Thursday, July 09, 2009

Astonishing article from Simon Heffer

Astonishment, nay shock at Simon Heffer's latest column. Was is the radical policy? Was it the breathtaking political insight? No; it was the fact that he referred to David Cameron as 'Mr. Cameron'. You see almost since David Cameron became Conservative leader he has been the subject of a stream of vitriol from Mr. Heffer, who took to referring to him as 'Dave' as a mark of his particular contempt. This was at a time when 'Simon' was particularly impressed with Gordon Brown and when he was convinced that the Conservatives would never move into the position as a credible challenger to Labour under David Cameron. To be fair, Mr. Heffer has changed his mind about both and now has dropped the playground insults in favour of political commentary, which is of course is his job. The advice he gives here is that public sector jobs will have to go.
There is no easier way to save money than by sacking people from the public payroll. This will entail more than cutting a few quangos: a defence expert recently told me that 25 per cent of the 100,000 civil servants at the Ministry of Defence could go without any detrimental effect to our defence capabilities. That is just one example. How many bureaucrats are there in the Department of Health dealing with a target culture that does nothing to improve hospitals? How many are there in the schools department who are helping achieve the stunning levels of mediocrity that so distinguish our state education system? And what about the growth-like-Topsy of our local government, where some county council leaders now have entourages and vast private offices, and where business is run by a "cabinet"?
He actually has a point, but it is the sort of point that someone has when observing that large mammals defecate in forests. Anyone who knows anything about organisations knows that about 75% of the cost of a typical office-based operation are staff costs. So, calling for David Cameron to cut civil service jobs is about as useful as suggesting that someone cashes in a winning lottery ticket. It is pointless and obvious, given that the Conservatives have already committed to a very sharp reduction in government spending. That it hasn't been spelled out in lurid detail is neither here nor there. It is going to happen, because it must.

I suspect that Mr. Heffer is paid to provide a rather higher degree of political insight than that.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Your data managed by Google?

This government has a long, proud record of hugely expensive IT projects that deliver poor solutions late. Even among these, the centralisation of NHS records is a standout, delivering a solution at least 10 years out of date at an eye-watering cost of £12.7 bn. Speaking as a fairly senior IT professional, I cannot figure out exactly how this project costs as much as a fleet of nuclear ballistic-missile submarines. Even at the most expensive consultancy rates and even with the obsolete monolithic architecture they have settled on, the price should still be only a fraction of this staggering sum. Someone is clearly making a fortune out of the UK taxpayer on this one.

Fortunately, the Conservatives have better ideas. In 2009 it makes no sense to build huge systems from scratch just to manage data. There are established standards and services for this that could deliver electronic NHS records at a cost that is orders of magnitude lower than that the government is shelling out. The Conservative suggestion is to use facilities already being run by Google and Microsoft, and why not? Provided there is a framework that puts the onus on the private companies to keep the data safe then there is no more of a security issue that with a government system, less probably given the government's record of data mishaps. So, patients and health professionals get access to their data, it's presented using existing web standards so further applications are straightforward and it's cheap and available today. That has to be better than lining the pockets of IT consultancies and it has the overriding virtue that it would actually work.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Labour liars

Gordon Brown is lying when he claims the choice is between 'Labour investment and Tory cuts'. Everyone knows that his is lying, public, press, fellow members of the government, and in this case the porkies are so blatant that this issue is fast becoming the Prime Minister's lack of honesty rather than the state of the economy. Matters haven't stopped there, however, with government ministers trying to smear Conservatives as being homophobic, this when there are two gay members of the shadow cabinet.

Dishonesty seems to be built into the Labour party, because these two latest examples are only the latest in a long line of fictions. Many in Labour seem to regard lying as a perfectly legitimate political tactic and it is not hard to figure out why. These are the words of a Labour activist posted to the ConservativeHome website:

Prejudiced against Conservatives?

No, I don't think I am. The term 'prejudice' means to pre-judge someone based on irrational fear. I haven't pre-judged the Conservatives. In fact I listen to the arguments they make, read discussions on sites like this, and then reach my judgement.

And my judgement is that the vast majority of Tories are backwards social misfits who hate freedom and wish to do the country great harm.

Like many of his Labour cohorts, this fellow is utterly convinced of his moral superiority when compared to Conservatives. He is also convinced that the Conservative party is a force of evil. Given that view it is a short step to the belief that anything goes when it comes to keeping the forces of darkness at bay. So, lies an smears are perfectly acceptable because they are weapons wielded by the morally perfect against the morally defective.

Pathetic really.

Basildon Festival

The Basildon Festival is on this weekend; live music on two stages, events, stands and a funfair. It's annual and free and yesterday thousands came to enjoy themselves in the sun. The whole thing is run by Basildon Council and, as ever, Council staff have worked incredibly hard to make the whole thing a success. I went yesterday and met my colleague Cllr. Kevin Blake who was really getting into the festival spirit, and who can blame him. His portfolio includes the festival's organisation and so the lead-up to this weekend must have been pretty stressful. Seeing the huge crowds and everything going like clockwork I'd have been pretty happy too.