Bring government to the people

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why are we doing so badly out of war?

Why has USA pulled out of Afghanistan, but are still all over Iraq? They aren't that far apart, and both strategically very significant to the fight against terrorism?
Then it finally hit me. In Iraq, US firms have massive contracts rebuilding the country, paid for out of money from the oil that the country can sell. And in Afghanistan, the country is bankrupt so any work that needs doing is paid for by charities, who aren't known to give the contracts to friends of the government, nor to give lucrative contracts with very few targets or milestones.
At risk of being sued for libel, it seems that we did very badly (by this single measure) in Iraq - in spite of supporting US to invade and committing troops and lives, we didn't benefit from the bonanza of rebuilding contracts post-war. We did get some contracts, mostly subcontracts to do the work from US companies who won the main contract to take the profit.
Should we be more mercenary? Threaten to pull out of Afghanistan until the balance of reward is a little fairer? It isn't all about money, but as long as US presents it this way then there will be resentment, both in the occupied country (Iraqis seeing oil revenues scooped out of the country in the pockets of people they could view as friend or opressor - what will they think) and amongst the allies

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Coming to terms with strange food

My parents have a Chinese student cooking this weekend. Of course most of it was meat which I didn't taste, but of the vegetarian food there were some interesting set tofu dishes which looked like some sort of trifle with vegetables and dried mushrooms in.
It was delicious, but so different (creamy set texture for a main course meal, and little most of the taste in the vegetables)) that I had a real problem getting used to eating it.
Can't have done too badly though - I'm feeling very full now!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Management Consultants

We took their advice - UK government got the management consultants in and surprise! surprise! they advised us to cut the number of staff, because amongst other things it improves productivity per employee. What I don't understand is do we assume that all the staff we now think we don't need were idle? Because if not, won't we have to employ lots of management consultants to do the work that we used to have staff to do?
Reminds me of the staff cuts in the commercial sector in 1990s - the commercial world kicked this cook-book consultancy out so they had to come looking for some new mugs!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

All we like sheep

Yesterday we wanted to get sheep from one paddock to another, and the sheep didn't know what was good for them and kept running in the opposite direction.
We'd approach calmly and quietly, fanned out across the field, but the sheep remembered that normally there was a barrier where we had now left a gap, so they wouldn't cross the line. Besides, these sheep were being fattened up for slaughter, and they didn't have watches to tell them that it wasn't time to go yet - anywhere we wanted them to go must be bad news! We were moving them because they'd eaten the grass in their paddock and needed to move to new grass (in winter you can't let them eat the grass right to the ground because it turns into a sea of mud when the grass doesn't grow for months)

Eventually they accidentally ended up where we wanted them, and we closed the gate.

How often have I objected to change on principle, without stopping to think whether the change is actually better for me?

Do we need/want a North East Assembly?

So the surveys show that we want a North East Assembly. Yet last time we voted, we voted resoundingly against it!
So what has changed?
  1. last time we voted, we were very aware of the escalating cost of the Scottish Parliament Building (which was way over budget)
  2. the person tipped to become leader was causing widespread concern, and the post wasn't elected

Meanwhile, we've had an unelected body deciding our future all along - though I suppose with turnouts of around 40% at elections the "elected representatives" aren't terribly representative.

So why might we vote for a regional assembly this time?

Government spends about 40% of GDP (£400billion of a GDP around £1 trillion) - it is the country's largest customer. typically suppliers put their offices somewhere near to their most important customers so they can wine and dine them and cement the relationship, and the same is true of government - most of the big companies have their head offices (the ones where people make decisions) in the South East, and smaller companies have their offices near to these bigger companies. You can move civil servants out of London until the cows come home, until people who make decisions about spend move their suppliers will stay put.

So if we bring some of that spend up here, in the form of a Regional Assembly, it will bring jobs with it including some of the management and decision-making jobs and decisions on investment and activity which respects the North East as more than a source of cheap labour.

Government costs a lot - that is true. But can money spent by government ever be wasted? If it is spent with British companies, creating jobs in Britain, recirculating the pound from our taxes through an indirect route back to us - perhaps that is a whole lot better than sending this money overseas to Indian call centres and Chinese manufacturers.

And the North East has more of an identity now; I see the Duke of Northumberland's colours on taxis and cars all over the place - we have something to be proud of.

Ask for an assembly. Turn out and vote, or write in and ask. Devolve decision-making here, make it relevant, and stop this disproportionate influence that London has, so although it represents only 1/6 of the population it has 1/2 of the influence. Over to you