Category Archives: bureaucrats

The NHS egalitarian? Far from it

The justification for Britain’s nationalisation of healthcare was egalitarianism. Yet the National Health Service, writes Dalrymple,

has failed even in the matter of equality. The difference between the health of the richest and poorest sections of the population has increased rather than decreased under the NHS.

The gap between the life expectancy of unskilled workers and that of the upper echelons, which had been stable for decades before the foundation of the NHS,

began to widen afterwards, and is now far wider than it ever was. If systems are to be judged by their effects, the NHS has failed in its initial goal.

It is a matter of common experience, Dalrymple notes,

that members of the middle classes are far better able to derive benefits from the system than the lower classes. Members of the middle classes complain where the lower orders swear, and bureaucrats are aware that articulacy is a more dangerous enemy than assaults on staff can ever be.

The Working Time Directive

This legal act of the European Union is, writes Dalrymple,

typical of modern legislation, or perhaps I should say administrative fiat. It appears to confer benefits or rights on those who come under its purview (in this case, almost everyone). As such, it is seen by many of its supposed beneficiaries as benign.


the supposed benefits exert a profound and baleful influence on the character of the supposed beneficiaries, always in the direction of increased dependence upon the administrators.

A medical profession, says Dalrymple, that is composed of clock-watching shift workers

will be far easier to control and order around than one that is both self-regulating and has a sense of vocation. The independence of citizens or professions is what the modern administrator fears more than anything else, for it strikes at the heart of his raison d’être and threatens him with actual, rather than merely existential, redundancy.

Radical anti-racism

It represents an employment opportunity, writes Dalrymple,

for bureaucrats of limited ability.

It has also persuaded many young men of Jamaican descent that

when someone asks them at three in the morning to turn their music down, or upbraids them in any other way or circumstances, he is motivated by racism. This is convenient for the young men, who are enabled to behave badly while convinced of their moral superiority based on permanent, insuperable and existential victimhood; it is also convenient for the anti-racist bureaucracy, who assure themselves of ‘work’, that is to say a salary.

But Dalrymple points out that the Jamaicans

are not a race, and their conduct is in marked contrast (at least in my experience) with that of West Africans — and even West Indians who come from other islands.

Racism today, he notes,

is of the subtle kind that requires a specialist armed with an anti-racist Malleus Maleficarum to detect.

Surely no human existence can be as empty of meaning as this

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-28-10From time to time Dalrymple receives invitations to attend conferences on something called medical leadership. The invitations ask,

Do you want to be a leader?

The answer, in Dalrymple’s case, is


The latest conference on medical leadership, Dalrymple reports,

has 80 speakers and lasts three days. The organisers seem to believe that the longer the conference and the larger the number of speakers on so patently dull a subject, the more impressive it is, no doubt in the way that a big box of chocolates impresses a greedy person more than a small one. All things considered, I’d rather stay at home and read the collected works of Kim Il-sung.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-25-28Dalrymple looks at the biographical details of a couple of the speakers, taken from the list at random.

Mr R.

is founding Director of Harthill Consulting. His extensive practitioner background includes working with senior leaders from organisations such as Fujitsu, Danone, Shell, Hewlett Packard, Volvo, Eli Lilly and Microsoft. Co-author of HBR’s award-winning article ‘Seven Transformations of Leadership’ (April 2005) it has since consistently been named as one of HBR’s ‘Top 10 Must Reads’ on Leadership. He recently co-authored and contributed to the large-scale 2015 PwC study on leader transformation and retention. His expertise is exploring leadership as a process of evolving ‘wisdom’ — enabling individuals to integrate discernment, courage, power and compassion.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-31-37Ms A.-M.

is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Chief Executive of Real World Group (a University of Leeds spin-out company). She is also Adjunct Associate Professor at the Centre for Sustainable Business and Enterprise, University of Southern Queensland. She has been working with Real World Group for the past 15 years, supporting leadership development with both individuals and groups up to Board level globally. She has a particular passion for a focus on positive psychology and diversity & inclusion in leadership. She has helped establish Real World Group’s approach to Engaging Leadership, based on uniquely proven research involving tens of thousands of people across the world, and has authored or co-authored most of Real World Group’s diagnostic instruments. The research she has been involved with has established the common sense but often missing behaviours that distinguish leaders from managers, and effective leadership among teams and organisations. They are factors that drive productivity in a sustainable way, even when resources are diminishing. As a result of her research and experience in working with organisations, she has been invited to speak at international and national conferences, and consults on behalf of Real World Group with organisations from the UK, North America, South East Asia and the wider Asia Pacific region. She has worked extensively in Higher Education, including at leading Universities and with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. She has authored and co-authored a number of articles in practitioner and peer-reviewed journals, as well as book chapters in academic books by leading publishers on leaders’ career development. She is Co-Chair of the Steering Group of the government sponsored Engage For Success movement ( and the editorial committee of the International Congress on Leadership, Management and Governance. She has an MSc in Occupational Psychology from the University of London, Birkbeck College and an MSc in Positive Organization Development and Change from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-22-57In case, says Dalrymple, the above

should be insufficiently enticing to prospective attendees,

it is explained why they should attend the conference:

Be a part of the first Leaders in Healthcare conference, which will bring together both the future generation and most senior of healthcare professionals and managers. The event aims to focus on the leadership challenges all nations face in healthcare to improve the care we deliver for our patients. Learn about and be part of widespread discussions including standards, professionalism and the opportunity for a step change in quality, the leadership challenges facing healthcare on a national and international scale and how we, as a profession, will face these, and contemporary leadership theory from international experts. Attend interactive workshops and hear from inspiring speakers exploring the essentials of what you need to know to continually grow your leaderships skills, how innovation in healthcare can change the way we work, and how medical education can improve leadership, clinical performance and patient safety. Represent the voice of medical students by planning your leadership skills development at an early stage of your career. Explore sessions to understand the essentials of leadership and how to take charge of your own development, and network with peers and senior medical leaders. Develop essential skills for being an effective leader who can motivate and inspire others in the team, influence the way care is given, ensuring it is high quality, compassionate and responds to individual needs, and network with the full spectrum of healthcare leaders from all professional backgrounds. Network with a broad range of healthcare professionals, develop a shared understanding of what good leadership is and how working together can benefit service delivery and patient care, consider how we can encourage greater involvement of healthcare professionals, service users, communities and the general public in shaping healthcare services that are fit for purpose, and network in a unique multi-professional healthcare leadership event embracing all levels and sectors. Leaders in Healthcare 2016 welcomes other professionals who share our passion for excellence in leadership and management.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-38-20After reading a few lines of such prose, Dalrymple’s mind

goes fuzzy as if I were suffering from a hangover, or as if an almost physical shutter comes down in my brain, just as it does on reading a paragraph of Kim Il-sung. The prose destroys my capacity, even my will, to concentrate or fix my mind on anything. My remaining thoughts are fleeting and desultory: ‘Can anyone really have a passion for diversity and inclusion in leadership?’ or ‘What can the life of someone who does have such a passion be like?’ I try to imagine it, but nothing comes to mind. Surely no human existence could be as empty of meaning as that.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-23-09Then Dalrymple begins to wonder what Alexander the Great or Napoleon would have made of the conference on leadership.

Would they have been able to reach a shared understanding of what good leadership is? If Alexander had only been better able to integrate compassion into his discernment, courage, and power, would he have found new worlds to conquer? If Napoleon had learned about leader transformation, would he have crowned himself emperor earlier in his career than he did?

Who would pay good money for such a conference?

The taxpayer. He would not attend the conference himself, of course, but he would pay for employees to attend it who needed or desired a three-day break from their work in a public hospital or as part of their mandatory continuing professional development. He would also pay the fees of the speakers, some of them flown in from distant lands.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-40-36The attendees, Dalrymple notes, would learn about something called lean management, one definition of which is as follows:

If someone tells you that ‘lean management is this’ and not something else, if someone puts it in a box and ties a bow around it and presents it in a neat package with four walls around it, then that someone knows not of what they speak. Why? Because it is in motion and not a framed picture hanging on the wall. It is a melody, a rhythm, and not a single note.

This, says Dalrymple, is

the mysticism of apparatchiks, the romanticism of bureaucrats, the poetry of clerks. From my limited observations of management in public hospitals and other parts of the public health care system, it seeks to be not lean, in the commonly used sense of the word, but fat, indeed as fat as possible; nor are large private institutions very much different.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-43-08We have entered, writes Dalrymple,

gradually and without any central direction or decree, a golden age of langue de bois or of Newspeak. Langue de bois is the pompous, vague, and abstract words that have some kind of connotation but no real denotation used by those who have to hide their real motives and activities by a smokescreen of scientific- or benevolent-sounding verbiage. Newspeak is the language in Nineteen Eighty-Four whose object is to limit human minds to a few simple politically permissible thoughts, excluding all others, and making doublethink — the frictionless assent to incompatible propositions—part of everyday mentation.

Langue de bois and Newspeak

are no longer languages into which normal thought must be translated; rather they have become the languages in which thought itself, or rather cerebral activity, takes place, at least in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy that rules us. If you ask someone who speaks either of them to translate what he has said or written into normal language, it is more than likely he will be unable to do so: His translation will be indistinguishable from the words translated.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-49-41It is therefore clear that,

where culture is concerned, the Soviet Union scored a decisive and probably irreversible victory in the Cold War.


The English civil servant

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-08-55-29It is never in the interest of the British bureaucrat, writes Dalrymple,

to solve any problem whatsoever. Indeed, he regards any solution as a threat to his job and therefore his mortgage repayments. His interest is in the multiplication of problems, not their solution. The Circumlocution Office has metastasised through British life.

How the Left destroyed many of England’s finest schools

St Marylebone Grammar School, where Eric Hobsbawm was a pupil (though he rarely alluded to his time there, and it was never mentioned in brief biographical accounts in, say, blurbs for his books). The school was closed in 1981 under the government of Margaret Thatcher who, Dalrymple points out,

St Marylebone Grammar School, where the Marxist historian and Stalin apologist Eric Hobsbawm CH was a pupil (though he rarely alluded to his time there, and it was never mentioned in brief biographical accounts in, say, blurbs for his books). The school was closed down in 1981 under the government of Margaret Thatcher who, Dalrymple points out, did much—perhaps more than anyone else—to forward the destruction of the grammar schools

Modern political thought fails, writes Dalrymple,

to distinguish between élitism and social exclusivity. From this failure stems an enormous, costly, and increasingly intolerant attempt to rectify what is not wrong in the first place. One fights chimeras the better to avoid confrontation with real enemies.

In Britain,

the fanatics of formal equality of opportunity have triumphed over the moderates of at least some real opportunity for all, because in the world of modern democratic politics, a declared aim is more important than an actual effect.

In the pre-reform British state educational system,

attendance at a grammar school in a poor area was a virtual guarantee of its pupils’ social ascent into the middle class. In these schools, the education given was self-consciously not ‘relevant’ to the pupil’s experience. It was often precisely his experience that held him back, that forged the man-made manacles. The learning of French, say, might not be of much use in the slums, but it was not supposed that the pupil would stay in the slums forever; at the very least, learning it would broaden his outlook on the world.

This education

reflected, and required, a cultural and even a mildly ideological confidence on the part of those who transmitted it. The preceptors believed that there were higher intellectual attainments that were worthwhile in themselves, and that assisting the low-born to ascend the social ladder was a worthy and even a noble end.

The system came under attack for two reasons.

(1) The practical reason was

the correct observation that the education offered in the non-grammar schools was often, or usually, of a wretched standard, neither academic nor even properly technical. A large part of the population was left semi-literate and semi-numerate. This left them difficult to train to become skilled workers. A large and increasing bureaucracy such as that which ran and runs the British educational system, faced with a part that functions well and a part that functions badly, will always choose the destruction of the part that functions well as the solution to supposedly improving the whole. It is their equivalent of  Schumpeter’s creative destruction, except that it is destructive destruction. It is easy to destroy (success is almost certain) but difficult to improve. Moreover, all judgment being comparative, the good always throws a lurid light on the bad. Equality of mediocrity assures the peaceful existence of the bureaucrat.

(2) The political attack was from two directions.

(a) It was increasingly denied by intellectuals that there were any higher intellectual attainments that were worthwhile in themselves. The hierarchy of such attainments was based upon a foundation that, being metaphysically assailable, was deemed not to exist. This affected pædagogy profoundly, once the attitude had made its long march through the institutions.

(b) The point was made by the ‘reformers’ that social ascent was undesirable, and positively harmful in so far as it reinforced the structure of an unjust society that was in need of destruction, not amelioration. Offering poor children the opportunity for social ascent was like treating cancer with an anti-depressant. Aspiration in an unfair society preserved the unfairness.

Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School, where Margaret Thatcher was a pupil. Needless to say, her government decided not to close it

Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, where Margaret Thatcher was a pupil. Needless to say, her government decided not to close it

There was, Dalrymple points out,

no demand from below for the amalgamation of good and bad schools. The demand came almost entirely from the intellectual wing of the political class.

The meritocratic system was destroyed

in the name of undermining social exclusivity, the theory of it being so much more important than the practice.

Once the destruction started, resistance crumbled. Margaret Thatcher,

herself a product of the system, did much—perhaps more than anyone else—to forward the destruction.

The result was that

a class society came to look more like a caste society. If the teaching of grammar, for example, were abandoned on the theory that no form of language was superior to any other, an enormous additional advantage was handed, ex officio, to middle-class children for whom Standard English was their native tongue. In addition, the middle classes were able to avoid or evade prevailing low standards.

The British socialist politician Anthony Crosland (Highgate and Trinity College, Oxford) served as education secretary and was one of the architects of the destruction of the grammar schools. He once said: 'If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland.'

The British socialist politician Anthony Crosland (Highgate and Trinity College, Oxford) served as education secretary and was one of the architects of the destruction of the grammar schools. He once said: ‘If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland.’

The grammar schools had cultural as well as educational effects.

They kept aspiration alive where it was so easily lost (all the more so as jobs for an unskilled working class evaporated). They suggested a hierarchy of achievement, in which celebrity and football had little place, let alone the hegemony in the minds of the poor that they now have. (Surveys of British children show that the word ‘talent’ is associated by them with pop music or football, and nothing else.)

Élites tend to reproduce themselves,

which is as it should be when you stop to think about it by comparing it with the alternative: a society in which parents do not care specially about their children and make no efforts to secure them the advantages that they themselves have had or achieved.


a class society is not a closed society.

A closed society

is what attempts to bring about a type of equality other than equality under the law eventuate in.

Immigration and British incompetence

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 23.32.20Dalrymple points out that much immigration to the UK, for instance from Poland,

has been good and even necessary for the country.

He draws attention to the fact that the inability or unwillingness

of the British public administration to control the kind of immigration that is most feared, for example from Moslem countries,

is associated with

a generalised administrative incompetence.

He attributes the incompetence to

a culture of frivolity and to careerism in bureaucracies grown too large and convoluted to have any connection with their ostensible purposes.


Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 19.10.53Gibberish, writes Dalrymple, is

the native tongue of European politicians.


European project


an excellent example, for what is the project referred to? It is a word bandied about whose precise, or even approximate, meaning is never vouchsafed to humble listeners or readers.

  • Is it a unified state? No.
  • Is it a federal state? No.
  • Is it a state at all? No.
  • Is it something other than a state? No.

What is it, then?

Dalrymple observes:

The uninitiated and the paranoid might think it is a slow, creeping coup d’état by a perpetual self-appointed class of bureaucrats and politicians who seek to bypass the tiresome necessity ever to consult anyone other than itself.

A continent limping towards the abyss

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 23.36.42Dalrymple points out that ‘ever closer union’

resuscitates old national stereotypes and antagonisms and increases the likelihood of real conflict.

He notes that politicians and bureaucrats,

like all people with bad habits, are infinitely inventive when it comes to rationalising the European Project, though they’re inventive in nothing else.

  • Without the Union, they say, there would be no peace; when it’s pointed out that the Union is the consequence of peace, not its cause, they say that no small country can survive on its own.
  • When it is pointed out that Singapore, Switzerland, and Norway seem to have no difficulties in that regard, they say that pan-European regulations create economies of scale that promote productive efficiency.
  • When it is pointed out that European productivity lags behind the rest of the world’s, they say that European social protections are more generous than anywhere else.
  • If it is then noted that long-term unemployment rates in Europe are higher than elsewhere, another apology follows.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 08.42.50The fact is that for European politicians and bureaucrats,

the European Project is like God — good by definition, which means that they have subsequently to work out a theodicy to explain, or explain away, its manifest and manifold deficiencies.

The personal interests of European politicians and bureaucrats,

with their grossly inflated, tax-free salaries, are perfectly obvious. For politicians who have fallen out of favour at home, or grown bored with the political process, Brussels acts as a vast and luxurious retirement home, with the additional gratification of the retention of power.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 23.41.11The name of a man such as Herman Van Rompuy,

whose charisma makes Hillary Clinton look like Mata Hari, would, without the existence of the European Union, have reached most of the continent’s newspapers only if he had paid for a classified advertisement in them.

Corporate interests,

ever anxious to suppress competition, approve of European Union regulations because they render next to impossible the entry of competitors into any market in which they already enjoy a dominant position, while also allowing them to extend their domination into new markets. That is why the CAC 40 (the French bourse benchmark) will have more or less the same names 100 years hence.

Dalrymple reminds us of the European Union’s role in corroding civil society.

Suppose you have an association for the protection of hedgehogs. The European Union then offers your association money to expand its activities, which of course it accepts. The Union then proposes a measure allegedly for the protection of hedgehogs, but actually intended to promote a large agrarian or industrial interest over a small one, first asking the association’s opinion about the proposed measure. Naturally, your association supports the Union because it has become dependent on the Union’s subsidy. The Union then claims that it enjoys the support of those who want to protect hedgehogs.

The best description of this process is

fascist corporatism, which so far lacks the paramilitary and repressive paraphernalia of real fascism. But as the European economic crisis mounts, that distinction could vanish.

One should not mistake the dullness of Eurocrats

for lack of ambition, or the lack of flamboyance for the presence of scruple. History can repeat itself.

Dalrymple says that whenever he reads the French press on the subject of the European crisis,

I’m struck by how little questions of freedom, political legitimacy, separation of powers, representative government, or the rule of law feature, even in articles by academic political philosophers. For them, the problem is mainly technical: that of finding a solution that will preserve the status quo (there is no such solution, but intelligent people searched for the philosopher’s stone for centuries).

As for the British political class,

it is composed largely of careerists,

and in the world of the Eurocrats,

ignoring arguments is the highest form of refutation.

The shame of being German

Cologne is noted for its vibrant nightlife

Cologne is noted for its vibrant nightlife

The European Union, writes Dalrymple, is

a bureaucratic monster, unaccountable to anyone resembling a normal human being.

It is also a

vast pension plan for ageing or burnt-out politicians who cannot any longer face the inconveniences of having to be elected.

Why are the Germans so keen on it? Why do they yearn so much for a European identity? Dalrymple’s answer:

So that they can stop being German. This, of course, will deceive no one.

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 07.12.44