Friday, September 26, 2008

The British Economy Pantomime 2008

I thought with Christmas approaching it’s topical that I exclusively preview on Simplicity Blog ‘The British Economy Pantomime 2008.’

(As a life long Labour Party supporter, and as someone who likes Gordon Brown as a person, this hurts me more than it hurts you but sometimes we have to say it as it really is!)


Our leading panto man is Prime Minister Gordon Brown who was Chancellor of the Exchequer for 10 of the last 11 years. He is telling us that the problems we face in Britain are actually nothing to do with him - or indeed Britain - but they are due in fact to some evil force known as ‘problems in the world economy.’ It’s obviously all to do with those other nasty people known in panto land as – ‘baddies’ – Boo!!! Hiss!!!

The nice Gordon tells us that, actually, everyone else in the world is to blame and not us folks in Britain so that is very re-assuring. And of course it’s definitely not the fault of Gordon himself who is, needless to say, squeaky clean and absolutely blameless. (Reminder to audience: Gordon was in charge of the British economy from 1997 until 2007)

QUESTION TO AUDIENCE: - How come when things were (apparently) going well from 1997-2007 Gordon was happy to take the credit and now when things are going South in a big way it is the fault of those awful baddies ‘the world economy.’ Irony upon irony our nice Gordon - having had complete control of the bank account for 10 years has now been promoted to be in charge of the whole country of ‘Crazyland' - previously known as Britain - as Prime Minister!

ANSWER IN UNISON FROM AUDIENCE: - Politics stinks! ….. Oh yes it does!!

EPILOGUE: - They really couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s like appointing Richard Nixon as Chief Executive of ‘The Truth Commission.’

I really don’t have a downer on Gordon Brown. Actually he is a very experienced politician. There is probably no-one better to choose from in an era of dullness - the like of which I have never known in my adult life as far as politics is concerned. All politicians in Britain - regardless of gender or age - suffer the very contagious disease of 'sameness' - they look the same, talk the same, wear the same type of clothes and frankly I cannot think of one of our 450 plus democratically elected Members of Parliament in Britain that inspires hope. Where are the likes of Tony Benn?


Quoting the words of the front page headline of ‘The Sun’ - Britain’s most popular daily newspaper (more accurately described as a ‘Comic’) of many years ago …

‘Would the last person leaving Britain please turn out the lights’


Anonymous said...

interesting blogs!!

Anonymous said...

Gordon Brown:

Pension fund raid: pensions industry now in the red to a huge, huge extent.

Gold reserves: sold at almost the very bottom of the market.

Student tuition fees: introduced with the result that our best-educated children start their working life with debt of around 1 years salary.

10p income tax: total mess-up with the result that it cost about £1.5b to put right.

Millenium dome: total farce, building eventually sold at a give-away price to avoid further government embarassment.

Prudence: balance of payments and reserves shot to pieces to fund so-called improvements in services which (to be fair) have had some positive impact but which have mainly funded higher wages we now can't afford.

Prudence: sitting on his backside and watching as the credit splurge got out of control, personal bankruptcies increased and default rates got higher.

It's not a pantomine, Trevor, it's a tragedy.

J.KANNAN said...

Dear Mark,
You know the happenings in your country better than we out siders, but sad to know its a tragedy state of affairs. Rename "Gordon Brown" as " God on Blow "- What else to do, as he is blowing that way.

mark, you are well updated, it seems with updated facts and figures.

All the best Mr. Mark, Put your best of team efforts to change the scenarion from Tragedy to Fairy Tale.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Mark – the ‘tragedy’ is all across supposedly advanced nations. I believe it is rooted in greed. I am sad because as you know I am a life long Labour Party supporter. The older I get the more I come round to your line of thought that we should pick the best qualities of politicians from all parties and not perhaps be so ‘party centred’ as I have been for the last 30 years.

As I see it in the biggest problem with that approach in 2008 is where the hell I find even one politician that can inspire me! I seriously cannot see anyone among the 450 MP’s who makes me want to get alongside their way of thinking.

JK – you are right - we should ALL put our knowledge and skills to good effect to try and change things politically. Maybe I should think about going into politics!! .. Having thought about it … definitely not!

Anonymous said...

It's too shallow to say it's down to greed, however big an input that has had. And by the way, greed cuts both ways: it's not just the bankers who were greedy, but also us consumers who - in the UK and US at least - have been too complicit in taking out 120% mortgages, retail credit etc etc.

I strongly believe it's also down to ineffective and negligent politicians who have ignored all the warning signs and wimped out of taking preventative action. In France, if you want to buy a house then you must pay a 20% deposit and your repayments mustn't total more than 30% of your income. Bounce a cheque and your account will be suspended. Would that our policians in the UK had the courage and the commonsense to mandate certain limits on individual exposure.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mark - I didn’t say greed was only on the part of bankers. I mean greed full stop for everyone - including you and me as consumers.

When I got my first mortgage of about £8000 just over thirty years ago I had to (metaphorically) sweat blood to get two and a half times my salary as a mortgage and it was conditional upon me finding a 10% deposit. At that time I had my full time 40 hour NHS job and 4 part time jobs including 20 hours a week bar work, a four hour Sunday morning paper round and 15 hours per week part time journalism. I regularly worked more than 80 hours per week to scrape together the deposit.

Things come far too easy now I agree with you.

I am surprised however to hear you say you would welcome more government control of the individual. I thought you were all for the type of free market no government interference society that has created the problems the US is now picking up the pieces from.

JOHN O'LEARY said...

I think all you Brits should just follow the US strategy on the economy. (Oh, wait a minute, we don't have one yet. Let me get back to you on that...)

Trevor Gay said...

Love it - thanks John :-)

Anonymous said...

It is very easy to take the credit for things which go well, but it is considerably more difficult to acknowledge responsibility when things go badly.

I had the pleasure of visiting your country whilst on vacation last month (my brother lives in London), and I must say that whislt your country may be experiencing economic challenges at the moment, I do not agree with the newspaper comment about turning out the lights.

What I saw, from an outsider's viewpoint, was a dynamic and vibrant multicultural society that has a great deal going for it and much to be thankful for and proud of.

Trevor Gay said...

Many thanks Andrew – it is brilliant to hear someone from another country sing the praises of Britain. I would not wish to live anywhere else in the world. I love Britain and I am very proud of our long history. Where is your brother based in the UK and where is your home?

Azrolboyz said...

thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

We're in the middle of a national election in Canada and we've had several candidates dropped by their parties because they've sanctioned illegal drug use, exposed themselves to children, posted racist comments etc.

Where are the decent, thinking, experienced people willing to give their best to lead the country?

Is it because all the power is in the PM's office that talented people have no desire to be yes-men(persons?) to poll-scanning hacks?

Is it because we now hold our politicians in such contempt that the dedicated no longer consider elected office as an outlet for public service?

Am I bitter and cynical because I haven't had breakfast yet?

I know-

I know-

Simply do the best that I can do doing what needs to be done today, and let the world turn as it will.

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Trevor, I'm disappointed. I haven't seen you digress from a thread lately to hype your football team. Where's the passion, mate?

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Anonymous – thanks for your comments

I don’t think you are in the slightest bitter and cynical. You speak from the heart and you say it as you see it. I look at some of the fantastic politicians of the past who had real passion and how they were prepared to stand up against party ideas – people like Tony Benn who was never afraid to go against the party line even if it meant his own career prospects dipped.

Most politicians these days are frightened of their own shadow and are terrified of stepping out of line.

You ask - Where are the decent, thinking, experienced people willing to give their best to lead the country?

I think it is probably apathy on the part of most of us – we are underwhelmed by the appalling standard of politicians. Most people are too busy doing good things in spite of rather than because of politicians. More people outside politics are making a difference in our world than those inside politics.

Keep rattling the cage my friend

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for the opportunity and the lead in John - my beloved Manchester United won 2-0 today (Saturday). The season is still very young and United are - as usual - starting slowly - just to give the other teams their 15 minutes of fame.

United will be on top of the table soon I have no doubt - and by the end of the season in May 2009 we will be counting the trophies again whilst other teams dream of what might have been..

Hope you are keeping well my friend!

PS Had you noticed I have not mentioned The Eagles either for a while John? :- )

JOHN O'LEARY said...

I'm always shocked to hear people in the Commonwealth complain about a lack of political leadership - especially given the national leadership we have been blessed with in the US for the last 8 years - and on shining display this very weekend.

Now that you mention it, Trevor, you have been uncharacteristically silent on the Eagles lately. Are you feeling ok?

Well, I hesitate to give you more weapons to hurl against rival football fans but to cheer you up I offer you an old American baseball joke that you can customize for your partisan purposes…

A Chicago school teacher was asking Johnny if he was a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan. [Chicago has two professional baseball teams with fans that hate each other.] Johnny piped up: “I’m a Cubs fan.” “And why is that, Johnny?” “Because my parents are Cubs fans.” “Well, that’s not a good enough reason. You need to think for yourself. You don’t have to be what your parents are. What if your parents were drug dealers? What would that make you?” “Oh, that would make me a White Sox fan.”

Trevor Gay said...

John – Love the story and here is one in reply. You need to know that Manchester United and Liverpool are perhaps the two greatest rivals in British football (soccer) in other words REAL football.

Billy was at school one morning and the teacher asked all the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came: fireman, policeman, salesman, chippy, captain of industry, doctor, etc. But Billy was being uncharacteristically quiet and so the teacher asked him about his father. Bill replied "My father is an exotic dancer in a gay club and takes off all his clothes in front of other men. Sometimes if the offer is really good, he’ll go out with a man, rent a cheap hotel room and let them sleep with him." The teacher quickly set the other children some work and took little Billy aside to ask him if that was really true. "No" said Billy. "He plays for Liverpool football team but I was too embarrassed to say"

David Wike said...

John, the reason that he’s been quite on the MU front is that they haven’t been going very well so far. Still, they have managed to struggle up to 9th with their win at the weekend. Of course, Trevor can always come up with a derogatory story about Liverpool, but I note that he forgot to mention that United lost to Liverpool when they visited Anfield recently. And just for the record, Liverpool visited their Merseyside rivals Everton on Saturday and won there as well.

But back to politics. It is good news indeed that Trevor is thinking about removing his Socialist blinkers and voting for whoever offers the best potential when the next election comes along. In his usual simplistic way he has dismissed all ‘450 plus’ MPs as being unimpressive. Dare I ask Mr Gay whether you really know them ALL well enough to be able to judge? And by the way, unless I am much mistaken there are 635 of them!

I tend to think that we get the politicians that we deserve. If we patronise the media that seeks nothing more than to try to trap politicians into saying something that can be twisted out of context, is it surprising that we get politicians who make bland statements?

I’ll end on a footballing note with a quote from the fabulous Bill Shankly, the father of the modern Liverpool Football Club: "If you can't make decisions in life, you're a bloody menace. You'd be better becoming an MP!" (Member of Parliament)

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David – Man United are actually in a better position at the point than last season and we came through to win the double yet again … as you know. I think Liverpool will finish in the top five again. With my objective hat on I really must not allow Manchester United to grab all the glory every year so I am happy to allow Liverpool fans to dream on about winning the premier league for the first time in almost 20 years.

Apologies for underestimating the number of MP’s David – I guess that shows how dull they must be and how disinterested I am in the whole subject.

I will always be a socialist but I agree it is sensible to look got the best bits of different candidates regardless of party. I cannot however ever see myself putting my x against a Tory candidate’s name.

David Wike said...

So you are saying that you would vote for a known incompetent rather than a stunningly capable candidate from the Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties? Astonishing! Perhaps you should go to live in America!

JOHN O'LEARY said...

"Perhaps you should go live in America" has now become a standard Euro punch line, given the standard of political leadership in the States. As a leadership coach I can point to the last eight years in Washington as dramatic proof that leadership at the top really CAN have profound effects on a given organization, institution, community, or society. And that's not to slight leadership at other levels. But regressive top down leadership can suppress the best efforts of reform from within - at least for a while. (By the way, my latest post discusses leadership coaching.)

Hopefully we've finally hit rock bottom over here, with only one left direction to go!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David – if I ever see a ‘stunningly capable candidate from the Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties’ I will be sure to let you know immediately. I haven’t seen one yet in the 38 years I’ve been legally allowed to vote. I would dearly love to visit America – it remains an ambition unfulfilled but I am happy living in England for now - the US is too far away from Manchester.

John – brilliant comment and I’m glad you said that and not me. I know that you knew GWB well and his childhood antics … remind us again what a charming young man your President was!:- )

David Wike said...

Sorry John and other US readers. It was a bit unkind to suggest that Trevor comes over to add to your woes!

I still struggle to grasp your thinking Trevor. Let me remind readers of your first two Simplicity tips:

Simplicity Tip Number 1 - Staff at the front line know ALL the answers ALL the time.

Simplicity Tip Number 2 - If managers have a job at all in 2008 it is to make it easy for front line staff to do their job with freedom.

I know that that one should never generalise, but I will. The Labour party’s instincts are to legislate, to control, to micro-manage. On the other hand, the Conservatives are more inclined to free people to be responsible for their own actions. Put another way, it is the Conservatives who are more aligned with your Simplicity tips. Hence my confusion over your views.

For the record, I vote for whoever I think will do the best job at the time. When Labour and Tony Blair came into government in 1997, I voted Labour because I had a problem with some of the views of the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for my constituency of Bromsgrove. Despite my lack of support, she was elected to serve as our Member of Parliament. Subsequently I have been won over by the lady. She has proved to be an exceptionally good constituency MP, and so will continue to receive my vote.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David

I’ve voted Liberal more times than Labour in my life at General Elections. My liberal vote was tactical in one case to prevent a particularly obnoxious Tory getting in and the other times my vote went to Adrian Sanders in Devon – an exceptional local man from Paignton who I liked as a person – and I worked with his wife actually a while. Adrian is still the sitting MP for Torbay and I hope he goes on for many years – he fights for his local people and always puts local issues at the top of his agenda. A very genuine man and very humble.

Oddly enough I always remember my former brother in law who was a very successful businessman – his business grew rapidly in the 1970’s when a Labour Government was in power and his business went downhill under the Thatcher Tories – and yet he remained a Tory – go figure!

I’m pleased you have a good local MP in Bromsgrove and I will be looking around in Coventry when it comes to the next election and I will make up my mind at the time. It is 99% certain I will not be voting Conservative.

I think Labour gives the individual as much - if not more - freedom than traditional Tory policy despite what the media and the myths would like us to believe.

Richard Lipscombe said...

Trevor... Like David I often struggle to understand your concept of Simplicity when you layer it with Labour Party dogma.

Simplicity is highly valued because it is rare or at least not commonplace. My experiences, in politics and elsewhere, have taught me to truly value Simplicity and thus to try hard to nurture it wherever I can.

As you know I had a stint working as a long-term policy adviser to the Australian Prime Minister (he led a Liberal/National Party coalition at the time). When I went to the interview for the job I told them I had always voted Labor - they told me it did not matter they were hiring my brain not buying my vote.

I was dubbed their 'token socialist' not because I continued to vote Labor but because of the positions/options/commentaries I presented to the government. I was able to serve the government well because I was there for the nation not just for the government. All my staff were there for the nation not just for the government.

This point was illustrated best when I was asked a simple question on election day while bunkered done inside our Election Campaign Headquarters (fighting for the re-election of the government which we got in a landslide). The question was simple, "did you and all your staff vote early and often?" to which I replied a resounding "yes!" The question was code for "did you all vote Labor?"....

Strange as it may seem to you Trevor we did all vote Labor but we also all served our government so well that they tended to listen more eagerly and intently to what we had to say... Often we cut through to Simplicity where most of the others could not because our thinking, frameworks for action, value sets, etc were not stuck within the prevailing ideology or dogma.

Ideology and dogma can be a good thing to give one (a leader, Prime Minister, President, etc) direction and purpose but most times it has to be left outside the discussion if one is to find the Simplicity we seek in our workplace or worldly affairs.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Richard – great to hear from you again – hope you are well.

My thoughts about simplicity have been formed through personal experience in life and particularly in my work and really have nothing whatsoever to do with politics with a capital P.

I am passionate about simplicity in work because I’ve seen so much poor management riddled with unnecessary complexity. I’ve seen far too many aloof, pretentious people called ‘managers’ who seem to go to work doing nothing more than making it more difficult for front line people to do their job. I think the greatest management guru of all, Peter Drucker, got it right when he said;

“Ninety percent of what we call ‘management’ consists of making it difficult for people to get things done.”

My support for the Labour Party goes back to my upbringing when my late beloved Dad - as a passionate Union man - told me countless tales of bad management practices of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. He was a highly qualified engine inspector with many years experience of ‘managing’ men on the line and I can remember him telling me how the men on his production line in the factory he worked in - Perkins Diesel Engines, Peterborough - never saw a manager ‘from the office’ on the front line. In those days it was truly a war rather than a partnership of worker and management. Dad was in the middle to some extent but very rarely did I hear him praise ‘management.’

That conflict between ‘the office’ Management) and ‘the front line’ (Workers) was rooted in politics with a capital P without a doubt. After all the Trade Union movement was at the heart of the formation of the Labour Party. There is still a huge part of me that thinks like my Dad. He died in 1994 and at 70 he was still as anti-Conservative as he ever had been.

I have always admired your great experience and work in politics Richard and I cannot begin to argue with you on this because you are so much more qualified than I am on pure politics.

I also realise that one can sometimes stay in one mode of thought at one’s own cost. I am certainly not as passionate these days as I used to be about the Labour/Tory battle. After all there is so little difference between them now!

Influenced by people like you and David I do now tend to look for the positive qualities of any politician regardless of the party they represent.

Life is about learning as we go along and I pride myself in being very flexible about most things and always keen to learn. That is one of the many joys of writing this Blog and enjoying such great conversations as this.

I admit that I have an inbuilt bias for the Labour Party over the Conservative Party - probably to do with being brought up in a working class family with Trade Union roots – an upbringing I am very proud of by the way.

The main point I wanted to get over to both you and David is that simplicity is my mantra – formed through personal experience and not by any political persuasion.

What a fabulous discussion – thanks Richard and all.

Anonymous said...


It was comforting to hear in your comments that there are still those in elected office who do in fact represent the needs of their constituents. I struggle to see how my Congressional delegation even attempts to represent any interests other than their own. If their is ever a time where Simplicity is needed I believe it is in the U.S. political system. More than two parties are needed. All elections and campaigns should be funded publically and equally as our incumbents have a tremendous advantage over their challengers. The election cycle should last no more than 4-6 months. Extend the terms of the House of Representatives to four years TO STOP THEIR CONTINUOUS FUNDRAISING and see if they actually can LEGISLATE and cap all to three terms max, one more than the President is currently afforded. Are moe reforms needed...probably. But those above might be a great start. How simple is that?

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Dave - thank for that. I am not well acquainted with the US political system so it is good to have a bit of education in that regard. I hear what you say and from a distance it sounds like it is so simple that it won't happen!

In my experience there is often a vested interest in keeping things complex for those who want to continue the illusion of using the word ‘expert.’ If we think about that all professions are guilty of it. Accountants, solicitors, builders, plumbers, hairdressers, car mechanics, doctors and yes especially managers. If they make things ‘complex’ to the ‘non expert’ the myth is perpetuated that unique skills and knowledge are needed.

Forgive this rant on what I mean by Simplicity and please don’t misunderstand my point – of course I ONLY want the most highly qualified heart surgeon who is a real EXPERT in his field to operate on me and not some guy who fills shelves for a living at the local supermarket.

I know you will understand what I mean Dave. We both know there are many managers who act like they are ‘experts’ and they believe the myth and perpetuate it whilst there are (thank God) those managers who see it as perfectly normal behaviour and good management practice to let go of this false mystique. They act by example and talk plain language that the people they manage can not only understand but more importantly buy into.

We really don’t have to be Einstein to work this out.

Maybe you should stand in politics in the US to try and change things – after all John O’Leary did – both of you would get my vote when my friend David Wike finally gets fed up with me and puts me on the boat to the US!

Anonymous said...

Outstanding! The U.K.'s loss would the U.S.'s gain. I'm thinking the "Common Sense, What a Concept" Tour could be huge!

Anonymous said...

So, Trevor, where do you stand as an "expert" on simplicity? Rather a contradictory position?! :-)

Trevor Gay said...

Not a contradictory position at all Mark :-)

I’ve never seen myself as an ‘expert’ in simplicity, largely because one doesn’t have to be an expert in anything to crave simplicity - which is what most of us want in life and at work.

Therefore my take on your question is we are ALL EXPERTS in simplicity.

David Wike said...

Well, well, we have ‘outed’ Trevor. He is really a Liberal Democrat at heart! Anything else you want to admit to while you’re in the mood for confessions Trevor? You can tell us if you are really an Arsenal fan, it’ll be our secret!

We are all influenced by our backgrounds, by our family and our upbringing and all the experiences along the way. A couple of years back I was privileged to hear a speech by the athlete Kriss Akabusi. He is the most extraordinary communicator that I have ever come across and it was an astonishing experience to hear him tell of his struggle to escape his childhood in a children’s’ home, through life in the army to eventual stardom as Olympic medallist and world champion. He said, “Do not be trapped by your past. The past is for reference, not residence.”

In its early days the union movement was necessary to provide some protection against exploitation of employees. But generally unions failed to move with changing times and became a major burden to the UK economy. Working in the UK car industry in the 70s I experienced this at first hand. Even a minor dispute would cause a walkout and often the factory gates were picketed. By picketed I don’t mean a peaceful protest. They were barricaded and all movement in and out was blocked. Maybe you’ve never been held prisoner in your place of work Trevor, but I can tell you it’s not nice.

I disliked Margaret Thatcher and some of the things that she stood for, but I admire the woman for recognising that Britain had to change and then having the determination to make that change happen. I am sure that you will never agree Trevor, but the UK is a better place to live and work as a result of Thatcher’s years. In some of your articles you have written about the need to change, to embrace new technology, to move with the times. That is what Lady Thatcher believed and practised.

Moving on, I am not sure that experts set out to generate jargon just so that they appear to be experts. Generally these terms arise for a good (or fairly) good reason. The problem is that many ‘experts’ fail to recognise that they continue to use jargon or technical terms in everyday conversation. It is similar to the use of colloquialisms when talking to foreigners. Because we use them everyday it is easy to forget that most of them will make no sense to a foreigner, however good their English. It is only if you live in a country and are surrounded by its culture that you start to appreciate some aspects of the language.

I am not sure that we are all experts in simplicity. I suspect that we are capable of becoming experts but like many things in life, it requires constant practice is we are to be any good at it.

Any road up, to use a northern colloquialism, I see that your lads went well last night – your ever so expensive new striker suddenly started to look worth the extraordinary amount of money that he cost. I watched the Arsenal game. It pains me to say it but they are well worth watching. Of course, the world’s greatest football team will be playing this evening, when the strains of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from the finest choir in the world will float over the Liverpool night air!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David – some quick responses to your excellent comments!

1 No more confessions.
2 Kriss Akabusi is clearly an amazing character and he is absolutely right not to be trapped by our past but it is equally right to love our past if we were brought up in a warm, caring family and allow those experiences to influence us.
3 You’re right David – I’ve never worked in ‘prison’ like environment – I suspect I would escape if it were the case.
4 WOW!! "The UK is a better place to live and work as a result of Thatcher’s years" - Needless to say I disagree. I heard a discussion recently on BBC Radio 4 that argued the reason we are now in the financial state we are in is also due to the ‘Thatcher years’ when she promoted individuality which resulted in greed.
5 I agree jargon is ok when talking with like minded people.
6 Mr Berbatov is up and running with two goals and United are beginning to move from first gear into second gear …. In another week or two United will be accelerating further …by Christmas we will be in top gear and of course from then on coasting in overdrive to the title in May
7 Good luck to Liverpool tonight … did I really type that??!!!