The Sketch: A model of the modern administrative malaise

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The Independent Online

Another scheduling clash. First he does it to Gordon Brown then he does it to "The Sketch". The Prime Minister delivered his "unremittingly New Labour" keynote speech in the middle of my lunch. In Chatham. No offence, Kent.

Another scheduling clash. First he does it to Gordon Brown then he does it to "The Sketch". The Prime Minister delivered his "unremittingly New Labour" keynote speech in the middle of my lunch. In Chatham. No offence, Kent.

It was a summary of the prime minister's view of modern Britain and his government's role in creating it. It has been a very large role, you won't be surprised to hear, almost godlike in its scope. His suit, remarkably, was free of tapes at the end of the jacket-arms. I'm warming to Mr Blair as his psychological flaws come into focus.

In the event, I got to Margaret Beckett's question time and managed to hold down my frisky gorge for a full four questions. Mrs Beckett has a reputation for intelligence and thoughtfulness that completely baffles me. As a minister, she has never said anything on the floor of the house of any possible interest to anyone. She picks her way through every answer stepping from one bureaucratic, managerial, departmental cliché to the next and eventually disappears into her own mist. She is a model of the modern administrative malaise in which talking about work is more important than work itself.

People used to say that one of the remarkable things about the holocaust was the bland mechanical efficiency of its operation - its bureaucratic normality. I can't help thinking of that every time I hear Mrs Beckett saying judicious things like "There is something to be said for the general approach the Commission is taking" and "There will undoubtedly be an impact on existing proposals" and "Unquestionably there will be changes and that these will be the subject of much discussion and though it shows now unwillingness to listen, or to protect our interests, we shall certainly be sure to keep it under review...".

We are also told never to compare the holocaust to anything because it was incomparable. However, here we have the mechanical efficiency of customs-policed border tariffs implementing the Common Agricultural Policy; we have millions starving, and multi-millions more living in squalor and poverty as a direct result of the CAP. Finally, we have Mrs Beckett collaborating, as does the rest of her official world, with the powers that originate and execute what will be known by posterity, as the single largest crime against humanity that history has yet produced.

Hugh Bayley put it more temperately, and got a respectful hearing as a result. "The European Union needs to cut sugar production and stop dumping its sugar surpluses in the Third World."

Yes, not only do we protect our own farmers at the expense of Africa, we also destroy their markets by dumping our overpriced, publicly funded fodder on them. And our leaders - who authorised exactly this - moralise sadly about Africa's need for "good governance". Hang on, I'm talking myself out of my new affection for our leader.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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