Bristling Brock speaks out...

 

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Bristling Brock is an enthusiastic supporter of the principles of the Rule of Law, Sovereignty, Parliamentary democracy and freedom of thought as well as expression.  That positions me, then.

That given, BB finds it bizarre that our media - both left, right and supposedly centre - find it necessary and appropriate to castigate virtually everything happening in government, not simply on an occasional issue but in an orchestrated and across the board and unrelenting way.   Some would say this is because our governance is becoming authoritarian or badly managed, others might pursue the line of exploiting political advantage, some could comment that unless the media challenges government policy (the implication being that the Opposition are deficient in that task) then who else would or could, yet others might simply say we have the wrong people in the top jobs.  BB is by no means a UK governmentphile (my own word invention of the day) and will criticise and berate as necessary if circumstances seem to warrant it.  But our media is something else, at one time to be proud of, much, much less so nowadays.

Yet during the course of 2020 the world has been scourged by a pandemic that romps around our communities in ways that we have never seen with anything else before, it advances, recedes, switches tactics and hits hard where we are vulnerable.  And it isn't going away.   BB would challenge anyone to definitively say that the handling of the crisis could have been dealt with better.  It's all very well in hindsight to say that this or that should have been done but at the coal face moment of decision, decisions were made in good faith.  There have been no precedents to this, there have been no 'How To' manuals produced from which to glean remedies, there have been no concise and coordinated scientific viewpoints from anywhere.  So just what did the British people wish their government to do in the invasive midst of this virulence ?  The reality was that it acted when many were running around like headless chickens.   Time has shown that some of those decisions weren't perfect, but nonetheless measures were taken with the sole object of protecting the population when nobody but Him himself knew the course this would take.   We can make sport out of criticising the government, but the reality is that nobody would have made a better job of it.  Nobody could, nobody knew the way through this and nobody could have anticipated its prolonged and continuing virulence and the effects upon the country as a whole.  Yes, mistakes have been made and concise communication could have been so much better, but we elect governments to act in our interest.  When the unknown is facing you on the battlefield, it's not that easy to take all the right decisions.   So let's stop carping about the restrictions and the inconvenience of the virus - it's here, it's staying and it will continue yet for a while so let's show some support for a government that is patently trying to do the right thing - for us.

The second battlefront is, of course, Brexit.  The tortuous legalities of international agreements are legendary and underline the old Shakespearean theme of the duplicity of lawyers and their convoluted arguments.  We do, naturally, have two competing sides, the British and the EU.  Fairness and level playing fields are frequently demanded, equality, mutuality and countless other platitudes bounce back and forth.  But down in the dirt, what do we have ?  The EU are probably the most duplicitous quasi-governmental entity ever - we want parity on state aid, we want tariffs to exist between Britain and Northern Ireland and we want the European Court of Justice to be the arbiter of disputes, they bleat endlessly.  Britain is such an unfair player, 'n'est-ce pas ?'  They conveniently overlook that they themselves constantly infringe these so called tenets of the free market and manipulate the regulations to suit their particular needs, not least in state aid to both public and private companies, witness the EU's largesse to Renault and Citroen.  So, for the British government, their position is one of fighting for sovereignty, equality and constitutional integrity against a politically mired opponent.  It's difficult terrain, it's uphill, it's fraught with Continental obfuscation and intractable definitions, it's Julius Caesar against Vercingetorix - a plodding mind-game of tactics, subterfuges and power plays.  So just what do we think our government is doing wrong ?   No doubt history will reveal that to us but in the here and now we have to rely upon the good faith and thrust of our governments negotiating.  The incessant media penchant for vilifying government actions and choices does not befit our national interest being supported.   In short, our taste for the current fashion of pointing waggy fingers at others to blame for all our woes is hugely misplaced.  Let's get behind our government and move forward positively.   For those who don't like it, vote for someone else at the proper time when an election is called, but stop whining and get on with things.  It's called democracy.

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Corona and Brexit issues are on something of a collision course.   Both are highly demanding governmental issues but they raise the question of whether two critical issues occurring simultaneously can ever be fully addressed by a democratic government system.  Within that last statement there is the recognition that multiple issues can be addressed by government when it is not strictly held to account by either Opposition, business or social factions - as was the case in WW2 under a coalition government and a broadly supportive public - but under peacetime circumstances and with an elevated level of civil interference with government decisions and proposed choices the processes of policy making and their implementation are distinctly impacted.

Our world, our society is defined by the plethora of civil rights, legislative rights and human rights terms and conditions by which a democratic, free speech social structure is perceived and operated.   Government is hamstrung by the influences of - for want of a name - lobby group interests that by the nature of how our society has evolved, have a freedom to interfere with the very processes of governance on a whole new level.  We could argue that this is a healthy dynamic, the democratic mechanism truly at work, government of the people by the people.  In principle that is a noble achievement and one that shouldn't be entirely dismissed - but - what happens when the very substance of governance is so subjected to such a multitude of external interferences that its choices and decisions end up as an incoherent and unfocussed strategy and direction that achieve little ?

Getting the balance right is unquestionably difficult given the range of freedoms that social, political and business groupings now have.  Identifying those lobby groups that are genuine, constructive and engaged with government as compared with those that are subversive is equally difficult but incredibly important to define - for we are at the mercy of vested interests that do not always have the wider well-being of our society at heart.  It is equally the case that political influencers from outside our shores subversively support those amongst us who are driven by their unshakable conviction they have in a progressive, fair and equal society.  That these people, aided and abetted by home-grown agitators, are either complicit in becoming the destructive tools of external influencers or immune to understanding how they are being manipulated is an open question.  Yet it creates an anarchic environment that achieves exactly what the instigators require - chaos.    

Government needs leadership and a robust constitution to listen to the genuine and actively discard and marginalise the malign.  It takes nerve, it takes conviction in a course of action and it requires a sometimes hard reaction to some of the lobby interests that assail it.   It is because we are free that we have this dilemma - closed societies do not have either the luxury or the challenge of diverse interests interposing themselves upon government policy - so we might regard it as a self imposed burden, some sort of masochism even.  It is the price of evolving democracy (for we haven't reached the zenith of that by a long shot).  Our government need to demonstrate purpose and leadership in the knowledge that their choices will never please everybody; but unless this becomes far more evident trend, we will forever be pulled this way and that and achieve little as a result.  It will divide, weaken and undermine our society - the very objective of the Putin's and Xi Jinping's of this world.   Strength and purpose have their place.   Our government needs to get steely, resolute and demonstrate who is in power - the democratically elected government of the UK.

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A headline in a newspaper today reminded Bristling Brock of the continuing lack of national interest that exists within the public sectors procurement policies.  The particular story was to do with naval ships - there is a floating contract worth £1.5 billion to supply three support and supply ships to keep our aircraft carriers fully functional on their travels.  The invitation to contract these vessels is open to just about any country in the world - including Russia and China - to bid for, and the most likely winner of any such bidding fracas will be the one that offers 'the best value for money'.

Our public procurement dynamics are wed, and indeed welded, to the notion of front-end cost being the determinant of many purchases contractual commitment.  Never mind the through life costs, inflationary cost uplifts or the costs of jigging the product specifications about - and believe BB when he says that this is by no means a rarity - or the add-on costs that contractors suddenly seem able to apply once they are too far down the line for the contract to be withdrawn - does CrossRail sound familiar, or HS2, or the two aircraft carriers themselves and the extraordinary fumbling over which aircraft to put on them ?  These are the tip of the iceberg, the big capex projects that we actually hear about.  Behind the less public scenes are a myriad of public sector purchases that boggle the imagination in their documentary complexity, their lack of product understanding, their determination to fit a square peg into a round hole and their unshakeable conviction that the price they press for offers a genuine value for money usage of public funds.   The result, of course, is that seldom do any significant public sector purchases offer true value for money if the only measure of acceptability is front-end price alone.   The scrutiny of bidding proposals that are geared to a 'price win' is unbelievably poor and invariably ends up as a rolling inflation of costs as the contract unfolds - current events bear that out.   The removal of a contract once placed is anathema in the public sector - such a circumstance would reflect badly on the procurement checks and balances (hah, hah to that) and become a public humiliation for the department and individuals involved.  "Woe betide that, chaps, we must protect our interests with the deployment of multi-layered obfuscation counter-measures to any criticism of us spending umpteen times as much as the original deal stated".

Let us see who wins the naval contract - hopefully not the Russians or Chinese - and let us watch over the next dozen or so years just how much these procurement fiasco's really cost us both in terms of £'s but also in terms of lost investment, employment and skill loss in British companies.  Bristling Brock regrettably sees absolutely no signs of any procurement policy change in our governments approach to what it purchases but we must concede that the system encourages the least scrupulous bidders from the commercial world to exploit the gaping loop-hole - no surprises there.  Root and branch reform - yeah !   By 2120 perhaps....

Trumpland is becoming something like Alice's view through the looking glass.   If bizarre was ever a word to be associated with weird, extraordinary, zany, and many others, then the US seems to be well described by them all.  From gun toting protest mobs, to incredibly poor policing judgements, to fractured societal divides, to obsessive 'wokeness', to political affairs that defy even the most liberal commentary the US has them all.  And it's not just on the Rupublican side of the fence.  The Democrats, mere weeks away from what ought to be their most crucial campaign, sit dithering and passive, devoid of any gusto that resonates with anything real in this La La Land.  The image to the outside world is almost beyond words and whilst we all must acknowledge the impact of the corona pandemic, the stories emerging from the US speak of a level of chaos and bitterness that hasn't really been seen there for generations.   Something has gone significantly wrong, yet whilst we gape with incredulity we should be aware of the exported contagion (and BB does not mean corona) that has already afflicted much of the western world as we see our own societies under threat from a newly diversified social structure and set of values.  Some sage once said, "What happens in the US will eventually come to us !"  Never a truer word...