. Janice M

    Excellent article -spot on as usual -having worked for HMRC and booted out because I was ill I know all too well of the stupid policies and targets set by people who have no idea of the real world and the actual job together with out of date computing systems which fail to cope with all the changes – it is so sad and frustrating knowing there are people out there with brains and ability who could run government much more efficiently but politics seems to attract those who are totally ill equipped and lack any social conscience

  4. garth67

    i was talking about this the other day and he said what happens if universal credit doesnt work and nobody gets paid) if it does get of the ground) but could things not go the other way and everyone gets overpaid ? think how much that would cost and with Lie DS involved its going to fail just which way ?

  5. murray

    Like the “LieDS” tag too. Unfortunatly there must always be scapegoats, for all the idiotic schemes this Tory government purports to be policy,otherwise the majority of the electorate would wake up and smell the coffee.

  6. Thomas M

    They are trying, if this is true, to destroy the controls that steer the country, like a captain removing the ship’s rudder out of spite.

  7. Slugabed

    A good article but there is one elision I cannot let pass unchallenged.
    It is that “Lord Freud” was originally brought in by the previous Labour administration,to advise on “Welfare Reform” and was retained by Iain Dunkin-Donut and his chums.
    This is because,like it or not,all three major parties are singing from the same songbook,I’m afraid,and the alternative is,let’s face it,even more worrying….

    1. Mike Sivier

      Re: Lord Freud – that is what happened. He was brought in by Labour, and then decided to run off and join the Conservatives. Seems a bit ungrateful if you ask me, but there’s no accounting for taste.
      As for the three parties “singing from the same songbook”, an all-party agreement of some kind does seem likely, doesn’t it?
      But why would “the alternative” be “even more worrying”? What do you think it must be?

  8. Slugabed

    That is easy to say,but disaffection with the “Coalition” andespecially with Cameron and his chums among the “swivel-eyed” who do all the day-to-day leg-work in Coinservative associations is at an all-time high.
    Coupled with the general disaffection with the political elite in the country as a whole,the glaringly obvious collaboration between the three main parties (an “all-party agreement”,as it were) and a newcomer-party who,whatever else,do NOT sing from the same songsheet,I don’t think languid complacency about UKIP is a good idea.
    If UKIP manage to gain the balance of power in the UK Parliament (which it’d be naive to rule out entirely)…….

    1. Samwise Gamgee

      Well we know UKIP take an even more hard-line view than the Tories on many issues, particularly welfare. If UKIP do start to gain serious traction, and take a lot of the Conservative and even some of the Labour voting base with them, that might open space on the left for a genuine alternative…

  9. guy fawkes

    Mike slugabed is right in his assessment of the future political voting landscape, Ukip are picking up votes from disgruntled voters from both left and right but will not retain the rights protest vote at the next election. I hope the unity left organisations can attract the defectors from labour but even they do not offer them immigration issues or EU concerns.

    1. Slugabed

      Personally,I think that one possibility would be for those diaffected with the main political parties,and interested in maintaining the post-war social contract should practice mass entryism upon UKIP.
      The party does not carry the “not them again!” baggage of the three main parties but is organisationally and politically immature enough to be easily swayed by a few hard-working and politically exprienced members in each local branch…..

  10. James Fletcher

    Nicely put Mike, I particularly like your interpretation on how the government will take credit for it should it work (if by sheer luck of biblical proportions), and how they will palm the blame off onto the civil service if it flops. It must be nice to be able to write your own reviews…(looks suspiciously at the BBC)

  11. NMac

    What makes me extremely angry about Duncan-Smith is the sheer dishonesty and hypocrisy of the man. Back in 2002 Duncan-Smith claimed additional Parliamentary expenses to pay his millionaire wife a salary for acting as his secretary. In fact she never did any work whatever for him or anyone else, nor did she have an duties. Several reliable witnesses, including Duncan-Smith’s Constituency Agent, testified to this fact. It was whilst this unpleasant character was the (failed) Leader of the Opposition and before the main expenses scandal became public knowledge, and it was swept under the carpet. This man’s activities should have been properly investigated by the Police Fraud Squad, and if the evidence had been forthcoming he should have been put before the Courts for obtaining money by deception. He obviously didn’t mind spending public money to feather his own nest.

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