Friday, 25 June 2010

The One That Is Waiting For His Letter. . .

It's probably a publicity stunt, but as a civil servant, I'm feeling quite energised about Cameron's letter arriving on my doormat or in my pigeon hole. I may be naive, but I like the idea that suggestions I may have to save money could be considered. I dismiss the criticism over the policy of the PM and Chancellor asking the staff for ideas. A good manager will always seek out the opinions and suggestions of his staff, they have a perspective he does not, and may see things he cannot.

Will any of these ideas actually be considered, or even acted upon? I'm sceptical, but it is only fair to give Cameron the chance to fail to live up to his word, he deserves that at the least. The ideas I have (and there are quite a few) that relate purely to my own department would never be entertained by my local management. There are simply too many vested interests, too many empires built that need protecting against the barbarian hordes.

Civil servants come in for a lot of criticism, and rightly so. As a group we have an amazing capacity for officiousness, unaccountability, and an a lack of ability to think 'outside the box'. However on the ground there is a collection (mainly) of individuals who are frustrated at the crushing box ticking, the restrictive gradist attitude and as recent events have proven at my work place, have a capacity for humanity doing whatever little they can to help (not nanny or manage) those who really do need it.

On the ground floor at my department we have a collection of individuals who care deeply about the job they do and take great pride in doing their job as well as their individual talents and the collective bureaucracy allows. I am proud, with a few exceptions, to call them my colleagues.

When Dave Prentis from UNISON says:

The efficiency savings made over the past three years have cut out most of the waste – there is very little fat left to cut.

He is wrong, wrong, wrong.

There are huge great seams of fat which can be excised, and most of it having very little detriment to the front line. Indeed most of it would be of benefit to the front line. However, and this is the crux of the matter, I have very little faith in the will of my senior local managers to make those cuts, they will always look to target the front line first.

This is because of the empires that have been built. Everyone will accept that cuts have to be made, but the mantra will always be 'but of course my teams/projects are absolutely vital to the running of the business.' Once those empires have been ring-fenced, given immunity from the purge, it is always the front line will be damaged, through staff losses or constrictions in resources. The support mechanism starts to become more important than the operation they in place to support.

We've already had unofficial word of job losses at my department. I was expecting it. To be fair the totals mooted cover both operational and support posts, and to be even fairer, I think the support workers will probably bear the brunt. But, and it's a big but, once the cuts have happened, I'm fairly confident that our senior local managers will start to pick off operational staff from the front line to plug the gaps in their little non-teams, for without the little non-teams it becomes more difficult to justify their existence.

It should also be noted that the job loss total semi-rumours which are doing the rounds stop just below the level of the lowest band of senior manager locally, which for ease of illustration, I shall call Band X.

When I started in my job around a decade ago, we had one person in Band X locally. They more or less let staff get on with their jobs. They were the boss. There was no-one higher without going to HQ. If you saw this Band X, you wrote a post-card home to Mum, telling her about it. Now we have. . . I don't know how many. . . seven? Eight? Band X's, all trying desperately now to justify their existence. Not only that, but there have been recent listings advertising for more of these. We also have a Band Y and a Band Z.

The result? A top heavy management which leeches off money and resources from the front line, and managers who cannot help getting involved in the smallest details of the operation, an operation that has been run, as far as the bureaucracy allows, perfectly well by the staff on the front line.

There's the first saving right there.

There are many others too boring and techincal to go into here. I will look forward to drafting my response to Cameron's letter and posting it off.

What's in it for Wolfers? I don't want a bonus, I certainly don't want a promotion - I don't sing the right hymns for that. A shake of the hand and a thank-you will be sufficient. That, and the increased ability of my colleagues and I to do our jobs without intereference, with more efficiency and with greater initiative, pragmatism and humanity.

Conscientious civil servants do exist, and there are more of us than you may suspect.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The One That Will Write Off For The Job. . .


What a complete bloody shambles that was last night. My thoughts on the performance are divided between the players and the coach.

Firstly we know that having seen four successive managers try and fail, that Gerrard and Lampard cannot play together in a 4-4-2 system. They both need a holding midfielder alongside them to allow them to range forwards in support of the two front line players. Play them alongside each other and they both become neither fish nor fowl. We know from their performances at club level that they are in the elite group of offensive midfielders, so the problem is obviously not with them, but the system the play in.

Sticking Gerrard out on the left wing is not a solution. He is no winger and will habitually cut into the middle, when you’ve a right winger in the shape of Lennon or SWP, this gives the team a real lopsided feel and makes them all too predictable.

4-4-2 as a system now looks as outdated as the 5-3-2 system so favoured by the Germans in their 1990 win. It is too rigid. too easily neutralised and does not allow the creative players to create. All night last night we saw the Algerians string 5 across the lower half of the midfield, not challenging the English midfield for possession, but just starving the front two of any service. This leads to what we saw from the midfield last night; having no option but to shoot from 30 yards because there’s no space to move the ball forward, and what we saw especially from Rooney; having to drop back to in front of the defence in order to pick the ball up, and then having to shoot from 30 yards because he then had 5 hairy arsed Algerians bearing down on him.

When they line up like this,

I’m afraid this is the most likely outcome. It may work against Belarus and Kazakhstan, but against a very well drilled and organised side, like Algeria or like the USA, most of whom play their football in Europe’s top leagues, you’ll get found out.

When you think back to 1990, the senior players got together after the Ireland game, and again after the Egypt match, and said to Sir Bobby ‘Gaffer, this isn’t working’, they suggested a different shape and style, and Bobby, being the pragmatist he was, listened to his players, worked with them and we got to the semi-finals, and were damn unlucky not to reach a final we would probably have won.

Capello is far too wedded to the 4-4-2 system to change, and I suspect his mantle of ‘strict disciplinarian’ crosses the line into ruling by fear. I also suspect that if Gerrard, Terry or Lampard went to Don Fabio and suggested the same, they’d be shouted out of the office.

It’s a great shame, without doubt we have the best generation of English footballers in 40 years. We have three or four genuinely world class players, something we’ve not had since Moore, Banks, Charlton, Peters. However if they’re not used properly, they’ll not achieve anything.

I reckon if they lined up like this:

The space that Gerrard would have to link up with Rooney would make that pair much more effective, and with Rooney, Lennon and Joe Cole having carte-blanche to roam and rotate between themselves, they’d pull apart and confuse the hell out of a zonal marking system, with Gerrard and Lampard allowed to move forward onto the attack and make a general embuggarance of themselves.

But what do I know?

Friday, 18 June 2010

The One That Does Not Own Himself. . .

A momentary departure from the World Cup, which, despite the bloody awful football we’ve served up, is taking a large amount of my time up. Back to real life for a moment.

We’re still in that strange sort of cusp period, trying to figure out how much of what this government says it will do, it will actually do, how much of it is good intention but not possible on closer inspection, how much of it is lies and how much of it they’re not going to mention at all because some of the toys Labour had fashioned are just too exciting and fun to put back into the box.

One thing is for sure, even under this new regime, you do not belong to you. You may have a bigger share in self-ownership than under Labour, but at the end of the day, you do not get the final say in anything.

Two stories that I’ve seen in a most perfunctory recce over the news sites illustrate this perfectly. Firstly there are the CCTV cameras in Birmingham, commented upon recently by Old Holborn. Well, not surprisingly, the predominantly Muslim population in the area of Birmingham were these cameras where installed are significantly unchuffed at being spied upon 24/7 just because they have a penchant for beards and like to prepare their meat in a different fashion.

CCTV cameras are a blunt instruments used to cow the whole area. Terrorists couldn’t give a toss about them. It will make no difference to their plans at all, they’ll simply re-locate. But for the rest of the population, the inference is clear. ‘For your own safety, you are not to be trusted. You are to be measured and recorded and monitored.’

This is how diversity is valued, by telling one section of the population they are suspected terrorists. Oh, don’t worry, Muslims, it isn’t just you, the Irish have been there, as have the South Africans over here during the apartheid regime. We’ll all have a go on this particular fun fair ride before the park closes. Anyhow, the community not surprisingly has decided that this is not what they want and have kicked up a stink. Good. Say what you like about the Muslims, they may be women oppressors, mentalists, and all other things, but they still have a community, in its proper sense, not in some Nicola Murray DOSAC sense. Community has power, that is why successive governments try to break them up.

Sooooo. . .

Bags are to be put over scores of surveillance cameras in parts of Birmingham with large Muslim populations, after local objections.

A small victory, but a victory nevertheless. Except. . .

The cameras will not be used until consultation has been carried out.

Sorry? Consultation with whom? I thought the local community had made their feelings on this matter quite clear. What it should have said was this: ‘The cameras will not be used until everyone’s had a little while to calm down and had it explained to them that unless they shut up that new medical centre will be refused planning permission, or that community centre will have its funding withdrawn, or the council will embark on a full on audit of small businesses adherence to trading laws etc, etc. At which point the cameras will be used anyway.’

No reasonable debate or reversal of decision can be made. Whatever the circumstances. You’ve done nothing wrong, but you must still be punished. Pour encourager les autres.

I’m being cynical. Of course this will absolutely stop terrorism. Just as this sort of thing will stop gangs of feral youth shooting each other (and innocent bystanders) into shreds.

A grandmother has been jailed for five years for possessing a "family heirloom" World War II pistol.

But of course. I can now sleep safely at night because an old WWII pistol, which has been sat quietly in an old shoe box in the bottom of a drawer and probably hasn’t been in a serviceable condition for twenty five years, is no longer a threat. Phew. Thank God for that.

This sort of thing is good, that woman could have struck fear into the hearts of the hard working school leavers, about to embark on a life long career of wearing trousers with the waistband around their knees, talking in some bizarre patois and intimidating old ladies on their way to the shop to buy twenty Lambert and Butler and a lotto ticket.

Thank God there are no guns on our streets. And thank God there are no guns sat quietly in an old shoe box in the bottom of a drawer that probably haven’t been in a serviceable condition for twenty five years.

Everything is OK. Just do as I say, don’t ask questions, don’t make a fuss, take your punishment like a man, it’s for your own good.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The One That Will Not Be Enjoying It. . .

Ahh, it's started, the World Cup.

If you've come here expecting a diatribe about the insignificance of football, of how it is the opium for the masses and we should all spend our time doing nothing but reading Marx/Smith/Hayek, then you've come to the wrong place.

If you're expecting me to dismiss it by reducing it to the level of 22 men kicking a ball about a field, then I'll respond by saying Trafalgar was just a bunch of guys titting around in boats.

If you're expecting me to engage in some shocking snobbery about how it is culturally inferior to Rugby, then you're going to be disappointed. What is it about Rugby? The Union code in England especially? Why is it deemed acceptable (if technically outside the rules) to smack someone in the mouth, gouge their eyes, stamp on them or pick them up and drive them headfirst into the ground? Behaviour like that on the street would see you up in front of the magistrates. Just because after you've finished trying to purposefully injure someone, you put on a pair of chinos and buy them a pint of Flowers bloody IPA does not make it a decent way to behave.

I digress.

There's plenty wrong with football. There's plenty wrong with everything. But I am totally, hopelessly devoted to the sport, and the World Cup in particular. Yes FIFA is an odious organisation and Blatter, the President, deserves to be stood against a wall and peppered with free kicks from Koeman, Roberto Carlos and Charlton (R) for the rest of his days, but there you go.

Thing is, I can't enjoy the World Cup this year, and it isn't because of the Uwe Seeler horns.

I've been told I'm not allowed.

Firstly there's the sponsors:

FIFA has scored an "own goal" by agreeing sponsorship deals for the 2010 World Cup with companies that sell unhealthy products, campaigners say.

The World Cancer Research Fund criticised the governing body for partnering with the likes of Coca Cola, McDonald's and Budweiser.

It said the tournament should be an opportunity to promote active lifestyles.

Oh God, here we go. I wish Pfizer or Astra-Zeneca were sponsors, their blood pressure reduction drugs will surely come in handy if I read much more of this shit.

Promote active lifestyles? How could you do that? Oh, here's an idea, blanket coverage of young, fit sportsmen, all earning tens of thousands a week (barring the North Koreans) and the undying love of their public. Sounds like a pretty bloody good reason to be active to me. Play often, train well, and you could be like them.

The World Cancer Research fund can fuck off.

Still, at least the promoters of this poison aren't being held solely responsible. And we are being offered a sensible alternative:

It suggests fans "walk to the pub instead of taking the bus" or "use half-time for a brisk walk and some fresh air"

Nurse! The pills! The pills!

World Cup party hosts are urged to serve apples and grapes rather than crisps, while those grabbing a takeaway are warned to "choose a shish kebab with pitta bread and salad rather than a doner kebab".

In a section entitled "down the pub", fans are told: "Enjoying the match at your local pub can be great fun, but the snack and meal choices tend to be limited.

"Bar snacks are often high in salt and fat, particularly saturated fat. Give pork scratchings a miss and go for unsalted peanuts."

Anyhow even if we do ignore the evils of fast-food, fizzy drink and shite beer and engage in a spot of light aerobics, we're still not doing it right. Because if you're not sat on the sofa, there's only possible other thing you could be doing.

Police forces and hospitals across England are preparing to deal with an increase in binge drinking, domestic violence and street crime during the World Cup.

As the British exodus to South Africa reached a peak yesterday, a senior doctor warned that A&E wards in this country are expecting a 15 per cent rise in alcohol-related injuries during the tournament.

So, deal with them then, this is what they're paying their national insurance for.

Women’s Aid, a national domestic violence charity, have got several male celebrities to back their campaign. Nicola Harwin, chief executive of the charity, said: “Some police areas have found an increase in the reporting of incidents of domestic violence during big sporting events such as the World Cup, so now is a very relevant time to raise awareness. We hope that this campaign will reach out to both men and women to send out the clear message that domestic violence is never acceptable.”
Oh for crying out loud. Then charge them, then. And when they appear in court, send them to prison. Really, it shouldn't take a global event once every 4 years to make that obvious. Besides, how many of these wife-beaters are from under-privileged backgrounds who were let down the education system so therefore can't be blamed for their actions?

Or you could go and find someone from the FSA and give them a good shoeing, that's very nearly a public service.

The good old NHS brings it together nicely:

Dr John Heyworth said hospitals see an increase in domestic abuse, assaults, trips, falls down stairs and people crashing their cars.

It's no good, I've got to stop, I'm starting to get a nosebleed now.

Can you not just fuck off and leave us to enjoy the football in peace?

Actually, I say enjoy, but I think the good Dr. Heyworth may have a point, so dire was the fare on offer from France and Uruguay last night that I was tempted to go out in my car and drive at speed into a wall just to take the pain away.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The One That's Glad He Isn't A Member. . .

I believe that unions are very important. When well managed and run they can head problems twixt the office and the shop floor before they even take hold.

Unfortunately, there's a section of unionism who exist to do nothing but it stick it to the disgusting capitalist pigs, who no doubt throw fallen women from their sports cars whilst they doff their top hats at their counterparts in other industries and cackle and twirl their moustaches.

Today's speech from Cameron will no doubt bring the militant unionists to the fore, and I'm fairly certain there's going to be strife in the public sector. There are some very militant people in public sector unions. I saw the election list for the recent PCS elections and they should have come with their own revision notes. There were thousands of people from units and departments I've never heard of and will never understand what they do.

The public sector is bloody huge. As detailed previously, the axe is bound to fall near me, perhaps even on me. I'll have to make sure I'm worth my money, or I'll have to deal with the consequences. The axe has got to fall. No matter how well argued the points, no matter how compelling the cases, the fact is we do not have any money. Unions have to accept this point, otherwise the BA example will be followed.

Speaking of which, isn't it odd how quiet Unite have been over the strikes? Nothing on the news, no delays, obviously BA aren't going to shout about the passenger numbers they've lost, but you can bet Unite wanted people queueing out of the door at Terminal 5, going feral and eating pigeons, it hasn't happened. Bad news for Unite and their members. Management at BA will not take long to join the dots.

With so many staff out and a functioning if not comprehensive operation running, BA management will start to re-examine their staffing levels.

This is the danger with strike action. I absolutely, and without reservation, support the right for employees to unionise and to go out on strike. The problem with strike action is that it is rather a blunt instrument, and unions, and more importantly their membership, have to take care that going out doesn't undermine their own position. It's a minefield, and one that has to be negotiated with great caution. To say that 'when a strike goes ahead both sides lose' may be a cliche, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.

The problem, certainly in my workplace, is that some union officials agitate for strike action, they try to lead their members rather than be led by them, or at least attempt to amplify the feelings of the staff.

The danger comes when the union officials start to treat the organisation as their own fiefdom. The NUM is a prime example, not belonging was not a realistic option and the behaviour of the officials was questionable at best.

The miners' strike was the daddy of industrial strife in my lifetime, I'm not about to get involved in the politics of the situation, it is Israel vs Palestine, Unionist against Nationalist, far too big a subject to cover here. However I will say this, I remember a conflict which ceased to be about the miners fighting for their jobs, and became a story of Scargill vs. Thatcher. It became about the union's officials rather than the union's members.

And then today we see news that since his retirement in 2002, Scargill has been living in a flat in the Barbican, paid for by the members of his former union. I don't know what the membership of the NUM was at the height of the strike, but by their own admission;

there are 9 collieries left with only 3,000 miners.

Is it really right to have what is now a small union keeping their former puppet master in this fashion?

This is where my problems with the union movement lie. An organisation that is supposed to support the workers, leans on and bullies them, treats them like chattels and serfs, as much as any evil top-hatted Victorian capitalist industrialist ever did.

And all the time they're being told it is for their own good. That to me is reprehensible.

Any union that treated me like that would find themselves short of my subs in very little time.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The One That Can't Wait. . .

Only a week to go now.

We're still going to go out in the Quarter-Finals on penalties, though.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The One That Is Finding It Hard. . .

It's odd really. Since the election, and certainly since Dave and Nick did the deed, I've found it hard to get posts up here, I don't know how many I've started and then binned.

For the last thirteen years my daily mantra seems to have been 'oh foR FUCK'S SAKE!' as idiotic policy follows cretinous initiative. I despaired as every day something emerged to further clip our wings, waste our money or engineer our society. But since that bunch of bastards got thrown out, things have been, well, kinda good.

Granted I will not support everything they come up with, a good deal of what they do will make me angry and see me wheel out my mantra again. But it is early days yet, and the work thus far has been, in the main, welcome.

Anger is a good motivator.

There are problems, like a city overtaking by a liberating army, the guerillas will take up position on the hills outside the walls and the old guard in the offices will do their best to resist and frustrate. The civil service is hugely politicised now, believe me, I know, I work there.

So, given the story that Michael Gove has decided to do away with the General Teaching Council because of its abject failure to deliver on its mission, I am not in the least bit surprised to see that the response is thus:

"We are seeking legal advice on our position and will be seeking urgent clarification from ministers and Department for Education officials on the implications of today's announcement for the GTCE's work over the next period and for its staff and members."

So what's that? A government department threatening to sue the government? This is what happens when you give a faceless department effective say over the life and death of people without accountability. The people that have say over their life and death give them a taste of their own medicine, and all of a sudden it is the threat of court. And who's money is going to pay for any legal advice? Yes. Ours.

Game over, sorry.

It's not all sweetness and light. This new administration will be duped or dragged along by some of the old guard, as we've seen in the recent chatter about booze pricing. The ConDems would do well to give Liam Donaldson's acolytes and the fake publicly funded charidees a wide berth. Hopefully they'll learn.

What has been done in the past can be undone now, we've seen proof of that. So perhaps, just perhaps, any decisions over booze made in haste today can be countermanded tomorrow.

All things being considered, I'm happy that we now have a government that says this in light of yesterday's events in Cumbria:

David Cameron has said there should not be a "knee-jerk reaction" to changing the laws on gun ownership after 12 people were shot dead in Cumbria.

The prime minister said everything must be done to make sure it "cannot happen again", but existing controls were among the "toughest" in the world.

When the shadow (and former) Home Secretary is saying this:

After the Home Office revealed that the killer had held a shotgun certificate for 15 years, as well as a rifle licence gained in 2007, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson said a tightening of checks needed to be considered.

Mr Johnson said there might be a case for incorporating mental health checks into the system following claims that it is too easy for rural residents to gain access to firearms.

Knee jerk and quickie legislation, always a recipe for bad law, and one of Labour's hallmarks. Something must be done, this is something, so it must be done. To be seen to do nothing is the worst crime. With Labour it isn't about effectiveness or fairness, but the perception of the party.

The sad thing is for Labour, that even now we (and they) have been rescued from the downward spiral of desperate ideas and legislation, there is still a significant part of the party which cannot help themselves. It's like watching a cat trying to jump through a closed patio window every day. In its heart of hearts it knows what the outcome will be, but it does it because it has no idea what else to do.

Sadly again for Labour, the worst practitioner of this is currently leading the party.

And that is why I'm finding it hard to get motivated at the moment. No longer do we have a government which comes out with utter bottywater like this:

Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman says the party rules should change so half the shadow cabinet are women.

No, you see, Harriet, what we really need is for the cabinet to be 100% staffed by absolutely the best people for the jobs they have, regardless of anything as irrelevant as gender, sexuality, race or preferred method of potato preperation.

Let's hope it will be a long, long time before we see them back.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The One That Is Reaching For His Tin Helmet. . .

So the Israelis are showing video footage of their soldiers being attacked with knives and, perhaps most shockingly, some plastic garden chairs. To be honest, I think the people on that ship can thank themselves lucky they weren't torpedoed.

Of course the whole thing could have been avoided if the IDF hadn't boarded the ships in international waters with a heavily armed assault team in an act which looks suspiciously like piracy to me.

Yes of course the Israelis have the right to security and not having rockets lobbed over their borders every ten minutes.

No the Israelis do not have the right to occupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Yes the Palestinians have the right to basic standards of living, food, water, power, etc, etc.

No the Palestinians don't have the right to lob missiles into residential areas whenever the mood takes them.

A plague on both their houses. Perhaps if both sides decided to stop electing arseclowns who seem to do nothing but whip the swivel eyed and terminally hard of thinking into a frenzy at every available opportunity, and stop winding the other side up, we might see some headway.

I really couldn't give a pair of dingo's kidneys who started it, who perpetrated what atrocity, or what the nasty man said or did.

Just piss off and leave the rest of us alone, will you? Stop funding Israel and stop funding Palestine. Unfortunately I get the feeling that if the international community cut both sides out completely, we'd go back in twenty years to find the whole area reduced to a pile of rubble whilst a group of raggedy clothed idiots with matted hair and beards down to their knees beat the shit out of each other with sticks because they'd run out of everything else.

Sympathy for either side at Chateau Snowolf? Somewhere between sod all and naff all.