Anybody clap last night?

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JGD
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by JGD »

stuart wrote: 15 Feb 2021 19:13 Which means you can't pin this debacle on Putin.
In normal circumstances I could not disagree with your view.

Putin is far from normal. Not a politician. Not even a Russian politician.

He is and was a Russian spy-master and it does not matter which brand (KGB or otherwise) you label him with.

Ingrained in his make-up and at the foundation of the man, is the profound ability to analyse how best he can usurp and disrupt.

In domestic politics in Russia where murderously, he has vested a Presidency on himself for life.

In international politics and equally murderously he applies his skillset without compunction or compassion. Only his enemies die and only they pay the price of opposing him.

Could it be possible that in line with a long held Russian practice of spotting candidates young and grooming them to your needs and training them to deliver your ends, he has has fortuitously had a number of candidates emerge all at once? So why not Johnson and Corbyn emerging from their cocoons at the same time. And causing division within the country beyond what we could have been comprehended as being possible.

I laughed out loud at the suggestion that the aristocratic Bullingham Club was a recruiting ground - but then Oxford has been a recruiting sergeant-major's dream patch for some time. And hedonistic members are no longer troubled by being recruited by a Russia that no longer is communist.

Confirmed accounts of drug taking, criminal activities and lack of moral compass (and ascribable activities worse than I describe here) made at least two of these Buller boys malleable to any amount of blackmailing pressures.

So not quite so black and white as to be able to say we cannot put Putin in the frame. Perhaps he has usurped our nations' security without launching a missile.

We will never really know in our time - but how the hell did we get into the mess these guys (and gal) have made of it?

Did they do it on their own - or to someone else's design - and money?
vbsydenham
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by vbsydenham »

stuart wrote: 15 Feb 2021 19:13 Which means you can't pin this debacle on Putin. I wouldn't trust any politician anywhere that doesn't have a grasp of public health emergencies or doesn't let those with the expertise to drive the response. It seems to have worked out well for those that did whether left or right, democratic or authoritarian.
I think what we'll find is that when the dust settles most of the blame for the mess the UK is in with Covid will lie at the door of successive Governments of the preceding 20 years rather than the one we have now. Unlike other countries - particularly in the Far East but also some in Western Europe - we failed to invest in spare ICU capacity, our track and trace capacity was essentially zero, and we didn't take our under supply of PPE seriously. We were reasonably well prepared for a SARS or MERS type outbreak but no one had given any serious consideration to preparing for a disease that could spread asymptomatically for so long. This isn't just the fault of the political establishment. Public health experts missed this too. (I have some professional experience here as for a while I worked on public health policy including on the UK risk register).

Large scale lockdowns were really the only weapon in our armoury once this thing arrived (unless we had closed the borders in Jan 2020 but that was never realistic) and it has been our great misfortune to have a Cabinet and PM so reluctant to use this measure properly and so keen to relax at the first sign of success. Despite that I think history will be relatively kind to Johnson and this Cabinet and their success with the vaccines will be what most people will remember. Much as it pains me to say this....
stuart
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by stuart »

vbsydenham wrote: 16 Feb 2021 08:28I think what we'll find is that when the dust settles most of the blame for the mess the UK is in with Covid will lie at the door of successive Governments of the preceding 20 years rather than the one we have now.
Perhaps you can help me with one of the puzzles of this pandemic. The role of the civil service. We can blame Boris for political inaction - but when it comes to action the mantra we were indoctrinated in - was we had a civil service to deliver that policy. I can understand that years and years of under investment made catch-up hard. What I can't understand is the inability of including probable outcomes to the plans then being put into place.

Can I take as an example the current quarantine fiasco? A year ago we had a quarantine system for the return of the Diamond Princess passengers. Put together in days. Scaled up versions have been enacted with some success in many countries. I can understand the government's reluctance to enact one here - which is why we are only just finding out there was apparently no contingency plan. One that could be based on last year or culled from our allies to put in place when South Africa & Brazil showed a red flag two months ago. To have quarantine in our armoury if expected mutations became more lethal or vaccines failed would appear to be a no-brainer.

Contingency plans are cheap. We have had a year to do it. Delay is expensive. Making it up as we go does not optimum results make.

Stuart
vbsydenham
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by vbsydenham »

I don't have any inside knowledge to draw on here but I suspect quarantine, border closures etc will have been part of a menu of measures being put to the Government since early last year and largely rejected. But if you see those measures as an extension of lockdown policy then it's just the same pattern repeating. The Government making the right policy decisions, but half heartedly and much too late.

If the Civil Service had been instructed to work on this stuff in March last year, then you would by now have the capacity to do this stuff quickly and effectively at scale. But they weren't so we don't.
JGD
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by JGD »

vbsydenham wrote: 16 Feb 2021 12:56 But if you see those measures as an extension of lockdown policy then it's just the same pattern repeating. The Government making the right policy decisions, but half heartedly and much too late.

If the Civil Service had been instructed to work on this stuff in March last year, then you would by now have the capacity to do this stuff quickly and effectively at scale. But they weren't so we don't.
I hold that analysis from vbsydenham to be very precise.

Decision making is almost invariably a discomforting process. Frequently, as many people will disagree as will agree with the decisions made.

HMG this time round did not grasp this thorny concept early enough and instead bowed to a number of factors; populism in not being able or willing to prepare the populace with the harshest of news about the realities of a pandemic; bending to narrow political dogma - particularly from within its own ranks from MPs claiming their constituencies were (somehow) not affected by the virus and finally a failure of intellect in not seeing that not to do it had only one direction of travel and that was to see the numbers quadratically exploding upwards and with too many deaths that followed from that uncontrolled increase.
stuart
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by stuart »

I think you miss my point. A contingency plan isn't what you are doing. It's what you might do if the current plan doesn't work. Aka Plan B, C & D.

Agile and at Pace are today's awful buzzwords. But it what's expected the ability to change plan and do it quickly. Because a government doesn't want to quarantine, lockdown or whatever is no excuse not to have a plan to do it. Any decision maker wants to have a range of options and not be forced into one because it's the only one for which there is a plan. I thought a core Civil Service responsibility was to offer up those options to the decision maker and then enact the chosen one and switch if and when decisions change.

If we are saying the civil service must not look into any alternative to the instructed plan then I think we may be in an even more serious mess than that caused by decades of under-investment. VB - I'm looking to you to tell me I'm wrong.

Stuart
Last edited by stuart on 16 Feb 2021 13:45, edited 1 time in total.
vbsydenham
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by vbsydenham »

This is only based on my experience so probably wrong but... The civil service will have identified plan b, c and d and will most likely have put versions of those plans to Ministers. They may even have taken certain actions to keep such alternatives viable throughout this crisis. But they will not have committed significant resources to working up the details until or unless instructed to do so by the Government.

And i vividly recall when working under the Cameron Government (i,e one far more serious and competent than our present cluster) the civil service being explicitly forbidden from doing any planning or scoping of a "Yes" vote in the Brexit referendum. Which as someone working on EU policy at the time was an, er, interesting constraint...
stuart
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by stuart »

vbsydenham wrote: 16 Feb 2021 13:44 And i vividly recall when working under the Cameron Government (i,e one far more serious and competent than our present cluster) the civil service being explicitly forbidden from doing any planning or scoping of a "Yes" vote in the Brexit referendum. Which as someone working on EU policy at the time was an, er, interesting constraint...
"I was only following orders" is no excuse. Any competent manager - which I presume includes the average Permanent Secretary but clearly not the then PM - will discretely scope what is in the interest of the country/boss/themselves. 'Cos the plan is always the first casualty of war and the guy or guyess who can pull out of their backpocket a way out can of an unexpected situation be forgiven anything and be well on their way to a GCMG or whatever. I presume Jeremy Heywood was the chief honcho at the time you mention. He went along with Dave?

Stuart
JGD
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by JGD »

stuart wrote: 16 Feb 2021 13:38 Agile and at Pace are today's awful buzzwords.
Shame on you for throwing these words into what was until that point, a respectful dialogue.

What kind of people do you think we are?
Sydenham
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by Sydenham »

Well at least we haven't started scrumming
vbsydenham
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Re: Anybody clap last night?

Post by vbsydenham »

stuart wrote: 16 Feb 2021 13:54 "I was only following orders" is no excuse. Any competent manager - which I presume includes the average Permanent Secretary but clearly not the then PM - will discretely scope what is in the interest of the country/boss/themselves. 'Cos the plan is always the first casualty of war and the guy or guyess who can pull out of their backpocket a way out can of an unexpected situation be forgiven anything and be well on their way to a GCMG or whatever. I presume Jeremy Heywood was the chief honcho at the time you mention. He went along with Dave?
There is only so much you can do in defiance of a direct ministerial instruction. No doubt there was work going on above my pay grade, but by and large yes he/we went along with it.

Freedom of Information legislation has had a chilling effect on policy formation across Whitehall. Ministers especially are terrified of scoping and scenario planning work getting into the public domain. Mostly with good reason.
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