Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Years Eve 09


Well, once again it's time to 'ring out the old' and 'bring in the new'. This seems to be coming round more quickly each year - scary! However, as is the custom I have been reflecting on the last year at Socitm, and it has been quite a journey - although I suspect, to keep the metaphor going, that we are only about half way through this particular roller coaster ride ......

For me the year has shown just how easy it would be to simply grow content with, or become resigned to, a particular set of circumstances or way of doing things and that to allow this way of thinking is to give up on improvement and growth and excellence. However, as at the end of most years when looking back, you often realise just how differently you would have approached certain things if only  you had known then what you know now....

Nonetheless we have seen some really positive developments. The Society now has a robust and well managed financial foundation and development plan, it is developing a much better understanding of its own identity and purpose and has made significant investment in people, with new technical and administrative staff as well as three new senior roles in the Heads of Policy, Membership and Business Development. All in all it has been a year of serious foundation building which means that the next year must see some real work building on these foundations!

Our focus will be very firmly fixed in the three key areas of:
  • members service,
  • policy development
  • resource provision through business development activity.
We are looking forward to finally being able to develop deeper, mutually beneficial, relationships with members from our supplier community, to the development of corporate membership for our public and third sector members and of continuing our growing role in policy development and influence. All of this alongside our committment to personal development opportunities for our members and the embedding of professionalsim within IT and related disciplines.

I think some of our most exciting plans are around the building of 'member communities' so watch out for these in 2010 and beyond.

Back to 2009 - not a bad year for starting things but, to quote Francis Drake (not something I do very often),
                       “There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing
                         unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.”

If you are thinking of any New Year Resolutions here is a 'helpful' quote from Oscar Wilde:

"good resolutions are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account".

And finally, something helpful, because if you are like me and most people I know you will start to sing Auld Lang Syne but sort of peter out somewhere just after the first line - so here are the words....

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here's a hand, my trusty friend
And gie's a hand o' thine
We'll tak'A cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.


Happy 2010

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Trend towards 'inshoring'

An article in today's Times (http://bit.ly/7CGG12 ) reported on the number of companies that are moving production back to Britain because of poor quality / service and higher costs incurred off shore! Firstly, about time too, then it got me to thinking if a similar trend would occur in the public sector around outsource / insource? Probably not while we are dominated by the type of short term myopic view that many politicians have tended to exhibit (the shortness of their sight being determined by the nearness of the next local or national election). However, in today's climate of political uncertainty who knows what may be produced.......
Wishing you a happy and exciting, if uncertain, 2010


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Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas eve

Well, it's Christmas Eve and thoughts of work are rapidly receding, although I did hear some health service horror stories yesterday.... Still, in this season of goodwill I'll focus on the snow:


At last some proper stuff, the first time for quite a few years. I could get quite used to this global warming (provided of course it stops just at the part where the UK has hot summers and cold winters).

Having two lads at Uni I do tend to notice any news that has implications for the cost of higher education. Although noticing it and being able to make any sense of the government's latest outpouring of mutually exclusive, confused and simply incoherent statements is altogether another matter. Anyway, I'll wait to see how it all comes out 'in the wash' and quite frankly I have higher hopes of getting more sense from my washing machine!

If any civil servant colleagues are reading I'd love to know what you feel about the £130 million in bonuses paid out in Whitehall last year. I have no problem at all with good performance or output based bonus or remuneration schemes (Socitm has certainly embraced them) but I would love to know the criteria used within Whitehall to determine who gets what...... Can anybody out there help?

Anyway, enough of that, sitting in my favourite cafe, watching the world go by, carols being played, reminding me what it is actually all about, and people wishing everybody Happy Christmas, call me sentimental but it really is a great time of the year, and to top it all Newcastle are sitting 10 points clear at the top of the table (albeit the wrong division.......). Happy Christmas.



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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Abandoned cars clamped!

There's a great little piece on p7 in today's Times (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/weather/article6965764.ece ) where motorists caught in snow abandoned their cars in a pub car park - using good common sense to avoid blocking roads thereby allowing ploughs and gritters through. What happened, yes you guessed, when they returned the next morning to rescue them they had been clamped! The British
entrepreneurial spirit at its best....... And what did a spokesman from Cobra Security say? "they should have left them by the side of the road like plenty of others did". That's class! .....

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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Just for balance about our health service

Just found this article via stumbled (http://www.stumbledupon.com/ ) which serves to remind me that although there are some concerns about the NHS (see previous posting), we sometimes need reminding about just how good we have got it..... see  http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/08/another_story_from_the_uk.php?more?ref=fpblg

Driven home for Christmas

Well, having started my Christmas hols I am restricting activity to some e mails and the odd telephone conversation. The main activity is getting ready for Christmas, clearing out the attic and working through about 5 months of unopened envelopes with windows in them (not talking Microsoft). I do like throwing stuff out!

Listening to the news today about a patient who died having been given 10 times the correct amount of drugs, it was decided that had normal procedure been followed it just could not happen. This was followed by a spokesman saying that 'lessons had been learned that were being shared with other hospitals'!
I wonder what these lessons were? - 'don't kill your patients' perhaps, or ' if you do what you are employed and paid to do, and what is part of your job description then these situations wouldn't arise'? Does anybody else worry about a health system in which there is the admission that such lessons still need to be learned? I think I really am becoming a grumpy old man. Is 50 an appropriate qualification for this?

If you want some light relief on the internet (no, don't go there.....) have you discovered 'stumbled upon' - stumbledupon.com - it's great.
I did my usual 'collect my mother in law' run on Saturday evening, which is usually a round trip taking about 20 mins, and it took 2 hours! It would seem that 9 out of 10 UK drivers have no idea how to drive on snow and ice. My observations suggest that the popular theory is 'bang it into first and pile the revs on' . The journey was inordinately long but highly entertaining! (don't worry, no little furry animals, elves or people were injured during my journey). Anyway time to hit my study for a merciless clear out.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas is coming.........

It is getting to be a bit of a habit to say ‘the week began well because I stayed in the north east and got on with some reports and e mails....always a good start. The bad news, however, is the ‘attack of the giant mole’ that seems to be going on in my back garden....



I left on Tuesday morning having arranged for some chaps who do ‘fatal things to moles’ to call while I am away (sorry to any mole lovers out there!) On Tuesday I travelled to London for meetings to discuss our consulting business and future developments, an interesting meeting with Baptie and Co. who provide online collaborative community and network platforms, see ( http://westconcommunity.com/default.aspx) and an evening with our newly appointed head of commercial development and business relationships who starts early January (we will do something about the ‘snappy’ title). All in all a good day.... On Wednesday the ‘southerners’ were complaining about the cold......-1, cold?, I don’t think so. Although in Newcastle you would probably consider putting a T shirt on when it get below zero  We had a commercial board meeting for most of the day, and welcomed Paul Green from Sheffield onto the board. It was a pretty positive meeting and it is good to see how things have progressed since this time last year...not perfect by any means, but heading in the right direction. It was good to retire to O’Neils for a Christmas drink or two before going with my colleague to an Intellect / Socitm management board meeting. We are very eager to promote this group and especially keen to see its profile raised amongst our members, but in truth we have not really understood what the value to our members is....till today! We have some great ideas for next year, really relevant topics with a new format designed to deliver value back to participating organisations and individuals...more in January. Then, what do you know, we had some Christmas drinks (well, it is only once a year). On Thursday I am on an early train to Northampton to our corporate services team meeting followed by our staff Christmas lunch (and I guess a few Christmas drinks.....) We have seen some changes in the office this year and, as ever, the team have really pulled together, performed above and beyond and provided a great service to the Society. And now for the best bit...I finish on Dec 18th......so Happy Christmas



and have a great New Year. We are looking forward to great things in 2010, plenty of challenges but an equal number of opportunities.

Friday, 11 December 2009

One more week to go, and I'll be driving home for Christmas

Approaching the end of another week, how on earth do they keep coming around so quickly? As I reported earlier I began with a trip to London to meet with Intellect about our joint Intellect/Socitm IT Excellence awards (if you are not familiar with the Socitm Intellect partnership visit here ) The discussions were very positive and I would expect to be seeing a new style award and significantly higher profile at our 2010 event, something that our membership board (later in the week) agreed with. Then, what used to be the ProfIT Alliance (who or what is that I hear you all say....) – Ok, it is a group of organisations such as BCS, Cabinet Office, e Skills, Socitm, IET, etc etc you are involved with the development of professionalism in IT – yeah, that group – well it has change from one ‘brand’ nobody has really heard of to another brand nobody has heard of – yet!
Anyway, I was at the first meeting of the newly renamed Partners in Professionalism (not allowed to call it by the obvious acronym that everybody is going to use...that’s PiP then....) and I have to say that as far as desire to do something and positive aspirations are concerned we have them aplenty. We even have a next stage plan of action to move forward with the work. I hope, and dare to think, that you may be hearing more about this group as it may become a significant ‘coordinating force’ across the still too confusing professionalism agenda (I realise there are a few too many ‘mays’ in that sentence to crack open the champers just yet, but I am ever the optimist).

Well, that’s Monday sorted, oh apart from the GITP Service Delivery competency group meeting and meal later that evening. I know it is a bit of a dull government type name – but it is a great group who are really concerned with delivery and the skills required to actually get stuff delivered effectively and efficiently. They are a group that we have been working with for some time, exploring areas of common interest, and a group with whom we look forward to greater collaboration in the future. Plus it was a cracking meal which the Society helped to ‘sponsor’.

On Tuesday I left my usual London base for a foray into Birmingham for one of our managers meetings. Although not one of our ‘formal’ governance groups it is a great forum to coordinate activities, policy and planning across all of our streams. It is attended by our business managers, Heads of Membership and Policy, Communications, Finance director and me and is a very productive time. We met at the Priory meeting rooms in Birmingham (a Quaker place) which is highly recommended. Then, beginning to get withdrawal symptoms from London, it was back on a train with DH (Finance director) where we began a business strategy and planning meeting covering our key areas of business.......this continued across Euston, down Woburn Place and into the hotel bar, quick refreshment, then it went on down Southampton Row, past the British Museum and finally came to rest in a Japanese eatery....where it found new life and the meeting went on. And Wednesday arrived.

Wednesday was our Membership Board meeting, and very good it was. We have a great group on this board normally chaired by Rose Crozier, but as she was on leave, we had a sort of double act between our new Head of Membership, Ellen Jessett (I wonder when I should stop calling her our ‘new Head of Membership’?) and Bernard Gudgin. They really should be on the stage... We heard from Ellen who is, to coin a phrase, really putting herself about in terms of visiting members and regional meetings so if you have not seen her yet, you will. Living in the extremities will be no excuse, she will find you. Also from Ellen we were updated on the progress towards new ‘professional’ membership categories and, from Bernard, about the successful mentoring pilot scheme we are running. We also heard from Scott Mansfield, this year’s Graham Williamson Challenge (GWC) winner and his planned trip to Australia (and maybe New Zealand) to look at and compare a number of issues around the use of IT , online learning, disaster response and other interesting areas. For those who don’t know, the GWC is a travel award that we make each year to someone at the beginning of their IT career. Candidates submit their plans and a panel selects a successful applicant who then packs his or her bags and goes to distant parts to look at all thing IT. It’s a great opportunity. Which is exactly what I did after the board meeting – well expect for the bag packing and IT bits – OK I travelled north, which, it seems, qualifies as ‘distant parts’ to most people in ‘the south’. Thursday was one of those valuable ‘work from home’ (or in my case my local cafe) days writing reports and getting on top of e mails.

As I sit writing this I am in Starbucks outside Newcastle station where I am waiting to meet up with Ellen Jessett our new (oh, you get it) who has turned her sights northward to Socitm North East. We are going a little mob handed today with Ellen, myself and our President, Steve Palmer all attending. For my part it has nothing to do with drinks in the Strawberry afterwards, honest. I need to explain, I’ll stop short of apologising because it may only be the fizzy pop league but we are at the top of it, that I am a Newcastle fan and Socitm NE are meeting at the Cathedral of St James (which now, apart from having a laughable owner also has a laughable name – its the....sorry I can’t bring myself to write it). You may find it on Google, although I am rather hoping that Google do a deal with the people of Newcastle, much like the one they did with the Chinese regime,...and remove any reference to certain things.



A certain sense of pride here in achieving a little personal goal by not mentioning the re-emerging MP’s expenses fiasco, until now!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The budget......now there's a damp squib

I was quite looking forward to blogging on the budget, but, what is there to say?..... apart from unimaginative, more spin than substance, tokenism and, well I'm bored now!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

I sooooo couldn't have said it this well (as they say)

Simon Jenkins had a great article in today's guardian (thanks Martin Greenwood for pointing it out).

The article is available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/08/slash-bureaucracy-bloated-public-sector

but i have reproduced it below to save you a click....(but do then visit the Guardian, obviously)


It is like the last months of Margaret Thatcher. The prime minister rants out of control. He declares war on his own government, calling down Presbyterian damnation on fat cat officials, overblown quangos, greedy consultants and bonus-laden bankers – despite having fed most of them for over a decade. Human resources were never Gordon Brown's strong suit.



This week he returned to cull mode and the "culture of excess", with names and shames on all sides. He wants 20% of top heads to roll, consultants to be halved, multibillion-pound computers to be written off, the hated "back offices" to be trashed. Nothing but the great god – frontline service – is to be spared. It is apparently called "smart government".


The message is taking its toll. The purring Rolls-Royce that was Whitehall has fallen to vicious feuding. They are no longer just dancing naked at rural payments and sleeping with the customers at immigration. The head of a Blairite outfit called the Care Quality Commission, Lady Young, has quit amid reports of blazing rows with her minister. The chair of Ofsted, Zenna Atkins, is savaging her officials as "a joke … obsessed with inputs, structures, organisations and systems" rather than education, unable to give straight answers.


Round at the Home Office, a so-called red tape tsar named Jan Berry – head of the "reducing bureaucracy practitioners group" – finds that police paperwork has strangely risen in the two years when it was meant to be falling. At Environment and Food, where half Whitehall's 752 (or so) quangos graze, no one can tell the Environment Agency from its turf war rival, Natural England. Up the road, English Heritage is fighting with Heritage Lottery, and Human Fertilisation with Human Genetics.


The auction between Labour and Conservative leaders on who can axe more from the government's gargantuan £175bn deficit is now dithering over what seem footling figures, all in the region of £9bn. The prime minister on Monday declared that the £9bn of cuts announced in the budget would increase by £3bn in what he terms "a third generation shake-up of Whitehall". Yet another initiative, overseen by Martha Lane Fox, will save money by moving services online – at a cost of £30m.


This £9bn is familiar. A similar figure has at various times been attached to the cost of the ID cards computer, the Olympics, the health records database and the original "cuts" initiative under Sir Peter Gershon in 2004. Gershon is now reported to have taken his £9bn to dress David Cameron's cuts; a similar figure is also what the rich nations have offered the poor ones at Copenhagen to "save the world". It is like Frodo's ring. You can't get rid of it.


The fate of the first Gershon £9bn is instructive. It claimed to identify 80,000 civil servants (later 70,000) as surplus to requirements. This cost £43m to discover, including £9.2m in one year on consultants. Three years later Brown said that the £9bn savings had inexplicably soared to £21bn, and this at a time when the government's "Health Protection Agency" was junketing to the Beijing Olympics, "to learn the challenges in health protection that surrounded those games"; and the ailing Student Loans Company was spending a million pounds on antics such as "team building weekends".


There is nothing new to all this. In 2002 Brown also set up a "better regulation task force". It concluded there were "so many regulations it could no longer list them" and gave up. There were regular assaults on the most impregnable Whitehall fortress, defence procurement, whose cost overruns were assessed this year by the accountant Bernard Gray at a phenomenal £35bn. This autumn the children's secretary, Ed Balls, blandly claimed that £2bn could be cut from the education budget without damaging "frontline education". What else he was spending the money on was not explained.


Reducing bureaucracy is an Augustinian mantra of chastity postponed. Figures are plucked from thin air to make a one-day headline. When the National Audit Office tried to test the Gershon cuts, it had to give up. About a quarter were spotted, but even they scuttled into the jungle when challenged. The NAO's boss, Amyas Morse, remarked to a conference last month that efficiency gains had already been exhausted.


Yet the old troupers returned to the colours for Brown's Monday speech. "Relocating civil servants outside London" was present in uniform, as were the terrible twins, e-government and culling quangos. Even "£100m from red tape" still looked sprightly. It was all like a UN poverty pledge, utterly un-meant.


Political theorists stress the role of a welfare democracy in driving bureaucratic growth. Electorates demand ever rising standards of service from the state and these demands feed their producer lobbies, making it impossible for elected politicians to cut them. From Max Weber to Schumacher and Drucker, pundits have warned that the bigger these bureaucracies become, the more their arteries harden, concentrating power at the centre and resisting change.


Organisations such as the NHS, BBC and Home Office – to which RBS must be added – are called elsewhere parastatals. They exchange top officials and consultants with the government and City, enjoy easy access to public funds, and can rely on heavy Whitehall protection for their monopolies. Privatisation is no help, since the contracts merely balloon: there are now 10 times as many officials overseeing Britain's railways under privatisation – and three times the subsidy – as under British Rail. Such entities are invulnerable since they can ensure that any threat to them will immediately hit safety or frontline services.


The only known mechanism for cutting central costs is the wholesale delegation of services to smaller units, notably local authorities. An analytical tool for this now exists in the Treasury's so-called total place initiative (TPI), which measures total public spending inputs to a county or town against its putative needs – and wonders why so little seems to get through to the front line.

Under TPI, government could revive the old block-grant formula and devolve services such as health and education to localities, as in the early welfare state and in most continental countries. But that would threaten the lucrative interests now assembled round the cabinet table and in Whitehall. That lobby has remained potent, whether the occupant of Downing Street is Labour or Tory. That is why cuts are proclaimed but never done. Nobody dares.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Hit the week running

I'm on an early train, heading for London for meetings with Intellect followed by PiP (Partners in Professionalism). althuogh having just checked my e mails they may be the other way around - some diary juggling to do there!
Anyway, reading the Times this morning there are some things in the pre budget numbers from our esteemed leaders that seem not to add up! See this article  ( Brown targets civil servants for £10bn efficiency savings) in today's Times. Well, apart from our civil service colleagues apparantly about to get it in the neck (Brown to 'slash' the cost of senior civil servants), there is a new found appetite to slash and burn through the quango wilderness that they have spent so many years nurturing. It is here where the numbers get weird (or even more weird than those we are becoming used to). I haven't got a degree in maths or accounting so I could of course be wrong, and I am sure, if that is the case, it will all be made clearer by our (privately educated, Scottish) chancellor on Wednesday (couldn't resist it).

So, quango's - and I quote: 'The abolition of 123 of the 752 quangos, delivering a saving of £500 million from the £82 billion a year spent on [them]' OK so the numbers are big, and therefor have the capacity to confuse, but, 123 out of 752 equates to 16.3% of the number of quangos - that's 16.3% of them for the chop. This will, we are told save £500 m from a spend of £82 bn which, if I am not mistaken, represents about 0.6% of the total spend on said bodies. Hmmmm...what's going on?  Either they will be picking on some  very (very) cheap quangos to obliterate (avg cost £4m p.a. each) hoping that people will focus on the actual number dissappearing rather than the actual scope of the savings or it is pure spin and the apparently dissappearing quangos will just be 'reassimilated' (have I just made that word up?) into the remaining 629, and who will notice the extra cost in the remaining £81.5 billion - which  they are still planning to spend on these unelected, virtually unaccountable organisations? Still, I'm probably wrong, because unilke our chancellor, I was educated at state schools (I promised myself I'd let that drop, but it is labour that seem intent on the class war thing).

Oh, and if the the broadsheet draft predictions (leaks?) are correct it could be goodbye NPfIT,our hitherto aggresivley defended, multi billion pound (late running) health IT system. And to cap it all Mr Liam Byrne will be marching thousands of civil servants (probably against their will) out to the provinces - possibly on push bikes (the middle managers) or, the more highly paid one's, in Prius's (what's the plural of Prius?). They wouldn't be trying to, er, make some desperate changes before an election would they?  Then set about persuading us that this was their plan all along? Of course it's easy  to knock those in power, and I really do not envy them, so it is probably worth saying that, whichever school they went to, the other crowd, although I suppose I should acknowledge there are another relatively serious party -so crowds, are not setting the pre election world alight with any knock you down policy ideas...

Anyway, tommorow it is off to Birmingham for one of our managers meetings. These are 'informal' get togethers of the Socitm managers from our various commercial and member service areas to try and ensure a consistent and coordinated approach across the Society and a forum to discuss common concerns and opportunities. I'll let you know later if we acheive that! Then it is back to London for a Commercial Board meeting on Thursday and up to the 'toon' (google it if you're not sure) for Socitm North East on Friday..after which we will undoubtedly adjourn to the Strawberry (you gotta live up there to understand). That's how the week looks standing at this end of it, not sure what it will look like gazing back on Friday.

Friday, 4 December 2009

It's all systems go at Socitm in the run up to the festivities......

I have had an interesting week, the travelling part of which began with a trip to the House of Lords to the annual PITCOM bash. The fact that the speaker was David (Lord to us) Putnam was certainly an attraction. It was a great meal with interesting people from all sectors. When David Putnam spoke you could have 'knocked me over with a feather' (as I think the saying goes) as he began by announcing that one of his 'all time heroes' was there. I was wondering which film director or actor was in the house, but no, he pointed to Jim Brookes (who? you're all saying). Apart from being a Socitm Consultant (which is incidental to the story) he played a crucial role in the formation of the JANET network, whose virtues Lord Putnam went on to extoll in detail. On Wednesday, in between various internal strategy and finance meetings, I test drove Webex ,an online meeting system, and it went really well (much to my surprise). I have not had the best experiences in the past with video conferences and online meetings but this is certainly giving me cause to rethink.

On Thurday it was our last board meeting of the year, and the last before our year end. The issues were clear although clarity does not equate to simplicity! However, the Society is fortunate to have such a great bunch of directors (bunch being the new collective noun for directors, or some may say it should be a 'dalliance of directors'? - but they'd be wrong) We covered a lot of ground under the efficient chairing of Steve P, followed by the equally efficient chairing of Jos C when Steve left to travel to the Socitm SW regional meeting.

Finances thoroughly gone over, buisness plans considered and future developments formulated we ended ahead of schedule (well before I thought we would finish anyway). As a result I had time for a stroll down to the Socitm / CITRA board meeting at London Bridge. Stimulating conversation, as ever, with David Clayden, a Socitm director from our third sector colleagues, and we did notice in the City that nearly all the buildings are number 1 - how does that work then?
For those who don't know CITRA are the third sector community within Socitm and a group with whom we are developing a number of synergies and common areas of interest. We now have representatives from the third sector on all major Socitm governance groups and they bring an awful lot to the party.

My next meeting, and no complaints about this one, was with a group of friends at the Cinnamon Club in Westminster. After too few hours sleep it is on an early train north for a meeting at Durham University Business School to meet with Colin Ashurst and Alison Freer. We are looking at some ideas around leadership models and training within the context of the transformation agenda and it served to act as confirmation of something we have begun to articulate, that 'tomorrow's organisation is unlikely to be delivered by yesterday's leadership' However, there are some real culture issues to address in terms of role expectations and organisational committment to support new leadership. More of this in future posts...And now I am sitting in the North East thinking that I can't really have a glass of wine yet....but probably will.

A Clarkson rant (not for the faint hearted)

This article by Jeremy Clarkson was in a recent Sunday Times but has since been 'pulled' - possibly by the subject of the article? I'll make no comment, except to say that it takes the grumpy old men thing to a whole new level and, although I am no fan of the 'dark lord Mandy', this is maybe a little extreme... (Actually I'll make two comments it would seem)

Jeremy Clarkson; Sunday Times 15/11/09 


I've given the matter a great deal of thought all week, and I'm afraid I've decided that it's no good putting Peter Mandelson in a prison. I'm afraid he will have to be tied to the front of a van and driven round the country until he isn't alive any more. He announced last week that middle-class children will simply not be allowed into the country's top universities even if they have 4,000 A-levels, because all the places will be taken by Albanians and guillemots and whatever other stupid bandwagon the conniving idiot has leapt on to in the meantime.


I hate Peter Mandelson. I hate his fondness for extremely pale blue jeans and I hate that preposterous moustache he used to sport in the days when he didn't bother trying to cover up his left-wing fanaticism.


I hate the way he quite literally lords it over us even though he's resigned in disgrace twice, and now holds an important decision-making job for which he was not elected. Mostly, though, I hate him because his one-man war on the bright and the witty and the successful means that half my friends now seem to be taking leave of their senses .


There's talk of emigration in the air. It's everywhere I go. Parties.


Work. In the supermarket. My daughter is working herself half to death to get good grades at GSCE and can't see the point because she won't be going to university, because she doesn't have a beak or flippers or a qualification in washing windscreens at the lights. She wonders, often, why we don't live in America .


Then you have the chaps and chapesses who can't stand the constant raids on their wallets and their privacy. They can't understand why they are taxed at 50% on their income and then taxed again for driving into the nation's capital. They can't understand what happened to the hunt for the weapons of mass destruction. They can't understand anything. They see the Highway Wombles in those brand new 4x4s that they paid for, and they see the M4 bus lane and they see the speed cameras and the community support officers and they see the Albanians stealing their wheelbarrows and nothing can be done because it's racist.


And they see Alistair Darling handing over £4,350 of their money to not sort out the banking crisis that he doesn't understand because he's a small-town solicitor, and they see the stupid war on drugs and the war on drink and the war on smoking and the war on hunting and the war on fun and the war on scientists and the obsession with the climate and the price of train fares soaring past £1,000 and the Guardian power-brokers getting uppity about one shot baboon and not uppity at all about all the dead soldiers in Afghanistan, and how they got rid of Blair only to find the lying twerp is now going to come back even more powerful than ever, and they think, "I've had enough of this. I'm off".


It's a lovely idea, to get out of this stupid, Fairtrade, Brown-stained, Mandelson-skewed, equal-opportunities, multicultural, carbon-neutral, trendily left, regionally assembled, big-government, trilingual, mosque-drenched, all-the-pigs-are-equal, property-is-theft hellhole and set up shop somewhere else. But where?


You can't go to France because you need to complete 17 forms in triplicate every time you want to build a greenhouse, and you can't go to Switzerland because you will be reported to your neighbours by the police and subsequently shot in the head if you don't sweep your lawn properly, and you can't go to Italy because you'll soon tire of waking up in the morning to find a horse's head in your bed because you forgot to give a man called Don a bundle of used notes for "organising" a plumber.


You can't go to Australia because it's full of things that will eat you, you can't go to New Zealand because they don't accept anyone who is more than 40 and you can't go to Monte Carlo because they don't accept anyone who has less than 40 mill. And you can't go to Spain because you're not called Del and you weren't involved in the Walthamstow blag. And you can't go to Germany ... because you just can't.


The Caribbean sounds tempting, but there is no work, which means that one day, whether you like it or not, you'll end up like all the other expats, with a nose like a burst beetroot, wondering if it's okay to have a small sharpener at 10 in the morning. And, as I keep explaining to my daughter, we can't go to America because if you catch a cold over there, the health system is designed in such a way that you end up without a house. Or dead.

Canada 's full of people pretending to be French, South Africa 's too risky, Russia 's worse and everywhere else is too full of snow, too full of flies or too full of people who want to cut your head off on the internet. So you can dream all you like about upping sticks and moving to a country that doesn't help itself to half of everything you earn and then spend the money it gets on bus lanes and advertisements about the dangers of salt. But wherever you go you'll wind up an alcoholic or dead or bored or in a cellar, in an orange jumpsuit, gently wetting yourself on the web. All of these things are worse than being persecuted for eating a sandwich at the wheel.


I see no reason to be miserable. Yes, Britain now is worse than it's been for decades, but the lunatics who've made it so ghastly are on their way out. Soon, they will be back in Hackney with their South African nuclear-free peace polenta. And instead the show will be run by a bloke whose dad has a wallpaper shop and possibly, terrifyingly, a twerp in Belgium whose fruitless game of hunt-the-WMD has netted him £15m on the lecture circuit. [thank god he didnt get the job!]

So actually I do see a reason to be miserable. Which is why I think it's a good idea to tie Peter Mandelson to a van. Such an act would be cruel and barbaric and inhuman. But it would at least cheer everyone up a bit.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A guide to Twitter for non or novice twitterererers......

Thanks to Dave Briggs for producing a really helpful Twitter guide. You can find it at:


http://davepress.net/2009/12/01/a-quick-start-guide-to-twitter/

And. on a completely different note I was listening to Mumford & Sons this week and came across a lyric from one of their tracks 'Roll away your stone' which I thought was very perceptive:
"It seems as if all my bridges have been burned, You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, But the welcome I receive at each new start" - OK, so maybe that's just me.......
 

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The 8 monkeys approach to policy formation

If you haven't heard it, it's worth a read, if you have it's worth a re-read!

Here is the '8 Monkeys' process........


(This is reportedly based on an actual experiment conducted in the U.K.)

Put eight monkeys in a room. In the middle of the room is a ladder, leading to a bunch of bananas hanging from a hook on the ceiling.

Each time a monkey tries to climb the ladder, all the monkeys are sprayed with ice water, which makes them miserable. Soon enough, whenever a monkey attempts to climb the ladder, all of the other monkeys, not wanting to be sprayed, set upon him and beat him up. Soon, none of the eight monkeys ever attempts to climb the ladder.


One of the original monkeys is then removed, and a new monkey is put in the room. Seeing the bananas and the ladder, he wonders why none of the other monkeys are doing the obvious. But undaunted, he immediately begins to climb the ladder.


All the other monkeys fall upon him and beat him silly. He has no idea why.


However, he no longer attempts to climb the ladder.


A second original monkey is removed and replaced. The newcomer again attempts to climb the ladder, but all the other monkeys hammer the crap out of him.


This includes the previous new monkey, who, grateful that he's not on the receiving end this time, participates in the beating because all the other monkeys are doing it. However, he has no idea why he's attacking the new monkey.


One by one, all the original monkeys are replaced. Eight new monkeys are now in the room. None of them have ever been sprayed by ice water. None of them attempt to climb the ladder. All of them will enthusiastically beat up any new monkey who tries, without having any idea why.


And that is how most companies' policies get established.