Wednesday 16 October 2013

UK governmnets: didn't they do well?!

In their interesting account of "The Blunders of our Governments" Anthony King and Ivor Crewe, presumably in the interests of balance,  devote 13 of the 410 pages to our governments' successes.  They make an interesting list:

  • The BBC (1922, Lloyd George Coalition)
  • Town and Country Planning Act, (1947, Labour: designed to curb urban sprawl and ribbon building)
  • National Health Service (1948, Labour) 
  • House building drive (from 1951, Conservative.  Harold Macmillan, responsible minister, promised and achieved 300 000 new houses per year)
  • Clean Air Act (1956, Conservative)
  • Road Safety Act (1967, Labour: introduced the breathalyser and seat belts)
  • Conversion to decimal currency (1971, Conservative, but planned under Labour)
  • Sale of Council Houses (from 1980, Conservative)
  • Attraction of Nissan to North East (1980, Conservative, via a £112m "sweetener" and  a "one union" deal)
  • Employment and Trade Union reforms (1982 and 1984, Conservative. Norman Tebbit minister responsible)
  • Privatisations (from 1984, Conservative)
  • Introduction of MMR vaccine (1988, Conservative)
  • Citizen's Charter (1991, Conservative.  John Major's bright idea, much derided at the time but subsequently copied in many areas) 
  • The Minimum Wage(1998, Labour)
  • Smoking Ban (2007, Labour)
  • Dealing with World  Banking Crisis (2008, Labour, when Gordon Brown's prompt and determined averted an even more serious "meltdown.")
  • London Olympics (2012, Coalition , but "won" and partly planned by Labour)
Some items in the list will raise a few eyebrows, and perhaps reveal a rather right-wing bias about the authors.

I should not have thought the flogging off of our  gas, water, electricity, railways etc at knock-down prices, with subsequent price hikes for consumers and fat salaries for the directors, as a great success (ditto the Royal Mail last week, though the subsequent price hikes and fat bonuses for the directors are yet to be seen, but widely predicted).  Nor have I ever regarded Norman Tebbit's trade union bashing as adding any advantage to our over-all economic efficiency. (It would have been much wiser to adopt the Liberal approach of industrial democracy, as the present head of the TUC now recognises).

However, given this perceived right-wing bias, it is worth quoting in full the authors' comments on Gordon Brown's handling of the 2008 crisis:

(After the US government allowed Lehman Brothers to collapse) officials on both sides of the Atlantic feared that the bank's collapse might precipitate the collapse of other major banking institutions, conceivably of the world's entire banking system .  Hank Paulson, the American Treasury secretary, dithered.  Gordon Brown acted.  Even his most vociferous critics, of whom there were many, applauded his performance.  He quickly decided that, if several major British banks were not to go the way of Lehman Brothers, they needed to be massively recapitalised and that the only way of achieving that end was to inject them with vast amounts of public money... The British government's bail-out ensured that (RBS, Lloyds TSB and HBOS) survived.  It also galvanised the American government into action.  Brown briefed Paulson and President George W Bush in the Oval Office ... A New York Times columnist wrote a few days later ; "The Brown government has shown itself willing to think clearly ...and act quickly on its conclusions.  And this combination of clarity and decisiveness hasn't been matched by any other Western government, least of all our own."
(Pages 10 and 11.) 

Not, alas. the hymn sheet from which the present coalition partners are singing.

1 comment:

  1. Hardly an impressive list of achievements: the vastly over budget Olympics?? decimal currency?? the BBC with its insane extravagance?? Citizen's charter??
    If these are achievements God help us.