Category Archives: public sector

The part played by the public sector in this tragedy

Before and after the ‘refurbishment’, with its deadly flammable cladding

Grenfell Tower was built, Dalrymple notes,

as public housing in 1974. Like all such towers (4,000 of them in Britain) erected at the time, it was an aesthetic blot on the townscape, irredeemably hideous, and destructive of the possibility of civilised sociability.

One reason, Dalrymple explains, that the block of flats was ‘refurbished’ at a cost of more than $10m shortly before the fire

was to improve its appearance slightly, to make it look less Soviet. There was, of course, only so much that could be done in this direction.

Unfortunately, the cladding used to insulate the building, protect it from rain, and improve its appearance

was highly flammable, and it was attached to the building in such a way that it acted as a kind of chimney once the fire began.

Under construction

The local borough council

owned the building but had devolved its management to a non-profit-making management quasi-company that was, in essence, in the public sector, though it paid its senior staff, in effect local-government civil servants, private-sector-sized salaries.

This effectively public-sector management firm

was responsible for choosing the refurbishment and for guaranteeing and certifying that the work done was safe, though similar such work had previously caused fires in buildings like Grenfell Tower. It hired a private contractor, the successor to a company that had previously gone bankrupt after a large claim had been made against it for defective work.

The quasi-public-sector management company

disregarded the tenants’ repeatedly voiced concerns about the lack of proper fire precautions in the building.

An aesthetic blot on the townscape

Dalrymple’s experience of public-sector housing authorities, when he was a doctor with many patients who lived in public housing, was that

they were stone deaf to all justified tenant complaints, unless someone like me made firm representations on the tenants’ behalf.

These authorities, he relates,

were unutterably heartless and dishonest, as well as incompetent. They had to be protected from their clients by bulletproof glass.


the horrible fire, which is among the most terrifying anyone has witnessed, is being used to demand more public expenditure, raised and administered by the same kind of people who brought such joy to the residents of Grenfell Tower.

The design alone was always destructive of the possibility of civilised sociability

Before and after ‘refurbishment’, aimed at making the building less Soviet

Irredeemably hideous

Under construction

Legalised corruption in Britain

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 08.00.49The highly motivated idiocy of bureaucrats

The professionalisation of management in the public service, writes Dalrymple,

was one of Mrs Thatcher’s great legacies.

Tony Blair

took political advantage. The road was open to the creation of public-service millionaires.

Opportunities have been

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 08.03.56

Margaret Thatcher

systematically created for the economic benefit of ambitious mediocrities.

Margaret Thatcher’s belief was that

the motivation of a manager in the public service can beneficially be made the same as that of one in a private business.

James Burnham

James Burnham


even in large privately owned businesses, the interests of the managers have long since ceased to be identical to those of shareholders, a fact of which Mrs Thatcher appeared to be oblivious, and which helped to bring about the banking crisis.


was no match for the dimmest manager of Boghampton Social Services, once that manager was freed from the straitjacket of a salary structure and could pretend to be a businessman or woman, complete with strategic — never tactical — planning and business models, the development of which necessitated teambuilding weekends in country hotels and awaydays in pleasing locations.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 08.06.17Before management became professionalised, managers in the public service

had no vested interest, as they do now, in inefficiency and incompetence, in the insolubility of all problems and in the creation of new ones.

What is needed, says Dalrymple,

is amateur, not professional, management. No more awaydays, no more teambuilding, no more strategic planning, no more business models. Let bureaucrats be bureaucrats — in proper circumstances, a perfectly honourable if not high calling — not ersatz businessmen.


The belief that extension of government serves the people’s interests

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 22.13.03This is most sincerely held by the public sector millionaires who have emerged in recent years. If these enviably wealthy men and women, writes Dalrymple,

have served the public sector well, it can also be said that the public sector has served them very well….I have never heard them argue in favour of anything but increased public expenditure, including on their own departments, for the benefit of humanity.

For instance,

I have never seen any declaration of conflict of interest in a medical journal by a government-employed scientist whose work implies, calls for, or suggests an increase in governmental outlays.

Intellectual propaganda against all forms of commerce

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 03.09.17In Britain in the 1970s, it was, writes Dalrymple,

very necessary to try to undo the effect of many years of intellectual propaganda against all forms of commerce, which the intelligentsia then thought was intrinsically besmirching in a way that public service funded by taxation was not. The utopia peddled by the intellectuals was of a society in which everybody and everything was subsidised. (The ultimate source of the subsidies, of course, was of no interest or concern.)

All talk and no trousers

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 11.35.17Margaret Thatcher

spoke too much and did too little. Her strident tone, that was capable of cutting glass, gave even her best ideas a bad reputation, as if they had been put into practice when they had not.

By every measure, the public sector looms larger in Britain today than it did in 1979. Dalrymple puts it this way: Margaret Thatcher found the public sector inefficient

 and left it inefficient and corrupt.

Her noisy rhetoric against the state

disguised the fact that under her, the state remained as preponderant as ever. Government expenditure increased, above all in areas such as social security.

The disaster of Thatcherism

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 08.28.48Margaret Thatcher’s cultural effect on Britain was, overall, disastrous, writes Dalrymple. She introduced the commercial spirit

not only where it was needed, but where it was harmful. Almost all the legalised corruption for which the British public administration is so notable can be traced back to her. She believed in management as a science in the way that Latin American peasants believe in miracle-working Virgins. She introduced business practices (such as high and rising perquisites) into the public sector without the disciplines of a real marketplace.

She failed to learn an important lesson taught by the experience of the Russian communist tyranny, that

in centralised bureaucratic systems, the setting of targets results not in efficiency but in organised lying to pretend that they have been met. The result has been Soviet-type corruption, moral, intellectual and financial, some of it legal and much of it compulsory. Those who work in or for the public administration – it is increasingly difficult to tell them apart – have been comprehensively corrupted.

Britain back to square one

Dalrymple observes that

one person in a democracy…cannot singlehandedly change a nation. We in Britain are firmly back to square one, with a public sector proportionately larger than when [Margaret Thatcher] came to power 34 years ago.

Thatcher left no scratch on the British state

By every measure, the public sector looms larger in Britain today than it did in 1979. Dalrymple puts it this way: Margaret Thatcher found the public sector inefficient

and left it inefficient and corrupt.

Her strident rhetoric against the state

disguised the fact that under her, the state remained as preponderant as ever. Government expenditure increased, above all in areas such as social security.

Thatcher the Leninist

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 17.59.15Where bureaucracies are set targets by a government, writes Dalrymple, the result is

organised lying.

Margaret Thatcher, he says,

ignored the lessons of the Soviet Union and became something of a Leninist.

She instituted

the régime of legalised corruption under which we live, and which Blair expanded with low cunning. Blair saw it as an opportunity to create a nomenklatura.

Thanks to Thatcher’s faith in managerialism,

private looting of the public purse takes place on a scale not seen since the 18th century.

Legalised corruption in Europe

What are modern European governments but vast electoral slush funds?