Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blair watched too much TV

Looking back on Tony Blair's period as Prime Minister, we can see a man of whose great political talents were not matched by his talent for the actual business of government. On the great issues, education, health, social security and so on the country is not much improved over the situation in 1997 and in some others such as pensions, crime and housing it is a lot worse. Why is it that a Prime Minister with a commanding Commons majority, underpinned by a strong economy could not be more effective? The answer is that Tony Blair could never make the system; that is the process by which policy is conceived and the day to day business of public services are delivered, actually work for him. It's not the fault of the system; other Prime Ministers have managed perfectly well. No one ever criticised Margaret Thatcher or even John Major in this regard. The fault actually lies with the West Wing, or rather with Tony Blair being a fan of it. For those who don't know, the West Wing was an excellent US TV series set in a fictional Democratic President's administration. It was always clever, at times funny or tragic but always educational. Unfortunately though, it presented a slightly skewed idea of how decisions are made in large organisations. In the West Wing a group of characters would have a quick chat and that would be it, military action would be decided upon a new policy made or whatever. Now, this has some grounding in reality in that decisions usually do come down to a few people in a room, but serious decisions are usually the climax of quite lengthy processes where information is gathered, options considered and opinions are sought. The West Wing didn't show all of this because, frankly, it would make boring TV. From my observation much of trouble with the government has been a function of trying to run Britain like a TV drama. Prior to becoming Prime Minister Tony Blair had no experience of running anything significant whatsoever. He didn't know how things were meant to work, assumed he knew best and that his cronies on the sofa were all that he needed to decide on any issue that came to mind. The rest, as they say, is history.

No comments: