Friday, February 22, 2008

Things fall apart

Melanie Philips:
"...Brown has simply lost it, period."
His behaviour is erratic and bizarre; he phones colleagues at all hours with imperious demands while dithering over every decision he has to take. Ever since things started to go wrong for him and public fury and cynicism boiled over, he has clearly been radically destabilised. He seems to be wholly unable to cope with criticism, and more to the point unable therefore to look clearly at what is so patently going wrong and put it right. He tries to big-foot every minister and meddle in every department for all the world as if he has an uncontrollable tic; he is the Touretter of public administration. Yet the more he meddles, the more everything falls to pieces underneath him.

Northern Wreck may be headline news, but almost every day brings further evidence of what can only be described as the systematic collapse of public administration in Britain. In a country which once ran an entire empire and thus constructed a legend of administrative genius, the word ‘couldn’t’, ‘run’ and ‘whelk-stall’ are now on everybody’s lips.

She offers a handy timeline of a collapsing administration (gleaned from the Times):

January 2007 Revealed that since 1997 nearly 1,600 government computers containing sensitive information had been stolen

September A CD containing the names, national insurance numbers, dates of birth and pension data of 15,000 Standard Life customers lost

October Laptop with data about 2,000 people with ISAs stolen from a Revenue & Customs employee

November 20 News of two CDs with details of 25 million Britons lost in post from a Revenue & Customs office in Tyne & Wear

November 23 Emerges that six more CDs with confidential information had gone missing

December 6 Four CDs containing details from court cases go missing

December 17 Details of three million British learner drivers lost in the US

December 18 Revenue loses data of 6,500 private pension holders

December 23 Nine NHS trusts in England say they have lost patient records kept on discs

January 9, 2008 Laptop with details of 600,000 people taken from navy officer’s car in Birmingham

January 26 Details of 1,500 students lost in the post.

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