...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, September 25, 2006

Day 2089: Devolved Devalued


Mr Frown is setting out his stall to replace Lord Blairimort as the HUMPTY DUMPTY of British Politics. No, not by getting SMASHED.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less."

Today, Mr Frown is using the words "devolve power to the people" to mean "create a super new QUANGO".

(Microsoft's spill-chequer does not recognise the word "quango" which Daddy says means Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation. Microsoft suggests "guano". So maybe it DOES recognise the word after all!)

Mr Frown points to the success of the independent board of the Bank of England at setting interest rates. But this is simply not the same. We have to have an independent board to set interest rates because that stops the chancellor from playing with the levers of the economy like some sort of PINBALL MACHINE to get short term electoral advantage. (This used to happen when Mr Balloon was advising the then chancellor, the famous badger impersonator Mrs Norma Lamont.)

The chancellor – the ELECTED representative, the ACCOUNTABLE representative – still decides the POLICY: he just puts the Bank of England in charge of how to get there.

(For Mr Balloon's benefit: this is like you picking out what shoes you want to wear and then giving them to your chauffeur – it is up to him which way he drives them to the House of Commons.)

What Mr Frown is suggesting seems to be the EXACT OPPOSITE. He wants to create an UNACCOUNTABLE and APPOINTED body that sets the POLICY. (He suggests that ministers will set out GUIDELINES. How nice.)

How would this board be appointed, anyway? Would it be an exciting new tool of PATRONAGE for the Prime Minister with which to reward his cronies (whether or not the price was right)?

Or would Mr Frown create an appointments appointment board. And an appointments appointment board appointments board to decide who gets appointed to THAT. AND so on until the bureaucracy reaches INFINITY!

This is a WIN-WIN for Mr Frown, anyway: if it works he will take the credit; if it fails he will avoid the blame.

The people who are REALLY responsible for providing the service in the NHS are the DOCTORS and NURSES in surgeries and hospitals. Will Mr Frown's scheme make it any easier for them to get funds to the frontline if decisions are being made by Mr Frown's board of directors instead of the Health Secretary? No, it will be harder, because a board of appointees never has to come out of the bunker.

At the very least, an elected Health Secretary can be EMBARRASSED by the health workers – she's got to stick her head over the parapet sometime, because if she never appears in public she won't get re-elected!

Devolution means putting real decision making power in the hands of the local people, not paying handsome salaries into the hands of a dozen of your big business mates.

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