At noon, today, I was fascinated to listen to Patricia Hewitt, appointed during the past few days, to Teflon Tony Blair’s “new” cabinet.
Previously, Hewitt, was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Prior to this Mission-Critical role, she served as Under Secretary of State for E-Business, a position at which she failed miserably. I make this judgement based upon the UK government’s near total failure to make E-Business work. That failure was particularly dramatic considering E-Business was one of their sacred cows. In Janet and John English, they called that enterprise “Joined-up-Government".
As for that Rubicon of economic growth and stability in Trade and Industry, she has also failed, almost totally, since the UK economy – or what passes for it – is pretty much dominated by retailing and distribution of imported good from Asia. The SME sector (Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises), contributed to the British Private Sector GDP at around 48% and roughly the same to employment. The SME has been neglected and worse, burdened with onerous taxation and regulation. None of this is surprising as we have watched as New Labour, like their Tory predecessors, have become slavish sycophants to the multi-national monoliths.
Now Ms. Hewitt, who enjoys the burr of an Antipodean’s accent (like so many other ministers and media stars), has been promoted to the crucial task of Secretary of State for Health.
She must be a quick study!
Her interviewer, Jonathan Dimbleby, a lightweight wannabee, desperate to emulate his late father, Richard Dimbleby’s presentational style and panache, almost slavishly hung on the lady’s every word. (The late, Richard, was the quintessential voice and presence of British television in its heyday).
Ms. Hewitt, waxed lyrical, over her plans to solve the dreadful problem of MRSA, and other sundry dynamics, which beset the NHS (sic) - the once hallowed bastion of the Great Britain, which was.
Thus, in less than one week, the new Minister has not only become an expert on microorganisms, but is already doling out prescriptors and solutions!
As a Management and Business Strategy Consultant, I am for the first time left speechless at my own obvious inability to grasp clients' problems and develop solutions, if this Ms. Hewitt's rate of absorption of data and mental acuity is a benchmark.
In order to put this matter into relative perspective, the annual budget for the British National Health Service is in the region of £ 36 billion +++ (last cogent figures are for 1997/98: one can add, realistically probably 20% to this figure!): this equates to a huge multi-national corporation’s annual revenue!
Perhaps therefore, when one considers the Enron fiasco and the raft of British government external adviser-led organisational disasters, which themselves have cost the British taxpayer endless billions, it is no surprise that before turning her hand to politics, Ms. Hewitt worked for, you guessed it, Anderson Consulting!
Now, Anderson Consulting, who wisely changed their name to Accenture, prior to the Enron nightmare, has been responsible for the disastrous National Insurance Contributions system (NIC). The NIC is the cumbersome and hopelessly inadequate Inland Revenue system (with EDS – another falling star) and was banned by Margaret Thatcher from UK government work, early in her tenure!
Teflon Tony has obviously forgiven them or has ignored recent history. The only alternative explanation is that he simply has little “hands on” comprehension of certain realities - realities associated with allowing complex, multi-faceted change-structure contracts to be awarded, without significant accountability and over-sight. The latter is likely; after all, Tony's at best a failed lawyer, like so many of the current crop of Pols, who stalk the corridors of Westminster power!
So, what can we Brits expect from our Pat Hewitt?
Well, this writer can overwork his crystal ball, as usual, make himself a hostage to fortune, and suggest some if not all of the following.
A series of sanitised Knee Jerk reactions, proposing “Solutions”, which in themselves, are developed, on the fly and make nice sound bites, is probably a good starting point.
Adopting the old standard methodology beloved of politicians everywhere: the “Don’t confuse me with the facts: I already have a solution!”, gambit will figure large in Ms. Hewitt’s portfolio.
Next, will come the trotting out of arcane and complex “Statistics”, which are designed to completely confuse the electorate, since the vast majority will neither understand what they mean, nor dare to question their validity, on the Emperor’s Cloak basis.
Underlying this avalanche of energetic trumpeting, the stark realities will be neatly papered over and ignored. The huge amount of taxpayer’s monies wasted on, you guessed it, External Experts, will be conspicuous by their accounting absence.
Meanwhile, despite paying through the nose for the service, most users of the NHS will continue to be denied access to timely and state-of-the art treatment facilities.
The already brain-numbing paper chain – designed to “Prove” how each successive party has “Improved” service delivery, will, like Topsy, grow and grow.
And here dwells the real malaise: as first, the Tory government increased the tax take (called National Insurance Contributions, but really, Social Benefit Tax) above and beyond their own, highly flawed published statistics on inflation. In doing so, they perpetuated a consistent pattern of reducing the benefits and NIC has become a Win-Win scenario: for the Exchequer, that is.
New Labour have simply gone along with the gag: worse, Chancellor Gordon Brown has increased the core rate of increase of increase, at an accelerated pace!
If Ms. Hewitt’s performance on Sunday is any benchmark of the future, one can expect simply a series of window dressing exercises which sadly, demonstrate the corporate media's power to exploit and deceive much of the British electorate.
More of the same, can be the only conclusion unless we as British citizens, who can distinguish real health service from abuse, deliver a robust response to a government that has surrendered any pretense of concern for the people.
© Copyright 2005 by AxisofLogic.com
Michael C Feltham FCEA, ACPA, FSPA
Michael C Feltham is a columnist for Axis of Logic. See his bio and additional insights, analyses and forecasts at Feltham on the Economy. By professional discipline, an accountant, who specialised in international finance and economic analysis in the 1970s. Until December 2001, he was an External Examiner and Moderator to Ashcroft International Business School at their Cambridge and Chelmsford faculties at MBA level. He writes widely on technical finance and economic matters. Michael is Founder and CEO of a software company and CFO of a New Media company. You can reach Mr. Feltham at: Michaeleff@onetel.com.