Friday, 7 December 2018

Standards in Public Life, Management and the Post-Truth Era. Establishment

Okay, so I left off the last post in 1989.

Common Purpose had been established, Sky News had started and we'd had the Hillsborough disaster and the instantaneaous covering up of the truth of that event.

Another significant event in 1989 that would kick off the post truth era is the imposition of the Community Charge in Scotland. Better known as the Poll Tax.

This and the Poll Tax riots in London the following year would trigger the demise of Margaret Thatcher. Whether she went a bit moonbat and beleived her own hype, whatever; by the beginning of the Nineties her style of government had sunk into caricature.

So also in 1990 we gained a new Prime Minister: John Major.

Almost the reluctant PM, he set about making the UK a better place for people. In his first parliamentary speech as PM he stated an intention to abolish the Poll Tax and eventually in 1992 it was replaced with the Council Tax.

John Major was a well-meaning and relatively honest man. He tried on a number of occasions to try and make the country and politics a better place.

In 1991 he launched the Citizen's Charter, an initiative to make public services better. Like the proverb about the road to good intentions, the charter eventually morphed into the box-ticking target-fixated regime we have now which denigrates the indivudal experience and hoovers up vast amount of resources supplying administration of those tick-boxes.

He also set up the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 1994 chaired initially by Lord Nolan. This was instituted in response to high profile acounts of impropriety or sleaze in politics and public services. This was back when journalists did investigate such things and it was a given that anyone in the public eye or on the public payroll was open for scrutiny. 

Very ironically, as the committee tends to highlight misdeeds and wrongdoing, so truth moves and shifts. The old adage about if you tell a lie it may as well be a big one gains political traction. White becomes the new black in an effort to divert attention.

In 1992 Labour had finally elected a leader; John Smith. He set about doing a proper job of rooting out the extreme left from the party. A job that Neil Kinnock had done so inefectively during his tenure as leader.

So here we have the early 1990s and the stage for the demise of truth.

Primarily the instigator for this is the First Gulf War in 1990-91. Of all events during the 1990s, this is the main thing. All others are preipheral and enabling, but the first Gulf War is when the media starts to turn from investigation to capitulation.

It was the First Gulf War where journalists traded access for freedom, limelight for censorship. The pressure to deliver fresh news for the greedy outlets forced journalists to compromise their principles. This is where investigative journalism more or less died and jingoism, acceptance of media censorship and propagandic reporting became the norm.

The journalistic trade couldn't revert back to the old ways after this, the establishment had learned to barter and trade the truth.

I find it ironic that as I'm writing this series of articles that George HW Bush has died. The instigator of the gung-ho! beginning of the post-truth era.

Back in the UK, John Smith is rooting out the far left of the party, at that time known as "The Millitant Tendency" (which appears to have now reappeared in the Corbyn era as Momentum), unfortunately John had a heart attack and paved the way for Tony Blair. Probably the most post-truth Prime Minister we've ever had.

Around the same time, the Americans got Bill Clinton as their President. Someone who was fast and loose with the truth as the Monica Lewinsky affair showed.

On both sides of the Atlantic truth was on very rocky ground. It was being undermined and subverted to promote a myriad of different issues.

During the Nineties we had the Balkan Conflict, the squabble over the remains of the old Yugoslavia. The Western world did a good job of covering their covert manipulations of this area until it blew up in spectacular fashion and started to cause media attention.

The truth was a victim in this conflict, with the Western media happily investigating atrocities by the "bad guys" of the conflict (the Serbs, "Black Hatted" by the West) but completely missing atrocities perpetrated by the people on "our" side.

In 1997 the BBC join the 24 hour News business. Very quickly they saw the other 24 hour news outlets and how they didn't just report "dry" news. There was always a narrative, a story, a victim, a villain and a hero. News was not simply news.

We even saw the bombing of the Serbian TV station in 1999 during that conflict, the casualties in that action declared acceptable because it removed a communications hub and a propaganda machine for the Serbian side. In that one action you can see the West's determination to own the narrative and exclude all others. By force if necessary. It also ushers in what happens to the truth and how it is reported in the following decades.

The problems in the Ukraine the manipulation of the truth around the political shennannigans, the riots and the eventual annexation of Crimea virtually 15 years after the Serbian TV station got hit shows that the West have not stopped playing the game - in fact they ramp it up to dangerous levels.

Both American and UK governments made their forays into either ignoring the truth, dsiclaiming the truth, subverting the truth or telling little white lies (which are after all, untruths).

Some of this can be explained by the fallout from the Committeee on Public standards and the push to raise standards in public life, public services, the media and other important organisations.

There is a push during the Nineties to homogenise standards for managers and leaders in the public and private sectors. One organisation offering training across all spheres is Common Purpose.  It identifies leaders and trains them to produce a homogenised, unified leadership. It's catchphrase is "Leading Beyond Authority" but you could just as well say they train people to do anything else but the job they are employed to do, loading leaders up with the idea of extended networks, diversity (at all costs) and other workload-increasing objectives. It's my personal recollection you could see it through the Nineties with the rise of so-called "management-speak": the phrases and platitudes that defined a drone. "lessons Learned" meant the organisation had failed spectacularly, no-one would be fired and the organisation would continue as normal.

In the Nineties we had the Satanic Abuse Scandals, which were poorly investigated and produced little real evidence other than anecdotes. That child abuse was occurring at that time I have no doubt, but the Satanic element clouded the issue and enabled those in power and the media to label complainants crackpots. Decades later, the systematic mis-handling of issues of abuse will come to the fore again, this time by gangs of Muslim men. It's instances like this that start to expose the Common Purpose training that began back then and has now infiltrated every form of public service. In the early Nineties from my personal experience it's limited to local councils and local public service providers. By the late Nineties it has started to infiltrate central government alongside the Blair government.

The things that started happening then continues to happen today with the media and those in positions of authority: obfuscation, denial, manipulation of the truth to outright lies and even harassment, villification and in cases incarceration of those making accusations of abuse.

Then we get to the naugties and boy, do we enter the post-truth era in a big way.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Standards in Public Life, Management and the Post-Truth Era. Genesis

Over on Orphans of Liberty I posted the following comment in response to a post about the post truth era and when it started. I apologise, as this is going to be long as it attempts to define the decade that brought us to where we are today. In fact it will be a series of blog posts in order to avoid this being a cure for insomnia.

"I think it really started in John Major’s time (although the Hillsborough disaster with its official truth conflicting with the actual truth may have been a very early indication of the control of truth and media mentality). When managament-speak changed to include words and phrases like “stakeholder” and “going forward” is really an indication of the corporate and media changes. John Major’s government commissioned the Nolan report into standards in corporate life, which strangely seems to have been a catalyst when the standards really started to slip. The control of risk morphed into the control of everything including the truth.
By the time Tony Blair got into No.10 the mentality has perfused into the Civil Service although it was probably a willing victim. It was the start of the time of arse-covereing, risk-averse, truth manipulation. Tony Blair’s government just pushed the boundaries of what they could get away with. Successive governments have pushed further from then on. The rise of 24Hr news feeds has also promoted news as drama: to hold onto viewers, everyone is a victim, the left wear white hats and the right wear black hats, the truth is what the media say it is and what makes good drama. The news is tabloid in nature: Trump is Satan, Brexit is wrong, UKIP are far right, Corbyn is a cuddly old duffer, Theresa May is incompetent, Boris Johnson is a Clown… so it goes on.
Not so coincidentally, the organisation Common Purpose started in 1989 with the stated aim of targetting leaders and emerging leaders and training them. Also not so coincidentally during this time the weaponisation of diversity emerged and the homogenisation of management across public services and the private sector"

It was a bit long for a response and it brought up some interesting ideas on how governance has changed since the Eighties and the reasons for it.

I'm not sure how I should go about this, so do excuse me if I ramble.

Anyway, let me explain. Back in the Nineties I was on the cusp of management (in fact I did become a manager in 2000, but being just on the oputside looking in, I could see some pretty dramatic changes going on in management culture all the way through the Nineties and it's only now I can sort of rationalise the changes, explain how they came about and explain where we are with the post-truth era we find ourselves in.

So, let's go back to 1989. A seminal year where a number things happened that would shape the coming decade.

So, in no particular order, here's what happened in 1989:

Sky News launches.
The Common Purpose Organisation is formed.
The Hillsborough Disaster happens.

Taking the Hillsborough disaster first. It's the first instance I can find where an official narrative directly conflicts with both anecdotal news and also the video footage that was captured inside the football ground. The official line was that the disaster was caused by hooligans. But the video footage showed no riots, no violence. Only fans climbing the fence at the front of the stands in order to avoid the crush that the Police had caused.
The offical narrative was fixed that evening by the Police and officials that the people dying on the pitch were the very people to blame. It was not the truth and as we know now, it took decades for the truth to come out that the Police were to blame.

You have to bear in mind that the "official" narrative was not questioned by reporters despite having the evidence in front of their eyes. The truth was not the official "truth".

Now to Common Purpose. Most readers will already know I have am sceptical about this organisation, it's aims, it's training and the people it targets. But it's aim is "Leading Beyond Authority", which seems innocuous enough. From impirical evidence their aims are not to teach leaders how to lead, but instead lumber them with baggage that incumbers them from doing the actual job they are employed to do.

The rise of Common Purpose and a certain management ethos has gone hand-in-glove with the failure of senior managers to to their jobs. In my mind it is no coincidence that over the decade senior management has been encumbered with things like diversity and equality to the exclusion of their original job spec. Now, decades later you can spot a Common Purpose type by the vaccuous meaningless phrases they use, the sheer inability to do their job without serious help and the slavish adherence to an agenda set by others. They are not true leaders.

Finally, the thing that happened in 1989 is Sky news is launched. A 24-hour news feed initially with no competition. However the number of Sky subscribers in the UK caused Sky to have significant influence over UK news. Other news providers started to copy it's style over the Nineties and in 1997 the BBC launched their own 24-hour news service. The problem with 24-hour news is the very nature of news: it's sporadic and you have busy days and lean days. The problem the 24-hour news providers have is how do you keep viewers watching while you are repeating the same news over and over again until the next new story pops up.

The answer is to not supply the news as a dry, truthful thing, but to make news into drama in order to hook viwers and keep them. "Truth" is not necessarily the primary response. Drama, escalation, suspense, etc. are the new News narratives.

So for instance everybody in a new story becomes a victim, to add drama to a story. Reporting Politics is pretty dull. The same names come up again and again unless governments change or ministers change. So very early the 240-hour news services took a leaf out of the book of satire: Politicians became good guys and bad guys: heroes and villains. Sky News has tended to modify it's political hero/villain narrative in line with it's owner's views, whereas the BBC have a basic Left: good/Right:bad narrative in play.

Aside to all of this, Margaret Thatcher had been in power for a decade and there was seemingly no way to remove the Tories from power. Labour, the official opposition had had a series of extremely far left leaders in the early Eighties after the Callagahan government was ousted by the Tories. First Michael Foot and then Neil Kinnock. Both innefective leaders during the Eighties and hamstrung by the far left in the Labour party.

The supremacy of money, the "greed is good" mentality and the rise of the Stockmarkets and the City of London as the prime engine of GDP in the UK (and therefore political influence), the demise of manufacturing were all well in place by the end of the Eighties.

So, that's setting out the stall for the genesis of the post-truth era, back in 1989.

In my next post I'll try and explain how during the early Nineties this all started to affect management, public services, politics, society and life in general.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Old-Fashioned Tribalism: Public Opinion of Political Parties.

It seems to me there is a great disconnect with what people think UK political parties stand for (based on historical predjudices) and what they actually stand for today.

For instance the Tories are thought of by the public as Toffs, for the rich: a low-tax, low-spending party. A party of less government, commercial freedom and commerce.

It couldn't be further from the current truth. For instance the Tories are presiding over a period where the tax take is at it's highest in history. Spending has increased while the Tories have been in office despite austerity.

Rather than helping commerce, the Tories have increased Business rates.

The Tories are stifling freedom by allowing HMRC to persue spurious IR35 claims, going far and above the original remit of the IR35 rules. It's now so bad it's stifling self-employment. Anyone that is thinking about working for an employment agency on a self-employed basis has to be very careful not to be caught out by IR35 rules. Hardly the swashbuckling commercial freedom the Tories are reknown for.

The current Tory government are not Tories of old. they are Blairites: Red Tories that push a Socialist agenda rather than tradiational conservative policies.

The same goes for labour: they are no longer for the working man. Instead, after the Blair years they were for the big global corporations.  The Blairite agenda has now passed to the Tories.

Instead Labour are now run buy middle-class trots: paople who beleive that reviving far left ideas will somehow gain us a Socialist Utopia. A bit like Venezuela. Aparrently by borrowing an infinite amount of money (that somehow doesn't have to be paid back with interest), Labour can cure all the ills of UK.

With an infinite amount of money the NHS can be saved. Yeah right, only if you sort out the incompetence and the massive amount of money going to lawyers over negligence claims.

I just wish the veil would be lifted and the population of the UK can see what I see: a disunited UK, a labour party that doesn't not fight for the working guy, Tories that do not fight for small businesses, political parties that do not promote the UK population but instead put immigrants on a pedestal, that somehow self-employment has become a dirty word and that everyone needs to be classed as PAYE unless you're a big corporation that can negotiate a deal on tax (like tax is negotiable for the rest of us...).