Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Is Anybody There?
As followers of the US National Hurricane Centre know, storms are not predictable in incidence, nature, direction and effects. If the pre-conditions are right then one storm may follow another quite quickly.
Quite where the present media storm will take us is not clear. The level of public disgust at some of the stories is apparent. Gordon and Sarah Brown have every reason for anger and dismay.
But as some are pointing out, this is very bad indeed but there are a number of other very worrying developments happening which are going to need a lot of work and attention and about which the public should be properly informed.
This is at a time of year when for two months or more Parliament will not be sitting and its members, including Ministers will be dispersed and taking some holiday although all are likely to be catching up or doing other business.
Meanwhile in the senior ranks of the government departments and all the agencies and other non-government but official organisations desks will not be occupied, calls will not be taken and mail and other communications will wait for replies. Work in progress will be slowed or stalled.
An effect of all the improvements in the conditions of employment both in the Civil Service and other bodies means that longer vacations can be taken as well as other time taken out. Posts are taking longer to fill now and if there are a good many early retirements leaving, many will have “saved” entitlement to have a “free” summer.
It is my view that the situation in the second half of the 21st Century is quite different from that of a generation ago and that was different from the generation before that. We may be looking at almost two months when in effect the Civil Service and others are not functioning to level that is needed for ordinary business.
So what happens if other major political or financial storms come rolling in that are highly complex, very dangerous and require extraordinary inputs of work and activity? It is likely that there simply may not be enough people there to cope.
It can happen and it has. During a severe heat wave in the period of Les Vacances in France several years ago, thousands died, notably amongst the aged because the services needed to deal with crisis were severely undermanned because so many people were away.
Perhaps we will get away with a couple of clear months before more trouble arrives. But we may not and given the fragility of international finances let alone the situations in many countries at present anything could happen. In the present day can we really afford to have so many in the offices of state off work?
Both the First and Second World Wars began at this time of the year and both arose from crises that went out control. I have not forgotten the blundering about in 1956 of the Suez Crisis which critically went wrong during August. I was there.
This is only the short term matters, we are still going nowhere on the longer term key problems and we can no longer afford the start stop management of public affairs to suit the lifestyle requirements of those who govern.
It is not just the unemployed who need to get back to work; it is the higher ranks of government and the Civil Service.