Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Why is this Government so incompetent?

The mortgage rescue scheme that this Government announced with such a fanfare last September but didn't actually introduce until January has so far only helped one household. Yes, that's right one.

I am getting so sick of them announcing some measure or other that they claim will help all sorts of people, only to find a while later that either they have not been implemented or have hardly helped anybody.

Ministers constantly use the announcements of these schemes to beat the opposition parties over the head with. It is as if the announcement is all that is needed and is then job done.

This Government in particular is terrible at administration. I think one of the reasons for this must be that most of the members of the administration have never run their own business and some of them have spent their entire working lives in politics. For them, making the speech is the job as far as they are concerned. They have never known anything different.

Something which I have been meaning to write about for a while is the sets of skills that a successful politician needs. They need to be able to speak with confidence in public with few notes. They need to be able to remember a brief. They need to be able to ingratiate themselves with enough members of a constituency party to get selected so this means they need to be charismatic. They need to be able to look like they are answering a question when in fact they are studiously not answering it. And they need to be able to use language in such a way as it sounds like they are agreeing with anything and everything that their party colleagues have ever said on any subject. I am sure there are other skills too but these seem to me to be the main ones.

Now those skills might be vital to climb the greasy pole and get selected, elected and then promoted to ministerial office. However I would argue that there are much more important skills that are needed for someone to be a government minister. And herein lies the problem. If you go for a job interview for a senior position in the private sector let's say Head of Marketing, you will be expected to have done marketing for many years followed by having previously been a Head of Marketing somewhere else (or at least a deputy or equivalent). You would stand virtually no chance of getting the job without being able to demonstrate aptitude and the correct skills and experience for the position.

Contrast this with how ministers are appointed. The PM chooses them on the basis of keeping a balance of positions within the party, loyalty to the whip, longevity of time in parliament, popularity of the individual (usually from them having made good speeches), alignment with his own political views etc. etc. etc. There is no interview or aptitude testing. They are just dropped in at the deep end without the requisite skills or any meaningful training. And these people then end up in charge of Multi-billion pound budgets.

It is no wonder that there are so many cock-ups. I am not really sure what the answer is because when they bring in ministers from outside they often also become croppers. They are usually much better at the administrative side but come a cropper on the political side. There are very few people, certainly in the Labour Party who straddle both. It is generally better in the Lib Dem and Tory parties because many of their MPs have run their own businesses so they have a better idea about this sort of thing.

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