Saturday, 24 September 2016

The death of grown up politics

Pictured is the S2R-T660 Archangel. The bastard love-child of a Pilatus Porter and a Piper Pawnee. Look at it. An airframe dating back to the late nineteen fifties yet an order has been placed by the United Arab Emirates. Yet their thinking is lightyears ahead of our own. Because look at it again. Look at what it can carry. These days it matters not what the airframe is. What matters is what it can carry and for how long. Here we see some of the most advanced and relatively expensive counter-insurgency weaponry to date.

It's faster than an Apache (£20m each) and has a flight endurance of ten hours. It costs less than $1000 per flight hour. The aircraft itself is as basic as basic gets, it's easily maintained and we could cover more ground for less money. But no, we must have big expensive things.

And when it comes to everything else where we need to improve capacity and value for money we have adopted the same mentality. HS2, Hinkley Point, Severn Lagoon and any number of local big expensive things. A park and ride scheme that nobody asked for maybe?

And this to me speaks to the weakness of our politics. It seems not to matter what we do just so long as we have a big expensive thing. Big expensive thing creates jobs. Big expensive thing ticks the boxes. Then the rest of the time we are pressed into buying small expensive things to make up for the capability gap caused by big expensive thing. Ordinarily small expensive thing would be a small inexpensive thing - but when you need it in a hurry and you need to save face, small inexpensive thing because small and ludicrously expensive thing.

This dynamic is often mistaken for inherent problems that come with government procurement. I think, however, it is indicative of another feature. Political vanity. Hinkley Point is a stop gap so that we can reach our vanity climate change targets. As is the Severn Lagoon. And when we look at defence procurement, it's not about satisfying any real military or practical requirement. It's just about having big boys toys. Fast jets and mean looking helicopters. The brass love them and it keeps the politicians in photo opportunities.

Throughout we have lost any sense of political maturity. Public scrutiny is a dead art. We notionally have MPs to stop governments using public funds to further their political vanity projects but the system of scrutiny has apparently collapsed. MPs are no longer capable of focussing on grown up issues and applying their intellect. Everywhere you look adult areas of policy, Brexit especially, are dominated by show-boating imbeciles playing to the media for political advantage. This is not sustainable if we wish to remain a first rate power in the world.

It was said during the referendum that an issue like the EU was too complex for the public to be able to vote on and that it should instead be left to the deliberative process. What we have seen though is that our politicians on both sides of the divide have an embarrassingly limited notion of what the EU is and what it does - and that they are ill equipped for such a momentous task. And that is why Brexit is necessary. We must shine more light on the fact that our political system is broken and those who slither into positions of influence are in no way fit to govern. Perhaps then we might get round to doing something about it.

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