Bristling Brock speaks out...
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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...
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The VJ Day remembrance ceremonies at The National Arboretum today were poignant and moving. It serves us all well to spare a thought as to what might have been but for that generation of young people 70-80 years ago standing in the way of tyranny. Times were, of course, very different then and there was a global threat that nobody had seen the like of before (even WW1 hadn't reached the breadth of geography that was engaged during WW2). Duty was highly revered - though not by all - and a preparedness to make sacrifices a widely accepted outcome to standing up for what we thought to be the right thing. There is something of a comparative scenario today as we sit amongst a global threat - this time a viral threat rather than a host of physical enemies. There are plenty of similarities with the mindset of the 1940's being shown but there is also the mindset of those who would wish to blame all their ills and misfortunes on 'the enemy' - '...but for them, I'd be all right, Jack !'
It seems somewhat incredible that there is anyone in Britain who imagines that the COVID pandemic won't be a significant change factor in their lives. The Britain that emerges from this period will be changed forever, the old 'normal' consigned to the history books and a new way of living and conducting our affairs developed. Brexit will emphasise the changes but the social habits and ways of the populace will be equally re-aligned as a result of pandemic behaviours - by governments and citizens alike - and the realisation by the majority that the virus won't have gone-away, rather it has just, perhaps, stepped back a pace. Today we are a risk-averse society, infinitely more the case than in previous generations, and the pandemic will underline the sensitivities in our society to adhere to a more cautious and socially controlled way of life. It won't suit everyone, but it will happen in subtle and eventually acceptable ways that we need to maintain 'caution & awareness' as the watchwords of this and future generations.
Whilst risk has been endemic in life since cavemen wandered the planet, The West of today is softer, less committed to the nation state and much more expectational of a safety net being provided beneath it. Today we worship ourselves, our image, our possessions and our ability to pretty much do what we like (or should that be 'get away with almost anything we like' ?). Bristling Brock's soap box subject of a decaying Rule of Law is evidenced by the plethora of social incidents that display little or no regard for societal rules, norms and accepted behaviours. If there was to be anyone out there who hasn't yet had some direct or indirect experience of this trend, BB would be most surprised. In short, our national mettle to stand-up to a physical tyranny is much more questionable now so we should all hope that there are none that'll come knocking on the door just yet.
But let's discuss Donald's hair-do. It seems he needs a vast downpour of shower water to cleanse his bizarre, flaxen locks and is prepared to change US water usage regulations to permit a huge increase in clean water consumption so that Americans can always look just 'perfect' - like Donald himself. The incredulous utterances of this man never cease to amaze but there is now a school of thought that his clumsy, ignorant and uninformed splutterings will, incredibly, resonate with his core redneck support base in the looming election. How so ? Depending upon what you might choose to believe (and it's a big stretch, BB admits), there are now 'experts' implying this delivery style to be deliberate and down-to-earth, a means to get down into the grass roots and empathise with the common man - and his vote. The farmers will look great with their coiffed hairdo's but the crops might be a tad short of water, but hey-ho. Phew ! Who'd be an expert....?
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