Posts Tagged ‘John Birt’

Shirley Williams on the Growth of Bureaucracy under Thatcher

May 25, 2016

SWilliams Book Pic

The great boast of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives is that private enterprise, unfetter by state control, somehow magically reduces bureaucracy. Apart from ignoring the fact that firms also necessarily have their own bureaucracies, the economic and social importance of many of the industries taken into state control means that even after these industries were privatised, there still had to be a state bureaucracy to make sure these industries continued to act in a fair and responsible manner. So there are a plethora of regulatory bodies supervising telecommunications, electricity, water and the environment. And one effect of privatisation was to make these regulatory authorities and the state supervisory bureaucracy bigger than they were under state ownership. Private Eye in the 1990s during John Major’s administration ran story after story noting the massive increase in such bureaucracy in the electricity, water and environment agencies. The Eye also noted how Thatcher’s successors attempted to cut down this bureaucracy by increasingly depriving them of their statutory powers and limiting their remit. Bureaucracy was reduced not be being more efficient, but by being deliberately cut down to prevent it interfering. And thus was public protection against the predation and mismanagement by the newly privatised companies removed.

Shirley Williams, the former Labour MP, who became one of the founders of the SDP also noted the growth of bureaucracy under the Conservatives before Thatcher in her book, Politics Is For People. She wrote

Another paradox can be seen in Britain, and no doubt in many other countries as well: the growth of administration. In 1970, the then Conservative government brought in the American industrial consultant, McKinsey & Co., to advise them on the reorganisation of the National Health Service. the reorganisation, in which professional interests were extensively consulted, led to a substantial increase in the number of administrative and clerical posts, and a higher proportion of administrators and clerical employees to doctors and nurses, the front line of the service. Local government reorganisation, under the same Conservative government, had similar consequences: more highly paid administrative posts, no evidence of improvement in local government services. Big government has its own impetus which is hard to stop, whatever the philosophy of the executive in charge. But opposition to it rubs off most on political parties identified with a substantial role for it. (Pp. 29-30).

Labour has suffered because, as the party most identified with big government and state expenditure, it has also been criticised by its Right-wing opponents as the party of waste. Yet the Tories have vastly inflated the bureaucracy involved in the remaining areas left under state control. Private Eye noted that the creation of the internal market in the NHS, and the PFI financing of hospitals, vastly increased bureaucracy in the Health Service. Successive governments have carried on the marketization of the NHS, with a further increase in bureaucracy. Within the BBC, the Eye also noted that John Birt’s administrative reorganisation of that once-great and respected institution resulted in the expansion of the upper management grades on vastly bloated salaries coupled with a damaging reduction in the production staff, who actually made the programmes people watch.

Britain’s public services and industries have been made increasingly inefficient through the creation of a corrupt and parasitic class of managers, who seem to serve only to perpetuate themselves at the expense of their own companies and their workers. Indeed, Ha-Joon Chang in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism in one of the very first chapters describes the cases of several companies that actually went to the wall because their managers cut investment and wages, and sold of the companies’ assets, in order to increase their share price and their own salaries.

The Conservatives are the party of parasitic, useless bureaucracy. And the management consultants they have called in to advise them on how to reform British state administration have done nothing but wreck it. Arthur Anderson, later Anderson Consulting, destroyed the Benefits Agency and the Inland Revenue in the 1980s and 1990s. Their successors in PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the rest of the accountancy firms sending their senior staff to help both Tories and Labour draft their policies on tax and so on are part of the same poisonous trend. The Tories should be thrown out of government, and the management consultants and accountancy firms firmly excluded from the business of government.

Vox Political: Former Chair BBC Trust Accuses Government of BBC Bias against Labour

May 12, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also reported that a former chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has said that he believes that the BBC has been under political pressure from the government to be biased against Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Mike writes

The former chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has admitted what some of us have been saying for years – that political pressure has been exerted on the Corporation to bias its news coverage in favour of the Conservatives and against Labour.

Sir Michael Lyons was chair of the BBC Trust from 2007 to 2011. He spent much of his career in local government, in chief executive posts, but he was also briefly a Labour councillor in the early 1980s.

He said on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One that political pressure was making the BBC biased against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn:

“I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that the BBC has sought to hedge its bets of late. There have been some quite extraordinary attacks on the elected leader of the Labour party, quite extraordinary. I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality on this.”

Mike states that this could apply just to Laura Kuenssberg, who has been the subject of a petition to remove her because of her blatantly overt bias against Corbyn. But the comments could just as well refer to those further up, such as Kuenssberg’s boss, James Harding. He also states that several kites have been flown, by people he believes are close to John Whittingdale.

Naturally, this has been rejected by the Beeb’s head, Tony ‘Head Prefect’ Hall.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/12/political-pressure-making-bbc-biased-against-labourcorbyn-says-former-bbc-trust-chair/

I really don’t take the Beeb’s protestations of impartiality terribly seriously. Not after academics from, I think, Edinburgh University showed that the Beeb was far more biased towards the Tories and business leaders, and was more likely to invite them to speak than Labour or the trade unions. As for Dave Cameron’s cruel and disgraceful austerity programme, Barry and Saville Kushner were moved to write their book, Who Needs the Cuts, because the very people, who should have been challenging the government’s line on austerity, weren’t. That includes BBC broadcasters, who uncritically accepted the government’s assertion that the debt was nearly insurmountable and that savage cuts were needed to bring it down to a manageable level.

Years ago, when the Beeb was under the control of John Birt, the Conservatives were constantly attacking it for being biased against them. They have been particularly annoyed about Jeremy Paxman, whom they regularly accused of bias. These claims seem somewhat risible now that Paxman has admitted being a ‘One Nation’ Tory. Private Eye attacked this claim of Labour influence at the Beeb with a story from one of their readers, who had been shooting in the Scots highlands. A party led by John Birt was also shooting not far away. And after shooting had ended at that location, as well as Birt they saw a whole party of leading Tory politicos, including Peter Lilley, scurry out of the undergrowth.

The Tories regularly accuse the BBC of having a pro-Labour bias, rather in the same way that Accuracy in Media would have Americans believing that the American broadcasters are overwhelmingly liberal with the only exception being the ‘fair and balanced’ Fox News. In fact, you can expect the opposite. The BBC is part of the establishment, and so the most common voice on it is that of the establishment – the upper and upper middle classes, represented politically by the Conservatives. And the BBC probably genuinely believes it’s impartial, because it shares the Tories’ class background, and so considers that their views, or views like them, are really the only views that matter. And so working class and trade unionist political views points are not given the same airtime or consideration, as these are still considered, after a over a century of the Labour party’s existence, as still somewhat outside what the serious classes believe. And so runs the bias, conscious or unconscious, at the heart of the Beeb’s attitude to Labour.