Quintin Oliver of Stratagem has a very important article here.
It is of even higher significance when we look at the smaller parties and the “Opposition” debate. As I have recited several times on this blog, commonly stated public disgust at politicians should not be mistaken for a widespread discontent – at least, not one which is any greater than elsewhere.
In the last week, for example, it has become evident that DRD’s plans in Belfast City Centre have led to rush-hour chaos – although they had no doubt planned on some disruption to encourage use of public transport and bikes, I don’t believe this level of disruption was intended! There is a degree of incompetence there, for which the Minister and officials need to take some of the blame. This is, surely, evidence at what a useless government we have?
Scarcely. Just look over the Irish Sea – there, the equivalent Department has just tossed away 40 million of money plus over a year of time because they cannot run a fairly straightforward tender process competently. Not one but two Ministers – one who has now become our Secretary of State – failed to ask the right questions; officials made a complete shambles of it; and this is not rare.
Internationally, this is just as obvious. Italy openly had to replace its elected government with bureaucrats; Germany’s entire CDU Leadership was expunged by a mass scandal involving money in briefcases, and its President was forced to resign last year amidst a financial scandal; Belgium went over a year without forming a government; Canada even elected a young MP who had never visited her constituency and spent most of the campaign holidaying in Las Vegas!
To be completely unpartisan about it, the simple fact is that several of our Ministers and senior politicians are master operators at any level – Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness among them, whatever you think of their past or their views. We are also lucky to have some outstanding officials and teams, notably broadly in social care: we have the lowest social security fraud; the highest dementia diagnosis; the best cancer survival rates; among others. We are often lucky with our other public servants too – we have the best exam results in much of the UK, which, regardless of system, would not happen if our teachers weren’t the best too.
Some parties, particularly smaller ones, have set their entire stall out on the apparently self-evident point that our politicians are all (particularly) useless, and our government is (uniquely) inefficient. The obvious problem is, this simply isn’t true.