March 13th, 2011

breaking bad

What a bunch of tossers

David Mitchell today talks about his experience of being on television: that, not understanding the jobs that all the technical and administrative people are doing as they bustle around him, he starts to feel irritated by them as if 'just point the camera at me and let me do my stuff'. And I think this is a very common - if irrational - feeling. And there's a related feeling - not understanding anything about a job, you tend to understimate how difficult it is, and how hard people are working. Driving past roadworks you see people standing around, looking at bits of paper - what a bunch of tossers - get digging!

And for the ruling classes I think these irrational feelings extend over our whole society. They don't understand that the work we do enables their lives, and they don't understand how challenging it is. They think we are parasites. We are even - and these are the precise words of both Thatcher and Cameron - 'the enemy'. If only the workers would piss off, industry would thrive. If only the public sector would piss off, we'd have a great capitalist economy.

In seeking to blame the civil service for the rules as well as their enforcement, I think this speech is more sinister than Cameron's usual second-rate demagogy and I'm surprised it didn't attract greater attention. To me, these remarks are just as damaging as the prime minister's disparagement of multiculturalism, which rightly drew criticism, and a truer reflection of his political standpoint. Here he's breaking new ground for his evidence-averse Thatcherite ideological crusade.

Really I want to quote this whole article, which is one of the best he has ever written in my view. It's self-reflective and brainy. Read it all.
Cameron also doesn't realise, or is willfully ignoring, how important our large and basically effective bureaucracy is to our place in the front rank of free nations. Without the civil service, acts of Parliament are only words and elections just millions of little slips of paper, like they are in Afghanistan. Civil servants don't merely oil the wheels, they're the axles that join them. Without them David Cameron and his policies would be no more a government than Ian Hislop sitting in a field being sarcastic would be an episode of Have I Got News For You.

Yes. I would say there is an ongoing and deliberate undermining of the effectiveness of the public sector, and in my opinion that is madness for a government. It is one thing to please crowds by pretending that the public sector does nothing, it's quite another to literally prohibit them from working effectively.

Not understanding the work they do in keeping a bunch of plates spinning on top of precarious sticks the government has impatiently interrupted this work, and shortly all these plates - all these processes which keep our society civilised - are going to start falling over. I don't know if this is what they want (for some reason) or whether they literally haven't got a clue about what they have done.