Thursday, 28 September 2017

Clean Sweeps Can Make A Pile Of Dirt

At the Labour Party Conference in his speech Jeremy Corbyn claimed that Labour were on the brink of power and if they achieved it there would be nationalisation on a wide scale and major interventions in many sectors. Was the ghost of Clement Attlee hovering over him?

The Wikipedia article, "Attlee ministry" if you scroll down to the end has a list of the major legislation passed during his first period of office. It is long and widely encompassing. It is the basis of this that his government is claimed to have created the Welfare State, the NHS, and had grown a forest where there had been a wasteland.

If that is the case, one might ask how did we finish up on the winning side in World War 2? Or get through the 1930's? We are told that the needs of the war, the problems it created and the challenges had been met by major community efforts and radical changes in organisation and methods. Also people were made to feel all part of the effort and ceaseless propaganda urged us to be as one.

But there is a crucial difference between a national service more or less locally administered and common services of the nation locally provided. Before the Attlee government and the imposition of the Trade Union/Sons of the Raj/Centralist doctrines of organisation and planning the UK had not been a wasteland of nothingness.

There had been extensive, varied, local, commercial and charitable etc. forms of provision which in many districts was better than those of the Attlee visions. The trouble was where for one reason or another there were major deficiencies or the war had had a more severe effect. Some of the worst were Labour local government districts in the hands of local Labour "kings".

 In industry the problems arose from WW2, the lack of capital and the uncertainty created by the way in which the government was making laws and key economic decisions more or less off the cuff and meddling and attempting what we now call micro management. When the ability to make and implement these decisions was removed to Whitehall it added seriously to the problems.

The list of legislation for the Attlee period may look impressive until you consider the effects within each sector of transferring all that management to central units under Cabinet control on that scale in that time frame. I was working on the railways at times in the 1950's and the management seemed to be up there with the Sputnik.

One result was the detachment of ordinary people at first from government and then increasingly from each other as the media and entertainment and other consumer sectors began to divide us into marketing sectors and on a generation basis. They were quickly followed by the political operators and the pundits.

Locally, councils increasingly could not exercise discretion, make particular arrangements and had to do what they were told. The ability to do a job for the people was replaced by the ability to work out what on earth the latest government statutory instrument was about and implement it regardless of cost or sense.

British Railways became almost a Department of Bright Ideas as the top management tried to cajole the lower ranks and the regions into modernisations and functions that suited the politicians but often bore little relation to a transport system converting to motors.

Around all these industries the question "why" loomed large and to which there was too rarely a sensible answer only something convenient in the short term to Whitehall and Westminster. "Planning" became monster documents made from recipe's of old data, new prejudices, old rivalries and new squabbles.

As for the now in the 21st Century it will be interesting to see how this vision of the late 1940's works out in a client state of the EU in which a great deal is owned by foreign interests, what people want is impossible for them to have or get and the basics of control and management are now in big boxes.

Many of those big boxes used to be in the Virgin Islands.

1 comment:

  1. If we vote Corbyn into power, then as usual we'll get what we deserve.