Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Deckchair News

Maybe if we just ignore the waves they'll go away...

As Dave enjoys himself making Bliar look ridiculous, the rest of us should worry about the ever accelerating pace of musical deckchairs being played out in Whitehall.

First, the Home Office. We all know it's been a shambles, but how precisely does today's split address the problems?

It's not going to make policing any more responsive to local communities: indeed, it's likely to produce even more centralisation.

It's not going to re-establish control of our borders: there will still for example be no specialist border police.

It's not going to take more bad guys off the streets: prisons have gone to the new Ministry of Justice, but after being lambasted by Mr Naughty this morning for suggesting prison numbers could rise (!), Falconer's spent the afternoon saying he'd like to see more thieves and parole busters left free on the streets.

In fairness to Bliar, he never claimed his reorganisation would achieve any of the above. According to him the whole thing is "to strengthen our capacity to deal with the real and unprecedented threat of terrorism".

But even if that works- A Big If- what happens about all that other stuff we still want from our criminal justice system?

The truth of course is that the deckchair shuffling reflects a last desperate throw of a desperate incompetent government. It will impose huge reorganisational costs, and almost certainly won't improve anything. But our leaders don't have a clue how to fix the top-down dysfunctional Home Office, other than pouring in more money. And sadly, that's run out.

If the Home Office deckchairs are shocking, the secret plan to dismember the Treasury is even more so. Apparently, the idea- cooked up in 2005 by Bliar's mate Lord Birt- was to remove HMT's responsibility for "the economy" and leave it with just its finance functions.

The motive was transparantly to clip Gordo's wings and give control over economic policy to No 10. No matter that pretty much the same thing was tried with disastrous consequences by Wislon in the sixties, when the Department for Economic Affairs effectively lasted less than two years. In reality, government is the biggest player in the economy, and trying to run government finance separately from "economic policy" is a surefire recipe for even more confusion and waste than we already suffer.

Most shamefully of all, it seems the Birt plan was abandoned not because Bliar and his sofa mates realised it might damage economic policy making, but because polling convinced them that voters were fed up with Bliar and Gordo brawling in public all the time.

And thus are we governed.

PS What would I do? 1. Local policing and prisons under locally elected, locally funded sheriffs. 2. Separate homeland security incorporating Special Branch, MI5, and border police. 3. Leave HMT with both finance and economic policy, but strip it of all the detailed welfare functions Gordo's accumulated.

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