The Blunders of Our Governments

The Blunders of Our Governments

Book rating: 05 Hardback

By (author) Anthony King, By (author) Ivor Crewe

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  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications
  • Format: Hardback | 512 pages
  • Dimensions: 162mm x 228mm x 44mm | 780g
  • Publication date: 19 September 2013
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1780742665
  • ISBN 13: 9781780742663
  • Sales rank: 47,528

Product description

blunder/'blvnde(r)/, n., A gross mistake; an error due to stupidity or carelessness. There are a handful of cock-ups that we remember all too well, from the poll tax to the Millennium Dome. However, the list is longer than most of us realize - and it's growing. With unrivalled political savvy and a keen sense of irony, distinguished political scientists Anthony King and Ivor Crewe open our eyes to the worst government horror stories and explain why the British political system is quite so prone to appalling mistakes. You will discover why: * The government wasted up to GBP20 billion pounds in a failed scheme to update London's Underground system. * Tens of thousands of single mothers were left in poverty without financial support from absent fathers. * Tony Blair committed the NHS to the biggest civilian IT project the world has ever seen, despite knowing next to nothing about computing. * The Assets Recovery Agency cost far more to run than it ever clawed back from the proceeds of organised crime. * The Coalition government is at least as blunder-prone as any of its predecessors. Groupthink, constantly rotating ministers and a weak parliament all contribute to wasted billions and illogical policy. But, it doesn't have to be this way. Informed by years of research and interviews with senior cabinet ministers and civil servants, this razor-sharp diagnosis of flawed government is required reading for every UK citizen. With its spirited prescriptions for more fool-proof policymaking, it will prove to be one of the most important political books of the decade.

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Author information

Anthony King is Millennium Professor of British Government at the University of Essex. He broadcasts frequently on politics and elections for the BBC and writes on the same subjects for the Financial Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Observer. Sir Ivor Crewe is the Master of University College, Oxford. He was formerly Professor of Government and Vice Chancellor at the University of Essex.

Customer reviews

By Paul D 18 Sep 2013 5

Blundering Around Whitehall

The Blunders our Governments make by the respected political professors and commentators Ivor Crewe and Anthony King is a non-partisan look at the mistakes that all governments make in the course of history. Sometimes in the face of fierce opposition they still make the mistakes most politicians like to quietly disown while the opposition party likes to remind them of.

It is not all bad as Crewe and King explain what they view as a Blunder and not all of them come from knee-jerk reactions to the press. The book starts with some of the successes of Government, and sometimes things that governments ought to be proud to boast of but forgotten about. A case in point being Margaret Thatcher, often accused of having no industrial policy other than close things down, through the strength of a meeting with a Japanese Company in the 1980s brought inward investment to the North East of England from the Nissan Car Company who to this day still invest heavily in car manufacturing in the region. Thatcher in her own autobiography should be proud of this achievement but it only gets a mention in passing of no more than a sentence. King and Crewe show that all governments since 1945 have done some good and some bad as unintended consequences of policy proposals, such as the Town & Country Act a success but not recognised or the disaster that was Energy Minister Manny Shinwell who was warned there would be fuel shortages and did absolutely nothing to prepare for it. But I could point to many more disasters Shinwell created. Or that the Labour Party should be proud of its manifesto promise of a minimum wage and its implementation with the then Tory leader in 2005 admitting they were wrong to oppose it.

There is also a mention of Sir Keith Joseph the Conservative Party's guiding light on the free market and policies when he asked a Conservative voter who lived in the USA what he missed about the UK, he was taken aback that he said the BBC and NHS the two things that were very much government led via the Treasury. If asked that question now I am sure he would say something different about the BBC, especially with their attitude to spending our money. Not like the BBC would give overpaid managers massive payoffs at our expense or employ a former MP with no experience of technology implementation in charge if technology at the BBC, oh wait hang on!

All the old favourites are here such as the tax that has always led to riots and it did in 1990 to with riots in Trafalgar Square yes The Poll Tax is there! Guiding you through that the likes of Chancellor Nigel Lawson saw it as nothing more than a fool's errand that would cost more politically and financially while Michael Heseltine had dismissed the proposals in the early 80s as unworkable. Even the architects of the scheme Kenneth Baker and William Waldergrave had misgiving by the time of implementation as things had changed during the course and were being led blindly by Margaret Thatcher and Nicholas Ridley. They also ask where on earth were Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition Party was at this time, on one of its naval-gazing exercises of the late 1980s as it happens, yes Hatton and Militant Tendency were still active causing the leadership to take their eye off the ball at that time.

This book guides us through some wonderful blunders, some we are clearly aware of now but were ignorant at the time. Or those blunders we could also see happening but the Honourable Members of Her Majesty's Government know better! Reminds me of the current and previous Government and their lust for HS2, which will be expensive with out of date trains and technology before a line is laid. We can see this as what it is a massive vanity project that we the public taxpayers do not want but some moronic politician knows better than us and hey it is only money, our tax money!

Through this book we are reminded of some blunders that happened even while opposition MPs spoke up and warned them of unintended consequences, please step up Michael Meacher, Margaret Beckett and Frank Haynes who all shouted that pension mis-selling would happen as an unintended consequence to changes in Pension Legislation. I will not point out who was right but I believe the mis-selling is costing us a few billion, easy money its only tax cash.

They also point to the failings of the Labour Years and their expensive blunders, Individual Learning Accounts anyone? Do not worry there is all ways the Asset Recovery Agency where assets remained unrecovered, or a favourite of the Treasury's the more expensive tax credits and debits. My favourite is the implementation of IT across Whitehall, and the technophobe Tony Blair who implementated one of the biggest rollouts of IT which still gives the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office enough work to last another life time.

There is also honourable mentions for the famed massively expensive rip off of tax money the Public Private Partnerships and the one that does get highlighted is one forgotten by most of the UK shall we mention "Metronet" leave it at that and invite you to read more about it in the chapter, Down the tubes.

This wonderful book covers all the reasons as to why blunders happen, whether it is due to the constant change of Ministers, or the lack of accountability to Parliament. How sometimes Ministers of all political shades act more like activists than leaders of a government department. Let's not forget how the press can assist in the blunders of our political leaders by generating panic, picking symbols of this panic and spinning it out of control.

The Blunders of our Government is the best summary from a non-partisan view of the mistakes all governments have made usually with the best of intentions. Sometimes it also shows how out of touch some of our elected representatives really are. As it says on the dust jacket this is a must read for all those who are Ministers of the Crown and those who wish to be, including the opposition. I have read this with a mixture of laughing, crying and just simply shaking my head. This is a book not just for politicians and the students of politics but for those of us who are historians who will one day have to write and define governments and their reasons for success and failure. This is the first time things have been defined and it is a must read for all those in Parliament now!

Review quote

'This is an astonishing achievement - that very rare thing, a genuinely original book and an immediately essential guide to the failures of British politics. King and Crewe go deep, without a shred of pomposity or a phrase of false rhetoric. From now on, every political journalist, civil servant and would-be minister needs to start here.' Andrew Marr, Journalist and author of 'My trade: A short history of Journalism' 'Enthralling.' David Dimbleby 'This book will make you gasp in disbelief and stamp your feet in rage, and quite frequently reduce you to helpless laughter... it is hard to overpraise.' Guardian 'One of the hottest books of the season.' Scotsman 'Excellent... This book is essential reading.' -- Alistair Darling 'A powerful new book.' -- Dominic Sandbrook Daily Mail 'Illuminating and disturbing.' Daily Telegraph 'From two of our most brilliant political analysts... [a] thoroughly entertaining and erudite history of great British debacles.' Observer 'Entertaining.' Independent 'Clever and absorbing.' The Times 'The closest politics gets to pornography.' -- Simon Jenkins Guardian 'Rivetingly told... a feast of fiascos, a banquet of balls-ups.' -- Francis Wheen Literary Review 'Timely and intelligent.' Prospect 'Grimly entertaining... This book should be a compulsory text for every would-be minister and permanent secretary.' Financial Times 'Compelling... David Cameron is said to have read about Winston Churchill's early warmongering during his summer holidays. It would have been much better for all of us if he had read this.' Independent on Sunday 'An entertaining journey through the cock-ups of governments.' A non-fiction choice in the Independent's 50 Best Winter Reads Independent 'Fascinating and zeitgeisty.' -- David Aaronovitch The Times 'This is a very apposite book and should be read by ministers, shadow ministers, parliamentarians and civil servants.' Total Politics 'In a refreshing break from the customary finger-pointing tribalism of British politics, Anthony King and Ivor Crewe lay bare the ways in which governments of all hues have wasted mountains of cash on titanically misconceived projects in the past few decades... astonishing.' Metro "A notable indictment of modern British politics and administration... a splendid dipping-into volume to feed fashionable public distain for the fragile art of politics.' -- Best Politics Books of 2013 Guardian 'If Britain's politicians are among the world's most honest, hardworking and well-meaning, why do they mess up so badly and so often? A trenchant book that will make you see red, even as you laugh.' -- Best Books of 2013 Economist 'Must be read by every incumbent and wannabe representative of the people.' -- Best Books of 2013 The Herald