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Pothole politics is paralysing Britain The nation suffers from executive dysfunction

Is this class warfare?


April 20, 2023   5 mins

Political discourse is stupid. There’s a Twitter account, for example, whose sole remit is to reply to anyone who provides a government spending number, by confirming how many days of NHS spending it represents.

Recently, though, we’ve gained a new unit of stupid political measurement: the pothole. Labour councils could have filled 24,000 potholes with the money they spent on diversity and inclusion in a year, according to a press release from CCHQ this week.

The briefing has an unmistakable whiff of election messaging. It came on the heels of a renewed pledge by Rishi Sunak to tackle Britain’s increasingly potholed and unpassable roads, and suggests the Tories are jockeying for position as the party of people who live in the material world, as opposed to those Marie Antoinettes of moral abstraction and virtue-signalling on the Opposition bench.

But can they pull this off? I’m not convinced. During a recent campaign visit to Darlington, in which he promised to address Britain’s pothole-ridden roads, Sunak pointed out a particularly large offender to the national media. But even after becoming, however briefly, Britain’s most famous bit of missing tarmac, it took another two weeks before anyone came along to fix it.

Nor is the decline of our national infrastructure confined to the roads: an internal Network Rail report leaked to The Independent predicts escalating delays and cancellations due to a lack of funding. And this can hardly be blamed on the Labour Party’s DEI spending — which, Labour spin-doctors were eager to point out, in any case also gobbles up cash in Tory-run government departments.

Why does it seem so difficult today to get anything done? For the majority of Britons who live outside urban areas and travel by car rather than public transport, it’s easy to read this collective condition of road-mending ineptitude as a tangible sign of our fraying social fabric. But it’s perhaps more accurate to see it as a sign of a fraying social contract: a widening disconnect between those who decide what to do, and those who get it done.

When an individual struggles to turn ideas into action, clinical psychologists call this “executive dysfunction” — or, in the words of writer Molly Backes, “the Impossible Task”. I’ve had patches of very low mood in my life, and know this well: the small, mundane, practical action that ought to be done in a moment, such as posting an important letter, but that you somehow can’t do.

It’s a miserable, exhausting, exasperating state of mind. Britain’s pothole politics feels like the same kind of frustrating disconnect between idea and action, scaled up to the level of an entire nation. Even supposed efforts to address the real, material issue of potholes end up stuck in the same intangible, immaterial, discourse-only loop: Sunak’s proposal for tackling potholes, for example, wasn’t workmen with shovels and a lot of fresh tarmac. It was another layer of fines and bureaucracy, aimed at utility companies who dig up urban roads then don’t repair them.

That’s all very well, but I must have counted 50 potholes on the 30-minute drive from my home to Cambridge the other day, and none of them was caused by utility companies. Who gets fined when these aren’t fixed? From this pessimistic angle, every disintegrating patch on the tarmac between me and Cambridge affords yet more hard evidence of wilting social cohesion: just another public good that everyone wants to use but no one can be bothered to maintain.

But the truth is not as simple as “decline”. Britain remains perfectly capable of building and maintaining infrastructure when we want to. But “when we want to” is doing some heavy lifting; and the infrastructure that gets priority isn’t roads. What’s missing is easier to see when we compare today’s pothole-war Tories to the man most indelibly associated with road improvement, both in Britain and internationally — a man so road-obsessed that he gave his name to “tarmacadam”, the surface that covers nearly all our roads today: John Loudoun McAdam.

Born in Scotland in 1756, McAdam made his fortune in New York before returning to Britain in 1783, independently wealthy and in need of something to do. He chose roads — and with good reason: if my recent drive to Cambridge was pockmarked, 18th-century Britain’s roads were cratered and almost impassable. A mix of mud and rock, maintained in a decentralised way by sometimes-corrupt and usually unaccountable “turnpike trusts”, and pummelled by a growing burden of freight, many roads were so poor that in 1725 the writer Daniel Defoe described a section of what is now the A58 as “plow’d so deep” that “the whole country has not been able to repair them”.

With time and money on his hands, McAdam travelled more than 30,000 miles, at his own expense, inspecting Britain’s roads: an obsessive interest that led to his development of “McAdamisation”, arguably the greatest innovation in road-building methods since Roman times. He was appointed surveyor-general of Bristol’s roads in 1815, after which he implemented his own proposed method, which so radically improved the roads that it became the national, then the international standard.

McAdam’s Herculean achievements are immortalised today wherever there is tarmac. By contrast, we need make no such immense effort: all we have to do is maintain the tarmac we already have. Why, then, has this seemingly grown so difficult? Why have we, collectively, developed executive dysfunction?

Juddering and bouncing my way across Cambridgeshire, it struck me that it’s not universally the case that we struggle to get things done. HS2 may be ballooning in cost; Network Rail may be falling apart; the road to Cambridge may increasingly have a texture akin to a giant cheese-grater; it may have taken a fortnight to fix the most famous pothole in Britain. But even as these aspects of our infrastructure have grown shabby, a forest of 5G masts has shot up across Britain, appearing with none of the faffing, incompetence or cost overrun that has characterised, say, the proposed East-West Rail.

In other words, it’s less that our political leaders are unable to get things done than that their understanding of what’s important has shifted. Where McAdam saw the tangible material world as the most important sphere of action, today a rich man with an interest in roads would probably fund a think tank to write white papers on freight policy, with the aim of influencing government to change their transport strategy. McAdam just got stuck in.

Is this evidence of class warfare? Of a ruling class that allows public infrastructure to collapse because they don’t use it, or because they dislike the people who do? Even if this is, in effect, what’s happening, I wonder if a more apt analogy is the “Impossible Task”. In other words, what ails us is a radical disconnect between those members of our polity whose forte is thinking, and those whose forte is doing: executive dysfunction at the national scale, because there’s something amiss with those whose job it is to think, decide and then set a course of action.

In a 2019 essay about her student experience at Yale, writer Natalia Dashan diagnosed the “campus wars” as products not of “wokeness” as such, but of a deeper malaise: a ruling class that has lost its moral purpose and sense of public obligation. Instead, as Dashan describes it, young elites seek refuge in disguising themselves as middle-class and simply pursuing material wealth, or else fill the gap variously with “risk-averse managerialism” or destructive woke activism.

All these behaviours are in evidence in pothole politics: the arguments over whether to spend money on potholes or DEI; the great many latter-day McAdams who make fortunes but don’t then devote themselves to public service; the Tories whose solution to potholes is not shovels and tarmac but more regulations and fines. And, collectively, the result is dysfunction in our national executive: an anxious, purposeless, neurotic cycling and re-cycling of thought, chronically un-translated into action — because those who thought of them lack the moral confidence to propagate their vision among more practical members of the polity.

Meanwhile those Britons who still have to live in the material world (and use its roads and railways) gaze, in confusion and mounting fury, at the fraying infrastructure built by a now-bygone culture. That culture was led by individuals who combined moral confidence and public spirit with practical attention to detail and a willingness to get personally involved. It is now being methodically neglected by a ruling class that has grown pathologically afraid of the material world, and instead spends its time on the collective equivalent of doomscrolling, or turning real, material problems into stupid, political point-scoring.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

Here’s a plan for the PM to consider. Declare a national “novel pothole” crisis. Tell the country that potholes are a mortal danger to us all and that no-one is safe until everyone is safe and the last pothole in the land is filled. Point out that potholes pose an especial threat to the poorly, elderly, disabled, and other vulnerable groups. Put pressure on coroners to ascribe every road death to potholes. Make sure “pothole” is on the death certificate of anyone who died within 48 hours driving over, past, or around a pothole. Close any roads on which any pothole is found, immediately. Also close any nearby adjoining roads, just to be safe and as a precaution. If you live within 500m of a pothole you must stay at home to keep everyone safe. Require councils to put signs up everyone reminding everyone of the pothole danger and plaster the message across all forms of media – “one in three potholes are invisible”, that kind of thing. Create a hugely expensive national pothole tracking service. Give daily press conferences at which the numbers of reported potholes and pothole-related deaths are intoned by solemn-looking officials who project future increases in pothole deaths unless stricter measures are taken. Make the public’s life such a misery that they are desperate for a “way out” of the pothole crisis. Demonise any pothole-deniers who think it’s all gone a bit too far, and don’t let them go shopping.

Then 
 find a mate, let’s call him Tony, who runs a tarmacing business. Or any business. Your local pub landlord, maybe. Give Tony multiple billions of pounds of public money and tell the public that only Tony can solve the awful pothole crisis! A moonshot! Give him three weeks to flatten the roads. Watch him fill some potholes with something that looks a bit like sand, but which he assures you has been proven to be totally safe and effective. Don’t ask any awkward questions or probe too deeply about what’s actually in his concoction, and watch Tony swan off to Switzerland with your cash, boasting at international conferences how he worked at the speed of road surfacing to solve the crisis. Quietly ignore anyone who points out that most potholes appear not to have been filled, and those that were filled reappear with 2 or 3 months. Question the sanity and integrity of anyone who dares to point out that there appear to be more potholes, and road deaths & injuries, than ever before! Declare the pothole crisis over. We’ve just got to learn to live with potholes. Sign up to an international pothole treaty so that if another pothole crisis occurs we can get Tony and his mates in to do the business much quicker next time – and this time NO roads will be open until he’s filled them up with the latest version of his specially patented filler.

Hope to high heaven that no-one will hold you to account, and live the rest of your life in utter fear and trepidation that a day will soon dawn when all of your moral cowardice, corruption, and callous indifference to human suffering will come back to haunt you.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Or – just set a very specific and realisable goal for which results can be monitored, recorded and evaluated and just do it. Say: this year we will fill in so-and-so-many potholes and set up a website where the public can check the numbers and details. Have a wee reward when milestones are reached, i.e a street party on a road which used to look like the surface of the moon but now looks like a yoga mat.
Stop thinking of reasons why things can’t be done and all the reasons why they can. Put diversity on the back burner, stop obsessing about slavery reparations or other things that happened 200 hundred years ago and focus on what is going on NOW.
Stop worshipping at the altar of MBAs and convert to the religion of GSD, i.e. GET STUFF DONE

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

My congratulations. However, if you can find away of propagating the idea that potholes are a consequence of structural racism, then the problem will soon be addressed. Probably not a good plan though as the inquisitors will most likely decry MacAdam as a colonialist oppressor and demand that all our ducking roads are dug up and reforested.

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It is all too late. Nothing works and nobody cares. Potholes did not happen 60 years ago. They were dealt with as a matter of routine because that was the way things were. What this tells us is that the entire political and administrative class is worthless. They detract from rather than add to the happiness of the country. They have collectively determind to behave like imbeciles .They also want us to pay them and to praise them and even to vote for them. Don’t have any of it any more. It is not us the powerless who have failed our country but them. Every day I mix with good people who do their best for their families and almost to a man they are sick of it. We learned during covid just how two faced and authoritarian this class were. Now it seems they are getting a bit scared. Things are not going well for them. The financial system is tottering and the assault on reality is not going well either and even the absurdly rich might, just might start to worry. Bad things happened during covid and that is a story starting to be told.
Truth is the handmaiden of time not of authority somebody once said. .

Carl White
Carl White
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Well done, Katharine, for your sterling efforts to maintain a serious eye on events.

It’s people like you who keep this country from becoming a complete joke.

Last edited 1 year ago by Carl White
Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

My congratulations. However, if you can find away of propagating the idea that potholes are a consequence of structural racism, then the problem will soon be addressed. Probably not a good plan though as the inquisitors will most likely decry MacAdam as a colonialist oppressor and demand that all our ducking roads are dug up and reforested.

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It is all too late. Nothing works and nobody cares. Potholes did not happen 60 years ago. They were dealt with as a matter of routine because that was the way things were. What this tells us is that the entire political and administrative class is worthless. They detract from rather than add to the happiness of the country. They have collectively determind to behave like imbeciles .They also want us to pay them and to praise them and even to vote for them. Don’t have any of it any more. It is not us the powerless who have failed our country but them. Every day I mix with good people who do their best for their families and almost to a man they are sick of it. We learned during covid just how two faced and authoritarian this class were. Now it seems they are getting a bit scared. Things are not going well for them. The financial system is tottering and the assault on reality is not going well either and even the absurdly rich might, just might start to worry. Bad things happened during covid and that is a story starting to be told.
Truth is the handmaiden of time not of authority somebody once said. .

Carl White
Carl White
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Well done, Katharine, for your sterling efforts to maintain a serious eye on events.

It’s people like you who keep this country from becoming a complete joke.

Last edited 1 year ago by Carl White
Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant satire – enjoyed reading it.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I disagree with where you are coming from, but I found your discourse hugely entertaining and perceptive. Well done!

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

This is the most entertaining thing I’ve read on Unherd in quite some time.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Excellent :)! Especially “ Create a hugely expensive national pothole tracking service” ! Remember, there’s an app for residents of San Francisco that tracks the presence of human, er, “waste” on the streets and sidewalks.

Alas, clearly it would be more effective to “Close any roads on which any [pothole] is found, immediately. Also close any nearby adjoining roads, just to be safe and as a precaution”

Gordon Chamberlain
Gordon Chamberlain
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant!!

Gerrard Stamp
Gerrard Stamp
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant response. Thank you for being hilarious, spot on and a great writer.

Howard Bonner
Howard Bonner
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant analysis Andrew!!

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I enjoyed this immensely! Excellent satire!

Vici C
Vici C
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Laugh or cry? Both.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Or – just set a very specific and realisable goal for which results can be monitored, recorded and evaluated and just do it. Say: this year we will fill in so-and-so-many potholes and set up a website where the public can check the numbers and details. Have a wee reward when milestones are reached, i.e a street party on a road which used to look like the surface of the moon but now looks like a yoga mat.
Stop thinking of reasons why things can’t be done and all the reasons why they can. Put diversity on the back burner, stop obsessing about slavery reparations or other things that happened 200 hundred years ago and focus on what is going on NOW.
Stop worshipping at the altar of MBAs and convert to the religion of GSD, i.e. GET STUFF DONE

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant satire – enjoyed reading it.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I disagree with where you are coming from, but I found your discourse hugely entertaining and perceptive. Well done!

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

This is the most entertaining thing I’ve read on Unherd in quite some time.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Excellent :)! Especially “ Create a hugely expensive national pothole tracking service” ! Remember, there’s an app for residents of San Francisco that tracks the presence of human, er, “waste” on the streets and sidewalks.

Alas, clearly it would be more effective to “Close any roads on which any [pothole] is found, immediately. Also close any nearby adjoining roads, just to be safe and as a precaution”

Gordon Chamberlain
Gordon Chamberlain
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant!!

Gerrard Stamp
Gerrard Stamp
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant response. Thank you for being hilarious, spot on and a great writer.

Howard Bonner
Howard Bonner
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant analysis Andrew!!

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I enjoyed this immensely! Excellent satire!

Vici C
Vici C
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Laugh or cry? Both.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

Here’s a plan for the PM to consider. Declare a national “novel pothole” crisis. Tell the country that potholes are a mortal danger to us all and that no-one is safe until everyone is safe and the last pothole in the land is filled. Point out that potholes pose an especial threat to the poorly, elderly, disabled, and other vulnerable groups. Put pressure on coroners to ascribe every road death to potholes. Make sure “pothole” is on the death certificate of anyone who died within 48 hours driving over, past, or around a pothole. Close any roads on which any pothole is found, immediately. Also close any nearby adjoining roads, just to be safe and as a precaution. If you live within 500m of a pothole you must stay at home to keep everyone safe. Require councils to put signs up everyone reminding everyone of the pothole danger and plaster the message across all forms of media – “one in three potholes are invisible”, that kind of thing. Create a hugely expensive national pothole tracking service. Give daily press conferences at which the numbers of reported potholes and pothole-related deaths are intoned by solemn-looking officials who project future increases in pothole deaths unless stricter measures are taken. Make the public’s life such a misery that they are desperate for a “way out” of the pothole crisis. Demonise any pothole-deniers who think it’s all gone a bit too far, and don’t let them go shopping.

Then 
 find a mate, let’s call him Tony, who runs a tarmacing business. Or any business. Your local pub landlord, maybe. Give Tony multiple billions of pounds of public money and tell the public that only Tony can solve the awful pothole crisis! A moonshot! Give him three weeks to flatten the roads. Watch him fill some potholes with something that looks a bit like sand, but which he assures you has been proven to be totally safe and effective. Don’t ask any awkward questions or probe too deeply about what’s actually in his concoction, and watch Tony swan off to Switzerland with your cash, boasting at international conferences how he worked at the speed of road surfacing to solve the crisis. Quietly ignore anyone who points out that most potholes appear not to have been filled, and those that were filled reappear with 2 or 3 months. Question the sanity and integrity of anyone who dares to point out that there appear to be more potholes, and road deaths & injuries, than ever before! Declare the pothole crisis over. We’ve just got to learn to live with potholes. Sign up to an international pothole treaty so that if another pothole crisis occurs we can get Tony and his mates in to do the business much quicker next time – and this time NO roads will be open until he’s filled them up with the latest version of his specially patented filler.

Hope to high heaven that no-one will hold you to account, and live the rest of your life in utter fear and trepidation that a day will soon dawn when all of your moral cowardice, corruption, and callous indifference to human suffering will come back to haunt you.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

As usual it is the result of Blair’s education education education that has produced a vast army of people capable of writing about potholes, sitting in offices theoretically tasked with implement pothole repair, people tasked with determining the qualifications of pothole repairers, people tasked with determining the racial and sexual diversity of the people tasked with the two former tasks, and so on. The number of people sitting in offices with some distant relationship to pothole repairing is legion but the number of people who are actually capable of repairing the pothole are few and unmotivated as they are bottom of the hierarchy.

It is the old joke about how many people it takes to change a lightbulb but instead how many people it takes to fill a pothole.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Of course – nothing whatsoever to do with the people who have been in charge for the last 13 years watching public services go down the pan! Are there any public services in better shape than they were in 2010?

Bettina Harries
Bettina Harries
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

It doesn’t matter who’s “in charge” – it’s the Blob: corrupt, self-serving, unaccountable group-think in action. Pinning governmental dysfunction on one particular section of the Uniparty is missing the point entirely.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Not an original thought in your head.
Whenever I see a right-winger mentioning “the blob”, or whenever I see a left winger mentioning “the patriarchy”, I’m reminded of Wilde’s remark:
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
From “De Profundis”, by Oscar Wilde

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago

Extra points for introducing the key concept of the Uniparty. Apart from deeply annoying performative nonsense around identity politics, in what way do you expect the Labour party to be materially different to the corporatist, cheap imported-labour loving, green-washed, perpetually guilt-ridden conservatives.
Its worth thinking carefully about how well the Uniparty concept explains almost all British government policy since Blair.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Not an original thought in your head.
Whenever I see a right-winger mentioning “the blob”, or whenever I see a left winger mentioning “the patriarchy”, I’m reminded of Wilde’s remark:
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
From “De Profundis”, by Oscar Wilde

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago

Extra points for introducing the key concept of the Uniparty. Apart from deeply annoying performative nonsense around identity politics, in what way do you expect the Labour party to be materially different to the corporatist, cheap imported-labour loving, green-washed, perpetually guilt-ridden conservatives.
Its worth thinking carefully about how well the Uniparty concept explains almost all British government policy since Blair.

Lesley Keay
Lesley Keay
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

To be fair, the pothole problem has been around for decades and started prior to 2010. The biggest issue is that funding for highways is not ‘ring-fenced’ unlike the education budget, so successive local government administrations have got used to taking money from that budget to top-up other budgets. Quite often to fund things that really are not necessary.

Bettina Harries
Bettina Harries
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

It doesn’t matter who’s “in charge” – it’s the Blob: corrupt, self-serving, unaccountable group-think in action. Pinning governmental dysfunction on one particular section of the Uniparty is missing the point entirely.

Lesley Keay
Lesley Keay
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

To be fair, the pothole problem has been around for decades and started prior to 2010. The biggest issue is that funding for highways is not ‘ring-fenced’ unlike the education budget, so successive local government administrations have got used to taking money from that budget to top-up other budgets. Quite often to fund things that really are not necessary.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Down the road is an enormous Oxford University building site; crane’s and diggers abundant to see. On the road running past the aforementioned site is the most sharp edged, tyre shredding pothole. Why can’t someone pop out from the site with half a sack of gravel and some sand and fill the b****r in??? The potential satisfaction of committing such an act of municipal assistance is beyond most of us. Is it an ‘no one cares about me so I don’t care about anyone’ trickle down effect?

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

I’ve been known to do equivalent acts of civic self help. It feels great. I recommend doing it at every opportunity. The look on people faces is a joy to behold!

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Probably a very reasonable fear of being imprisoned (as for the farmer recently jailed for dredging a river to protect local housing from flooding) or that, if the repair isn’t perfect, or doesn’t last until the local council gets round to replacing it, the repairer is open to lawsuits.

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

I’ve been known to do equivalent acts of civic self help. It feels great. I recommend doing it at every opportunity. The look on people faces is a joy to behold!

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Probably a very reasonable fear of being imprisoned (as for the farmer recently jailed for dredging a river to protect local housing from flooding) or that, if the repair isn’t perfect, or doesn’t last until the local council gets round to replacing it, the repairer is open to lawsuits.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

For every ÂŁ1 spent on actual railway infrastructure on and in the ground, ÂŁ8 is lost to management, planning, reporting, assurance and governance. A further ÂŁ2 is the heavy burden of onerous safety controls.

The management, planning, reporting, assurance and governance is costing far more than the money it is tasked with saving.

You get the services people offer, and what people offer is what they know. If 30m people know EDI you’re going to be knee deep in diversity officers. That’s precisely where Britain is: far more people who know about equity than know how to build and maintain a modern industrial society.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Of course – nothing whatsoever to do with the people who have been in charge for the last 13 years watching public services go down the pan! Are there any public services in better shape than they were in 2010?

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Down the road is an enormous Oxford University building site; crane’s and diggers abundant to see. On the road running past the aforementioned site is the most sharp edged, tyre shredding pothole. Why can’t someone pop out from the site with half a sack of gravel and some sand and fill the b****r in??? The potential satisfaction of committing such an act of municipal assistance is beyond most of us. Is it an ‘no one cares about me so I don’t care about anyone’ trickle down effect?

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

For every ÂŁ1 spent on actual railway infrastructure on and in the ground, ÂŁ8 is lost to management, planning, reporting, assurance and governance. A further ÂŁ2 is the heavy burden of onerous safety controls.

The management, planning, reporting, assurance and governance is costing far more than the money it is tasked with saving.

You get the services people offer, and what people offer is what they know. If 30m people know EDI you’re going to be knee deep in diversity officers. That’s precisely where Britain is: far more people who know about equity than know how to build and maintain a modern industrial society.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

As usual it is the result of Blair’s education education education that has produced a vast army of people capable of writing about potholes, sitting in offices theoretically tasked with implement pothole repair, people tasked with determining the qualifications of pothole repairers, people tasked with determining the racial and sexual diversity of the people tasked with the two former tasks, and so on. The number of people sitting in offices with some distant relationship to pothole repairing is legion but the number of people who are actually capable of repairing the pothole are few and unmotivated as they are bottom of the hierarchy.

It is the old joke about how many people it takes to change a lightbulb but instead how many people it takes to fill a pothole.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 year ago

“A ruling class that has lost its moral purpose and sense of public obligation….that allows public infrastructure to collapse because they don’t use it or because they dislike the people who do..”
About 30 years ago Christopher Lasch saw all this coming back when Revolt of the Elites was published. It is simply incredible how prescient that was, not only in what would happen, but in why. Roger Scruton is enjoying a moment in the sun right now, and rightly so, but Lasch is someone else whose ideas and thinking need as wide an audience as it is possible to give them.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

The political elite was completely stymied after WW2, faced with electoral fury and mass emigration. Over the next decade or so, to Suez the Empire melted away and with it, most of their self-defined function. They lapsed into self-loathing or (a minority) became ever more selfish and hard-line, while the greatest redistribution of wealth in modern times took place.

Then, in the 1970s and 1980s the popular left overplayed its hand. Inflation, stagnation and dissatisfaction with TUC bullying led to a government being elected with a brief to restore order. The problem being, that this was achieved by institutionalised mass unemployment.

The political elite saw its opportunity. The populist right and left alike had list their way. Suddenly, the probable PM in waiting – John Smith – died and opened a window for a couple d’etat, substituting a previously unelectable revolutionary with a blank slate in terms of previous form.

The rest, we know.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

A couple d’etat? Blair & Brown?

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

A couple d’etat? Blair & Brown?

Ian Wray
Ian Wray
1 year ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Revolt of the Elites was indeed prescient. Also worth a read are (1) The Puritan Gift by Kenneth and William Hopper (2007), and (2) Systems Thinking in the Public Sector by John Seddon (2008). The first discusses what good management practice is, and how it got replaced by ‘scientific management’ and other university business school practices that were divorced from necessary ‘domain knowledge’. The second analyses the very negative effects of reforms in the UK public sector that were mainly implemented by the Blair government (but which have not improved since), especially how they created dysfunctional systems that are costly and poor at achieving their real purposes. ‘Command and control’ from on high, with its absurd ‘targets’ culture, by people who are divorced from the real work and who understand little about it, is a recipe for serious dysfunction.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

The political elite was completely stymied after WW2, faced with electoral fury and mass emigration. Over the next decade or so, to Suez the Empire melted away and with it, most of their self-defined function. They lapsed into self-loathing or (a minority) became ever more selfish and hard-line, while the greatest redistribution of wealth in modern times took place.

Then, in the 1970s and 1980s the popular left overplayed its hand. Inflation, stagnation and dissatisfaction with TUC bullying led to a government being elected with a brief to restore order. The problem being, that this was achieved by institutionalised mass unemployment.

The political elite saw its opportunity. The populist right and left alike had list their way. Suddenly, the probable PM in waiting – John Smith – died and opened a window for a couple d’etat, substituting a previously unelectable revolutionary with a blank slate in terms of previous form.

The rest, we know.

Ian Wray
Ian Wray
1 year ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Revolt of the Elites was indeed prescient. Also worth a read are (1) The Puritan Gift by Kenneth and William Hopper (2007), and (2) Systems Thinking in the Public Sector by John Seddon (2008). The first discusses what good management practice is, and how it got replaced by ‘scientific management’ and other university business school practices that were divorced from necessary ‘domain knowledge’. The second analyses the very negative effects of reforms in the UK public sector that were mainly implemented by the Blair government (but which have not improved since), especially how they created dysfunctional systems that are costly and poor at achieving their real purposes. ‘Command and control’ from on high, with its absurd ‘targets’ culture, by people who are divorced from the real work and who understand little about it, is a recipe for serious dysfunction.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 year ago

“A ruling class that has lost its moral purpose and sense of public obligation….that allows public infrastructure to collapse because they don’t use it or because they dislike the people who do..”
About 30 years ago Christopher Lasch saw all this coming back when Revolt of the Elites was published. It is simply incredible how prescient that was, not only in what would happen, but in why. Roger Scruton is enjoying a moment in the sun right now, and rightly so, but Lasch is someone else whose ideas and thinking need as wide an audience as it is possible to give them.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

In the village in East Yorkshire where I grew up, it is now down to the residents to scoop out the drainage ditches at the side of the road so their gardens don’t flood when it rains. The council are so inept and so tied up in various layers of bureaucracy that getting them to do their job is pointless. On a very basic level, the state has stopped doing its job.
The diagnosis of “executive dysfunction” is so right. I recognise this all too well on a personal level: I’ve got tons to do yet at the moment it all feels like swimming through mud and I get 3 things done per day instead of the 9 which I think I could do. But it is definitely what I think about Britain when I return aswell.
This article blames the “elites”, but the public has played a part in the decline too. The “musn’t complain” attitude which – in its essence – is a British virtue has meant that repairs or reforms have been neglected over many years. If more people had stood up and complained very loudly much earlier (be more like the French perhaps?), then the government of the day would have had to act. But the British did their usual passive aggressive tutting and the government of the day could just ignore the problem…and now it’s too late for any remedy. You are simply looking at a pile of shards, wondering how the h€ll you got to this place of utter brokenness and dysfunction. Without any plan to get out of the hole, it’s just a depressing thing.
Yet the same applies to the country as applies to a person: set a goal, commit to it and take a small step every single day. It’s hard when you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel but after a while, when you see a few tangible benefits of your work, then the motivation picks up. Easier said than done when we’re talking about a country of 65 million, I know – but the formula works.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Lang Cleg
Lang Cleg
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You lost your parish lengthsman too?

Philip K
Philip K
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Wonderful comment and probably lost on many today – because the world expects instant results, whether it be politics or in business. The hard slog does pay off eventually but a leader needs to set a vision that people believe in and follow. They need motivation. I think at the moment too many have lost themselves in doom and gloom. If we can lift that barrier, there’s a huge amount we can achieve.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip K

Yes exactly. And the potholes are really low-hanging fruit. There’s no political argument about the goal/vision – no one needs potholes, they need filling in and that’s that! How about the goal of getting rid of potholes by 2030? That would be a whole lot more realistic than getting rid of cars with combusion engines by then. Once people can see that things can get done, then the general torpor might lift a bit.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The answer? Get yourself a Toyota LandCruiser LC200… annoy the eco sandaloids, pump out some CO2, sail over potholes, and pick some LGBT and anti racism AND eco protestors out of the sturdy radiator grille if you have time…

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The answer? Get yourself a Toyota LandCruiser LC200… annoy the eco sandaloids, pump out some CO2, sail over potholes, and pick some LGBT and anti racism AND eco protestors out of the sturdy radiator grille if you have time…

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip K

Yes exactly. And the potholes are really low-hanging fruit. There’s no political argument about the goal/vision – no one needs potholes, they need filling in and that’s that! How about the goal of getting rid of potholes by 2030? That would be a whole lot more realistic than getting rid of cars with combusion engines by then. Once people can see that things can get done, then the general torpor might lift a bit.

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Quote Katherine Eyre: ‘In the village in East Yorkshire where I grew up, it is now down to the residents to scoop out the drainage ditches at the side of the road so their gardens don’t flood when it rains.’
You were lucky. In Herefordshire nowadays you can go to prison for doing that! What lunacy are we living through?
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/environment/2023/04/20/farmer-jailed-dredging-stretch-river-stop-homes-flooding/
(….although in that suit he doesn’t look like any farmer I have known)

Last edited 1 year ago by Alan Elgey
Lang Cleg
Lang Cleg
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You lost your parish lengthsman too?

Philip K
Philip K
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Wonderful comment and probably lost on many today – because the world expects instant results, whether it be politics or in business. The hard slog does pay off eventually but a leader needs to set a vision that people believe in and follow. They need motivation. I think at the moment too many have lost themselves in doom and gloom. If we can lift that barrier, there’s a huge amount we can achieve.

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Quote Katherine Eyre: ‘In the village in East Yorkshire where I grew up, it is now down to the residents to scoop out the drainage ditches at the side of the road so their gardens don’t flood when it rains.’
You were lucky. In Herefordshire nowadays you can go to prison for doing that! What lunacy are we living through?
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/environment/2023/04/20/farmer-jailed-dredging-stretch-river-stop-homes-flooding/
(….although in that suit he doesn’t look like any farmer I have known)

Last edited 1 year ago by Alan Elgey
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

In the village in East Yorkshire where I grew up, it is now down to the residents to scoop out the drainage ditches at the side of the road so their gardens don’t flood when it rains. The council are so inept and so tied up in various layers of bureaucracy that getting them to do their job is pointless. On a very basic level, the state has stopped doing its job.
The diagnosis of “executive dysfunction” is so right. I recognise this all too well on a personal level: I’ve got tons to do yet at the moment it all feels like swimming through mud and I get 3 things done per day instead of the 9 which I think I could do. But it is definitely what I think about Britain when I return aswell.
This article blames the “elites”, but the public has played a part in the decline too. The “musn’t complain” attitude which – in its essence – is a British virtue has meant that repairs or reforms have been neglected over many years. If more people had stood up and complained very loudly much earlier (be more like the French perhaps?), then the government of the day would have had to act. But the British did their usual passive aggressive tutting and the government of the day could just ignore the problem…and now it’s too late for any remedy. You are simply looking at a pile of shards, wondering how the h€ll you got to this place of utter brokenness and dysfunction. Without any plan to get out of the hole, it’s just a depressing thing.
Yet the same applies to the country as applies to a person: set a goal, commit to it and take a small step every single day. It’s hard when you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel but after a while, when you see a few tangible benefits of your work, then the motivation picks up. Easier said than done when we’re talking about a country of 65 million, I know – but the formula works.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago

Fixing the holes in the roads is boring work for counsellors who really would like to save the world.
There is little praise from doing those very basic things like collecting rubbish, making sure that your employees’ pay is correct and that the toilets work. Managers think of themselves as leading; leading their bovine subordinates to the grassy uplands and glory. But they’re not, they have responsibilities for making sure that the basics tools of life work as effectively as possible.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago

To many councillors, it’s ‘drivers’ rather than potholes that are the problem. If you don’t want the locals messing up your roads and costing the council’s budget, then leaving the potholes in place and paying a bit of compensation to those silly enough to venture onto the roads is cheaper than maintaining the local road network.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago

To many councillors, it’s ‘drivers’ rather than potholes that are the problem. If you don’t want the locals messing up your roads and costing the council’s budget, then leaving the potholes in place and paying a bit of compensation to those silly enough to venture onto the roads is cheaper than maintaining the local road network.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago

Fixing the holes in the roads is boring work for counsellors who really would like to save the world.
There is little praise from doing those very basic things like collecting rubbish, making sure that your employees’ pay is correct and that the toilets work. Managers think of themselves as leading; leading their bovine subordinates to the grassy uplands and glory. But they’re not, they have responsibilities for making sure that the basics tools of life work as effectively as possible.

J Mo
J Mo
1 year ago

This article has taught me how low my expectations are – two weeks to fix the pothole doesn’t seem so bad.

Aw Zk
Aw Zk
1 year ago
Reply to  J Mo

A few days ago the Women’s Rights Network published a report based on research into sexual violence in hospitals. It had made freedom of information requests to 43 police forces asking how many sexual offences had been reported in hospitals and what the outcome of the reports were. 35 forces provided answers and between January 2019 and October 2022 they received 6,539 a total of reports of rape and sexual assault in hospital settings (which is about 33 per week) and only 256 reports (4%) led to a charge or summons.

The report received some coverage in the media with reports in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Mirror and Metro. There have not been any reports on the research in The Guardian or on BBC News Online. The only opinion article about the research was written by Suzanne Moore and published by The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.

The fact that thousands of people (mostly women) have reported being raped or sexually assaulted in hospitals in recent years, including a time when access to hospitals was restricted during Covid lockdowns, should have been a major news story and led to discussion of the scandal on political programmes but as yet it has not even been discussed on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour or mentioned on the Twitter feed of the Women’s Equality Party. For some reason it isn’t a major news story and it isn’t going to be a major news story. Thousands of sexual offences being committed in hospitals isn’t as important to some as the SNP’s finances or sexual abuse within the CBI or Dominic Raab shouting and throwing tomatoes.

If journalism or politics can’t or won’t mention thousands of sexual offences being committed in hospitals is that executive dysfunction or my overly high expectations?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Aw Zk

“The fact that thousands of people (mostly women) have reported being raped or sexually assaulted in hospitals in recent years, including a time when access to hospitals was restricted during Covid lockdowns”
Does that not suggest to you that there is something seriously wrong with the figures

Aw Zk
Aw Zk
1 year ago

There may be something wrong with the figures but the period also includes times before the start of the pandemic and after the easing of lockdown. However, also in the news today is a report about a former nurse from Sheffield called James Alan Townsend who has been struck off after being convicted of rape. It is hard to find information about the conviction because there is also a circuit judge called James Townsend but I did find information about another nurse from Sheffield called Paul Grayson who was convicted of voyeurism after filming up the gowns of unconscious patients.

Jimmy Savile got away with his crimes, some of which were committed in hospitals where he worked as a volunteer, for years. Abuse has been covered up within other types of institution. If there is a problem of sexual abuse in hospitals (whether that abuse is committed by people entering the hospital to commit crimes, by patients abusing other patients or staff or by staff abusing patients or other staff) you would have thought that the NHS, the police and the government should be asked questions about it. It seems it’s not important to many journalists, politicians and feminist activists.

Aw Zk
Aw Zk
1 year ago

There may be something wrong with the figures but the period also includes times before the start of the pandemic and after the easing of lockdown. However, also in the news today is a report about a former nurse from Sheffield called James Alan Townsend who has been struck off after being convicted of rape. It is hard to find information about the conviction because there is also a circuit judge called James Townsend but I did find information about another nurse from Sheffield called Paul Grayson who was convicted of voyeurism after filming up the gowns of unconscious patients.

Jimmy Savile got away with his crimes, some of which were committed in hospitals where he worked as a volunteer, for years. Abuse has been covered up within other types of institution. If there is a problem of sexual abuse in hospitals (whether that abuse is committed by people entering the hospital to commit crimes, by patients abusing other patients or staff or by staff abusing patients or other staff) you would have thought that the NHS, the police and the government should be asked questions about it. It seems it’s not important to many journalists, politicians and feminist activists.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  Aw Zk

Both, I am afraid.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  Aw Zk

As a former criminal defense attorney, I do have to raise a modest objection… the relevant question isn’t what percentage of reported sexual assaults resulted in a charge or summons (4% according to your stats), but: what percentage of reported sexual assaults were sufficiently supported by prosecutable evidence to warrant a charge or summons?
The answer may very well be 4%, though probably not. But the fact that someone reported a crime and the police did not charge anyone might be just as much proof that the police are doing their job correctly and competently as it is proof that they are not.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

When we have a worse conviction rate for reported rape and sexual offences (mainly, but not solely, against females) than does India, that doesn’t seem like proof that the system is working, does it? Or is it that British people (mainly, but not solely, females) are far more likely to tell lies to the police in order to get someone jailed unjustifiably?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

You seem to think there are only two possible explanations for these numbers – either (a) women are falsely reporting rape or (b) the authorities are inexcusably failing to prosecute it. But I don’t think that’s right.
We still think of “rape” in terms of knife-to-the-throat stranger rape. But today “rape” is often a hazy, ambiguous, offered-then-withdrawn inebriated consent (or the like). Like “racism,” what “rape” amounts to has gotten incredibly unclear. It’s no longer physical coercion at the threat of violence, but psychological, emotional, economic, etc. pressure, too.
So once upon a time if a woman got drunk and agreed to have sex with a man, only to later regret it, she blamed herself for putting herself in that situation – now she blames the man for taking advantage of her. That may be a good thing, but this shift has created an enormous gray area. The result is that a woman may have a genuine feeling that she didn’t want to have sex with the man she had sex with, without it providing prosecutable evidence that would support rape convictions.
There are certainly some situations where women are just lying, or police are just refusing to do their job, but in most cases I suspect it’s more to do with society’s incredibly unclear view of sexual ethics. “Consent” is simply too fragile a concept to serve as the sole basis for something so complex and human.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

You seem to think there are only two possible explanations for these numbers – either (a) women are falsely reporting rape or (b) the authorities are inexcusably failing to prosecute it. But I don’t think that’s right.
We still think of “rape” in terms of knife-to-the-throat stranger rape. But today “rape” is often a hazy, ambiguous, offered-then-withdrawn inebriated consent (or the like). Like “racism,” what “rape” amounts to has gotten incredibly unclear. It’s no longer physical coercion at the threat of violence, but psychological, emotional, economic, etc. pressure, too.
So once upon a time if a woman got drunk and agreed to have sex with a man, only to later regret it, she blamed herself for putting herself in that situation – now she blames the man for taking advantage of her. That may be a good thing, but this shift has created an enormous gray area. The result is that a woman may have a genuine feeling that she didn’t want to have sex with the man she had sex with, without it providing prosecutable evidence that would support rape convictions.
There are certainly some situations where women are just lying, or police are just refusing to do their job, but in most cases I suspect it’s more to do with society’s incredibly unclear view of sexual ethics. “Consent” is simply too fragile a concept to serve as the sole basis for something so complex and human.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

When we have a worse conviction rate for reported rape and sexual offences (mainly, but not solely, against females) than does India, that doesn’t seem like proof that the system is working, does it? Or is it that British people (mainly, but not solely, females) are far more likely to tell lies to the police in order to get someone jailed unjustifiably?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Aw Zk

“The fact that thousands of people (mostly women) have reported being raped or sexually assaulted in hospitals in recent years, including a time when access to hospitals was restricted during Covid lockdowns”
Does that not suggest to you that there is something seriously wrong with the figures

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  Aw Zk

Both, I am afraid.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  Aw Zk

As a former criminal defense attorney, I do have to raise a modest objection… the relevant question isn’t what percentage of reported sexual assaults resulted in a charge or summons (4% according to your stats), but: what percentage of reported sexual assaults were sufficiently supported by prosecutable evidence to warrant a charge or summons?
The answer may very well be 4%, though probably not. But the fact that someone reported a crime and the police did not charge anyone might be just as much proof that the police are doing their job correctly and competently as it is proof that they are not.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  J Mo

My thought on reading that line was ‘Only 2 weeks. What is he complaining about?’ I have just contacted HMRC regarding an application which used to say son’t contact them for 30 days. Now it is 8 weeks after submission! They are apparenty working on February’s inputs!

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago

Unless every day of delay in processing the application is capable of causing death, severe injury and damage to property, the two can’t really be compared, can they?

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago

Unless every day of delay in processing the application is capable of causing death, severe injury and damage to property, the two can’t really be compared, can they?

Aw Zk
Aw Zk
1 year ago
Reply to  J Mo

A few days ago the Women’s Rights Network published a report based on research into sexual violence in hospitals. It had made freedom of information requests to 43 police forces asking how many sexual offences had been reported in hospitals and what the outcome of the reports were. 35 forces provided answers and between January 2019 and October 2022 they received 6,539 a total of reports of rape and sexual assault in hospital settings (which is about 33 per week) and only 256 reports (4%) led to a charge or summons.

The report received some coverage in the media with reports in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Mirror and Metro. There have not been any reports on the research in The Guardian or on BBC News Online. The only opinion article about the research was written by Suzanne Moore and published by The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.

The fact that thousands of people (mostly women) have reported being raped or sexually assaulted in hospitals in recent years, including a time when access to hospitals was restricted during Covid lockdowns, should have been a major news story and led to discussion of the scandal on political programmes but as yet it has not even been discussed on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour or mentioned on the Twitter feed of the Women’s Equality Party. For some reason it isn’t a major news story and it isn’t going to be a major news story. Thousands of sexual offences being committed in hospitals isn’t as important to some as the SNP’s finances or sexual abuse within the CBI or Dominic Raab shouting and throwing tomatoes.

If journalism or politics can’t or won’t mention thousands of sexual offences being committed in hospitals is that executive dysfunction or my overly high expectations?

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  J Mo

My thought on reading that line was ‘Only 2 weeks. What is he complaining about?’ I have just contacted HMRC regarding an application which used to say son’t contact them for 30 days. Now it is 8 weeks after submission! They are apparenty working on February’s inputs!

J Mo
J Mo
1 year ago

This article has taught me how low my expectations are – two weeks to fix the pothole doesn’t seem so bad.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
1 year ago

I believe it can partly be explained by the outsourcing of production to China over the past 30 years. Project management skills were forged in industry managing complex systems balancing resilience and efficiency. These were largely lost as required/valued capabilities in a hyper-financialised West.
The lack of real world experience (virtual or otherwise) in government is also an increasing issue. The narrow PPE, SPAD, safe seat approach into political life is suffocating competence. It is less a matter of wilful negligence than blind ignorance.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

I think this observation has merit. Political-moral activism is the order of the day. Reality does not exist, Ideas and hence ideologies exist and it is these that change and bring into existence reality. Hence the identity marxist DEI to reeducate and hence reprogramme perceptions and ideas – so as to bring a vision into existence, through the installation of the ideological experts who have the correct doctrines with which to execute that vision.
Perhaps the executive branch are infected with that poison?.

Last edited 1 year ago by michael stanwick
Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Just pointing out that DEI has nothing whatsoever to do with Marxism, which is about ownership of the means of production!

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

I beg to differ. Many DEI initiatives in the U.S. are dreamt up by academics whose grounding philosophy is rooted in Marxist ideology. They see Karl Marx as the founder of a communist system wherein each person is considered just as equal and valid as the other. In order to implement this system those at the top of the oppression pyramid must be brought down (white men) while those at the bottom (women, LGBQT, and ethnic minorities) must be raised up.
This may sound very dumbed down, but having worked in American academia, I have actually come across this very simplistic level of thinking among people who have earned PhDs and MBAs. DEI is very popular among American college students who, like most young people, often see themselves as being oppressed by a system that makes them go to school and get a job. In the past, stupid ideas like this would have evaporated during contact with the real world. The difference now though is that many of these students are going on to high-level managerial or policy-making positions and enforcing this ideology on to those who actually work. However, because these people have gone to university and obtained degrees they consider themselves highly intelligent, which means that any who disagree with them must of course be intellectually inferior. It doesn’t stop there. Because DEI policies are designed to bring about the ‘greater good’, those who disagree with them must be morally inferior too.
This has resulted in a rather dangerous form of group-think in which those who wish to remain in the in-group must be careful not to say or do anything deemed offensive (unless it is of course directed against a prescribed safe target like white men).
I think we can safely assume that this describes our current political class: timid little men and women too scared to implement any real change for fear of upsetting the rest of their group. And no wonder. Look at how Trump has been treated once he turned against ‘the in-group’ and exposed them for the mean-spirited and cruel people they truly are.
For all his personal faults, I appreciate that Trump disrupted their agenda and made people take notice of what’s been going on. DEI initiatives are rooted in the critical theories of race, sex, and gender, which if you take the time to study them a little, are nothing more than discourses created by bitter academics who resent those perceived to be more successful than them.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

I beg to differ. Many DEI initiatives in the U.S. are dreamt up by academics whose grounding philosophy is rooted in Marxist ideology. They see Karl Marx as the founder of a communist system wherein each person is considered just as equal and valid as the other. In order to implement this system those at the top of the oppression pyramid must be brought down (white men) while those at the bottom (women, LGBQT, and ethnic minorities) must be raised up.
This may sound very dumbed down, but having worked in American academia, I have actually come across this very simplistic level of thinking among people who have earned PhDs and MBAs. DEI is very popular among American college students who, like most young people, often see themselves as being oppressed by a system that makes them go to school and get a job. In the past, stupid ideas like this would have evaporated during contact with the real world. The difference now though is that many of these students are going on to high-level managerial or policy-making positions and enforcing this ideology on to those who actually work. However, because these people have gone to university and obtained degrees they consider themselves highly intelligent, which means that any who disagree with them must of course be intellectually inferior. It doesn’t stop there. Because DEI policies are designed to bring about the ‘greater good’, those who disagree with them must be morally inferior too.
This has resulted in a rather dangerous form of group-think in which those who wish to remain in the in-group must be careful not to say or do anything deemed offensive (unless it is of course directed against a prescribed safe target like white men).
I think we can safely assume that this describes our current political class: timid little men and women too scared to implement any real change for fear of upsetting the rest of their group. And no wonder. Look at how Trump has been treated once he turned against ‘the in-group’ and exposed them for the mean-spirited and cruel people they truly are.
For all his personal faults, I appreciate that Trump disrupted their agenda and made people take notice of what’s been going on. DEI initiatives are rooted in the critical theories of race, sex, and gender, which if you take the time to study them a little, are nothing more than discourses created by bitter academics who resent those perceived to be more successful than them.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Just pointing out that DEI has nothing whatsoever to do with Marxism, which is about ownership of the means of production!

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

I think this observation has merit. Political-moral activism is the order of the day. Reality does not exist, Ideas and hence ideologies exist and it is these that change and bring into existence reality. Hence the identity marxist DEI to reeducate and hence reprogramme perceptions and ideas – so as to bring a vision into existence, through the installation of the ideological experts who have the correct doctrines with which to execute that vision.
Perhaps the executive branch are infected with that poison?.

Last edited 1 year ago by michael stanwick
Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
1 year ago

I believe it can partly be explained by the outsourcing of production to China over the past 30 years. Project management skills were forged in industry managing complex systems balancing resilience and efficiency. These were largely lost as required/valued capabilities in a hyper-financialised West.
The lack of real world experience (virtual or otherwise) in government is also an increasing issue. The narrow PPE, SPAD, safe seat approach into political life is suffocating competence. It is less a matter of wilful negligence than blind ignorance.

BW Naylor
BW Naylor
1 year ago

DEI is just government subsidized marketing to prep us all for compliance with higher immigration targets.

BW Naylor
BW Naylor
1 year ago

DEI is just government subsidized marketing to prep us all for compliance with higher immigration targets.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Excellent article. All that’s missing is a reference to Parkinson’s Law.
I think part of the problem is that children these days don’t do any real hands-dirty making stuff like we used to in “design and technology”. Or do things like the mechanical and electrical workshop training I did pre-university (lathes, milling machines, etc). My son’s school has some of these machines but never seems to use them.
It’s also notable that many of Britain’s great scientists were also expert in practical lab work and experimentation to verify their theories.
We seem to be educating young people with only theory and no practice.
If Mary were to turn north off the B1042 just inside South Cambs, she’s find a lovely little trafficed country road which felt like it had been carpet bombed last time I cycled down it.
I tend to view most new development projects primarily as job creation schemes for middle class graduates. East West Rail has been going for a decade and still no signs of any actual railway work out in these parts. But the taxi meter’s definitely been running. In our village, we even got compensation for EWR property surveys that still haven’t happened and probably never will. That was two years ago.
And people complain that UK productivity growth is flatlining. But I think we all know why. Too many chiefs. Not enough Indians.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Excellent article. All that’s missing is a reference to Parkinson’s Law.
I think part of the problem is that children these days don’t do any real hands-dirty making stuff like we used to in “design and technology”. Or do things like the mechanical and electrical workshop training I did pre-university (lathes, milling machines, etc). My son’s school has some of these machines but never seems to use them.
It’s also notable that many of Britain’s great scientists were also expert in practical lab work and experimentation to verify their theories.
We seem to be educating young people with only theory and no practice.
If Mary were to turn north off the B1042 just inside South Cambs, she’s find a lovely little trafficed country road which felt like it had been carpet bombed last time I cycled down it.
I tend to view most new development projects primarily as job creation schemes for middle class graduates. East West Rail has been going for a decade and still no signs of any actual railway work out in these parts. But the taxi meter’s definitely been running. In our village, we even got compensation for EWR property surveys that still haven’t happened and probably never will. That was two years ago.
And people complain that UK productivity growth is flatlining. But I think we all know why. Too many chiefs. Not enough Indians.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

Claim 1 via the asphalt industry: 1.7m potholes fixed a year. ÂŁ100 each to fix. $170m.
Claim 2 via the asphalt industry: $14bn required to fix British Roads.
Why the two orders of magnitude difference? Claim 2 includes full road rebuilds and new build, measures like traffic calming, street furniture, traffic signs etc.
Where are electors priorities? On getting the roads fixed. What are the local transport departments doing? Littering the environment with traffic signs and fussing over complex road layouts (when it might be safer not to have them – cf Hans Monderman).
So to the question “Where is the money coming from?” It seems relatively easy. Stop spending on stuff people don’t want or need and spend it on things they do want and need. And if you’re not sure which is which, put it to a vote.

Last edited 1 year ago by Saul D
Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

Claim 1 via the asphalt industry: 1.7m potholes fixed a year. ÂŁ100 each to fix. $170m.
Claim 2 via the asphalt industry: $14bn required to fix British Roads.
Why the two orders of magnitude difference? Claim 2 includes full road rebuilds and new build, measures like traffic calming, street furniture, traffic signs etc.
Where are electors priorities? On getting the roads fixed. What are the local transport departments doing? Littering the environment with traffic signs and fussing over complex road layouts (when it might be safer not to have them – cf Hans Monderman).
So to the question “Where is the money coming from?” It seems relatively easy. Stop spending on stuff people don’t want or need and spend it on things they do want and need. And if you’re not sure which is which, put it to a vote.

Last edited 1 year ago by Saul D
Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago

There is also a simpler explanation for the potholes – there are a third more cars on the road compared to the 80s, and many of them are massive 4x4s the size of Sherman tanks.
Motorists use quiet lanes and side streets as cut-throughs, and the potholes proliferate.
This is not an argument against repairing them of course, but in Kent where I live the roads within the ambit of the M25 are completely mashed up compared to those outside of it which, thought still rough, are generally in better shape.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Butcher
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Ah, the infamous Sherman tank or “Tommy cooker” as the Wehrmacht would have it, otherwise known as the Ronson ( lights first time.)by the Allies.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Still better than everything we had before that. We didn’t produce a decent tank until the Comet at the end of 1944.
There’s no getting away from it. We got to Hanover in American tanks. And the Russians got to Berlin in American trucks.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Fortunately they ’ didn’t have enough’Tigers’.
A mere 150 during the Normandy campaign.

ps. I’ve only just realised we shouldn’t be discussing this as it is “ you know whose” birthday.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Fortunately they ’ didn’t have enough’Tigers’.
A mere 150 during the Normandy campaign.

ps. I’ve only just realised we shouldn’t be discussing this as it is “ you know whose” birthday.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Still better than everything we had before that. We didn’t produce a decent tank until the Comet at the end of 1944.
There’s no getting away from it. We got to Hanover in American tanks. And the Russians got to Berlin in American trucks.

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Fair enough, but that doesn’t explain why British roads are so much worse than those of our (supposed) peers – France, Germany, Norway etc.

Brits like to sneer at the likes of Italy & Spain but recent visits to both suggest infrastructure is in far better condition there than here.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Farrell

Yes I agree – Spain in particular generally has excellent roads

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I would also add that in the UK they tend to adopt half measures and fill them in and then leave them rather than make an effort to integrate the repair into the rest of the road – I don’t drive much but I cycle a lot which makes me very aware of them!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Exactly!
Quite different from years ago when you also needed about £1 million in “Bail Bonds” for a UK car to drive in Spain.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I would also add that in the UK they tend to adopt half measures and fill them in and then leave them rather than make an effort to integrate the repair into the rest of the road – I don’t drive much but I cycle a lot which makes me very aware of them!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Exactly!
Quite different from years ago when you also needed about £1 million in “Bail Bonds” for a UK car to drive in Spain.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Farrell

And the roads in Europe are generally not festooned with litter.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Farrell

Yes I agree – Spain in particular generally has excellent roads

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Farrell

And the roads in Europe are generally not festooned with litter.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Ah, the infamous Sherman tank or “Tommy cooker” as the Wehrmacht would have it, otherwise known as the Ronson ( lights first time.)by the Allies.

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Fair enough, but that doesn’t explain why British roads are so much worse than those of our (supposed) peers – France, Germany, Norway etc.

Brits like to sneer at the likes of Italy & Spain but recent visits to both suggest infrastructure is in far better condition there than here.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago

There is also a simpler explanation for the potholes – there are a third more cars on the road compared to the 80s, and many of them are massive 4x4s the size of Sherman tanks.
Motorists use quiet lanes and side streets as cut-throughs, and the potholes proliferate.
This is not an argument against repairing them of course, but in Kent where I live the roads within the ambit of the M25 are completely mashed up compared to those outside of it which, thought still rough, are generally in better shape.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Butcher
AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

the Tories whose solution to potholes is not shovels and tarmac but more regulations and fines.

It’s a little misleading to blame the Tories for not fixing potholes. If it had been written as “Central Government whose solution…” it might have been more enlightening.
Road repair is the responsibility of local authorities (mostly) so the real problem is that local authorities have other priorities (right or wrong). And this is compounded by Central Government not wanting get practically involved.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

If this is the responsibility of local government than central government *should not get involved*. Blurring responsibilities is a recipe for delay, inefficiency and not getting things done.
I’m tempted to say, give the job to the Army and they’d just get it done. But I think they’re a bit short on manpower these days. And perhaps not the “no BS” organisation they used to be.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Generals Wade’s magnificent military roads, built to control the recalcitrant Scotch in the 18th century were constructed entirely by the Army.
They were even paid extra, a penny a day, as I recall to do it.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Generals Wade’s magnificent military roads, built to control the recalcitrant Scotch in the 18th century were constructed entirely by the Army.
They were even paid extra, a penny a day, as I recall to do it.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Most councils would enter a state of paralysis if just one greenie asked the effect of pothole-fixing on climate change, or whether their asphalt was Fair Trade.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

We should organise ‘gangs’ of those illegal cross Channel paddlers to fill in the potholes, prior to even considering their outrageous applications for asylum.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

We already have more than enough council employees standing around in hi-vis vests.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

We already have more than enough council employees standing around in hi-vis vests.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

We should organise ‘gangs’ of those illegal cross Channel paddlers to fill in the potholes, prior to even considering their outrageous applications for asylum.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

If this is the responsibility of local government than central government *should not get involved*. Blurring responsibilities is a recipe for delay, inefficiency and not getting things done.
I’m tempted to say, give the job to the Army and they’d just get it done. But I think they’re a bit short on manpower these days. And perhaps not the “no BS” organisation they used to be.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Most councils would enter a state of paralysis if just one greenie asked the effect of pothole-fixing on climate change, or whether their asphalt was Fair Trade.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

the Tories whose solution to potholes is not shovels and tarmac but more regulations and fines.

It’s a little misleading to blame the Tories for not fixing potholes. If it had been written as “Central Government whose solution…” it might have been more enlightening.
Road repair is the responsibility of local authorities (mostly) so the real problem is that local authorities have other priorities (right or wrong). And this is compounded by Central Government not wanting get practically involved.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago

“Tough on potholes, tough on the causes of potholes”.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Are you advocating the removal of motor vehicles from road, them? 🙂

Last edited 1 year ago by Linda Hutchinson
Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago

Good grief, wouldn’t want to be giving politicians ideas… :-/

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago

What is food for thought, though, is that if electric cars are much heavier than petrol cars, surely electric cars are going to be far more damaging to the surface of the roads and therefore shouldn’t their owners pay more in form of road tax, given that road tax should be used to cover the upkeep of Britains roads? Perhaps ban electric cars?

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Good idea but blaming heavier vehicles is way down the list, it’s only fast roads that wear out. Smaller roads are undercut by water and freezing. Poor foundations, poor design. Roads in the high temperatures of Dubai and Abu Dhabi or the South of France have plenty of traffic. Perhaps they maintain them?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Ban them? Most people can’t afford them in the first place.

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Good idea but blaming heavier vehicles is way down the list, it’s only fast roads that wear out. Smaller roads are undercut by water and freezing. Poor foundations, poor design. Roads in the high temperatures of Dubai and Abu Dhabi or the South of France have plenty of traffic. Perhaps they maintain them?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Ban them? Most people can’t afford them in the first place.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago

Good grief, wouldn’t want to be giving politicians ideas… :-/

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago

What is food for thought, though, is that if electric cars are much heavier than petrol cars, surely electric cars are going to be far more damaging to the surface of the roads and therefore shouldn’t their owners pay more in form of road tax, given that road tax should be used to cover the upkeep of Britains roads? Perhaps ban electric cars?

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Are you advocating the removal of motor vehicles from road, them? 🙂

Last edited 1 year ago by Linda Hutchinson
Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago

“Tough on potholes, tough on the causes of potholes”.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

If you’ve got 5 million experienced construction workers, technicians and engineers you’re going to find a sizeable chunk of these in management positions, and a supply chain to match. They’ll often default to type and provide construction, technical and engineering solutions to problems.

We don’t have even 1 million experienced construction workers, technicians and engineers, and the construction supply chain has been so hollowed that Britain can’t import or make enough bricks or concrete or tarmac to meet demand. Consequently you’re going to get far fewer construction, technical and engineering solutions to problems.

Ultimately, a country focuses on what its people and industry are capable of producing. Britain is “post industrial”, the vast majority of its people completely non-technical, and so it doesn’t focus on sustaining an industrial economy. What Britain seems to completely overlook is that it is still industrial economies produce all of the tangible trappings of modernity such as good roads, good railways, good power networks and good communications. Without these you are a poor country.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

If you’ve got 5 million experienced construction workers, technicians and engineers you’re going to find a sizeable chunk of these in management positions, and a supply chain to match. They’ll often default to type and provide construction, technical and engineering solutions to problems.

We don’t have even 1 million experienced construction workers, technicians and engineers, and the construction supply chain has been so hollowed that Britain can’t import or make enough bricks or concrete or tarmac to meet demand. Consequently you’re going to get far fewer construction, technical and engineering solutions to problems.

Ultimately, a country focuses on what its people and industry are capable of producing. Britain is “post industrial”, the vast majority of its people completely non-technical, and so it doesn’t focus on sustaining an industrial economy. What Britain seems to completely overlook is that it is still industrial economies produce all of the tangible trappings of modernity such as good roads, good railways, good power networks and good communications. Without these you are a poor country.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago

It’s manual labour. MAN-ual labour. Is there a gradual, to the point of unnoticeable, disappearance of men capable, but unwilling, to engage in the so-called social contract?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago

It’s manual labour. MAN-ual labour. Is there a gradual, to the point of unnoticeable, disappearance of men capable, but unwilling, to engage in the so-called social contract?

Gilbert Moase
Gilbert Moase
1 year ago

How amazing that we’ve now gone full circle back to a modern version of Dickens’s satirical Office of Circumlocution, where nothing ever happens except that stacks of new unproductive policies and self serving reviews keep piling up. This Kafkaesque bureaucracy would only be selected according to DEI criteria, without regard to motivation, competence, aptitude or common sense.

Gilbert Moase
Gilbert Moase
1 year ago

How amazing that we’ve now gone full circle back to a modern version of Dickens’s satirical Office of Circumlocution, where nothing ever happens except that stacks of new unproductive policies and self serving reviews keep piling up. This Kafkaesque bureaucracy would only be selected according to DEI criteria, without regard to motivation, competence, aptitude or common sense.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
1 year ago

Well said. Faced with a problem the government proposes a new law, boasts about how much money they are spending on the problem and then boasts about how much money they plan to spend in the future.

Last edited 1 year ago by Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
1 year ago

Well said. Faced with a problem the government proposes a new law, boasts about how much money they are spending on the problem and then boasts about how much money they plan to spend in the future.

Last edited 1 year ago by Malcolm Knott
Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago

There are now over 40 million vehicles on the road (14 million in 1980), our road systems are increasingly more complex and our infrastructure can no longer cope.

My local council is spending money on “Active Travel Routes” that few people will probably use but falls under the “something must be done” to counter the climate crisis. At least it looks likes the roads are being resurfaced at the same time.

The last 25 years have been spent putting the cart before the horse.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago

There are now over 40 million vehicles on the road (14 million in 1980), our road systems are increasingly more complex and our infrastructure can no longer cope.

My local council is spending money on “Active Travel Routes” that few people will probably use but falls under the “something must be done” to counter the climate crisis. At least it looks likes the roads are being resurfaced at the same time.

The last 25 years have been spent putting the cart before the horse.

Ben P
Ben P
1 year ago

We have an education system revolving around academia and little or not idea of the practical, vocational world.
Teachers, journalists, politicians, academics – all specialise in thought and word not action.

Ben P
Ben P
1 year ago

We have an education system revolving around academia and little or not idea of the practical, vocational world.
Teachers, journalists, politicians, academics – all specialise in thought and word not action.

PETER THOM
PETER THOM
1 year ago

As a retired Highway Manager, the answer is really pretty simple – too many potholes mean not enough has been spent on resurfacing/reconstructing roads which are starting to fail. Maintenance is always the “poor relation” funded from revenue monies, rather than “sexier” new build funded from capital monies. Preserving existing infrastructure has to be given higher priority, with the necessary regular funding to achieve this at maximum efficiency. Highway Maintenance engineers have the knowledge and capability to keep our highways in good repair economically – they just need consistent funding.

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago
Reply to  PETER THOM

Thanks for some real world context and a proposed solution.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  PETER THOM

Thank you for the insight. I suppose we are paying the price now for decades of under-investment, where the short term visible expenditure is always preferable to the boring but necessary.

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago
Reply to  PETER THOM

Thanks for some real world context and a proposed solution.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  PETER THOM

Thank you for the insight. I suppose we are paying the price now for decades of under-investment, where the short term visible expenditure is always preferable to the boring but necessary.

PETER THOM
PETER THOM
1 year ago

As a retired Highway Manager, the answer is really pretty simple – too many potholes mean not enough has been spent on resurfacing/reconstructing roads which are starting to fail. Maintenance is always the “poor relation” funded from revenue monies, rather than “sexier” new build funded from capital monies. Preserving existing infrastructure has to be given higher priority, with the necessary regular funding to achieve this at maximum efficiency. Highway Maintenance engineers have the knowledge and capability to keep our highways in good repair economically – they just need consistent funding.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
1 year ago

I had a dopey mate whose nickname was Pothole. Every time you turned around he was in the road.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
1 year ago

I had a dopey mate whose nickname was Pothole. Every time you turned around he was in the road.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
1 year ago

The government cannot be held accountable for any mistakes. We have to wait for an election to come round and even then we have to have a credible party that will be competent. There isn’t one and this is the fundamental nature of political parties. Their first interest is getting into power and their second is staying in power. Nothing matters after that. Power and control are their driving force.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
1 year ago

The government cannot be held accountable for any mistakes. We have to wait for an election to come round and even then we have to have a credible party that will be competent. There isn’t one and this is the fundamental nature of political parties. Their first interest is getting into power and their second is staying in power. Nothing matters after that. Power and control are their driving force.

nick winks
nick winks
1 year ago

The problem is not so much about government, central or local, but about the disconnect between customer and supplier.
The customer desiring pot holes to be fixed has no agency in the process. This is partly because the customer cannot pay (other than through general taxation) and partly because the supplier (a government agency) has no revenue dependent on fixing more potholes.
In the piece the author compares the potholes situation to the apparent efficient growth of 5G masts.
Unlike potholes, the 5G masts are erected by private sector suppliers serving private sector customers (usually large telecoms).
There is moral hazard in that all private sector businesses will go bust if they are not moderately efficient. Unlike government owned agencies.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  nick winks

In Britain we have the worst mast system in the world for the simple reason that the phone companies will not commit the vast capital resources required to update the ancient mast infrastructure, as there is unsufficient future revenue to give the phone companies the required ROCE.

Of course the obvious and simple answer is for the Goverment to fund new masts, rent them to phone companies, and gain revenues. The Goverment could fund this via 50 year bonds, which would appeal to the UK life insurance investor- job done.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Adolph did much the same with his “Mefo Bills” and look how successful he was.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Adolph did much the same with his “Mefo Bills” and look how successful he was.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  nick winks

In Britain we have the worst mast system in the world for the simple reason that the phone companies will not commit the vast capital resources required to update the ancient mast infrastructure, as there is unsufficient future revenue to give the phone companies the required ROCE.

Of course the obvious and simple answer is for the Goverment to fund new masts, rent them to phone companies, and gain revenues. The Goverment could fund this via 50 year bonds, which would appeal to the UK life insurance investor- job done.

nick winks
nick winks
1 year ago

The problem is not so much about government, central or local, but about the disconnect between customer and supplier.
The customer desiring pot holes to be fixed has no agency in the process. This is partly because the customer cannot pay (other than through general taxation) and partly because the supplier (a government agency) has no revenue dependent on fixing more potholes.
In the piece the author compares the potholes situation to the apparent efficient growth of 5G masts.
Unlike potholes, the 5G masts are erected by private sector suppliers serving private sector customers (usually large telecoms).
There is moral hazard in that all private sector businesses will go bust if they are not moderately efficient. Unlike government owned agencies.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

We below the line commenters addressed this issue somewhat in Malcolm Kyeyune’s piece the other day.
However I’d just like to say that roads are being resurfaced right around my city at the moment, including a few near me that was never fixed after the big freeze of seven or eight years ago. (And which cost me ÂŁ600 for a broken spring. Taxi drivers say they lost many thousands)
There is traffic chaos, of course, and all our parked cars have had to be removed from the street. But people are glad to see it being done.
I spoke to one of the asphalt truck drivers at the scene and he said it was due to the local council getting a large targeted direct grant from the Scottish government.
So, here at least, something is happening.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

And as I write, the radio is reporting on the Scottish governments plans to “tackle climate change” as if it’s something people really care about and the only argument is how severe the spending needs to be. A better illustration of the disconnect between the political and media classes and the real world outside my window, you couldn’t ask for.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

And as I write, the radio is reporting on the Scottish governments plans to “tackle climate change” as if it’s something people really care about and the only argument is how severe the spending needs to be. A better illustration of the disconnect between the political and media classes and the real world outside my window, you couldn’t ask for.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

We below the line commenters addressed this issue somewhat in Malcolm Kyeyune’s piece the other day.
However I’d just like to say that roads are being resurfaced right around my city at the moment, including a few near me that was never fixed after the big freeze of seven or eight years ago. (And which cost me ÂŁ600 for a broken spring. Taxi drivers say they lost many thousands)
There is traffic chaos, of course, and all our parked cars have had to be removed from the street. But people are glad to see it being done.
I spoke to one of the asphalt truck drivers at the scene and he said it was due to the local council getting a large targeted direct grant from the Scottish government.
So, here at least, something is happening.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

We need a new Cones Hotline more than we need anything else.
I phoned it once, just to see if it was there. I got an engaged tone so I guess it was.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

We need a new Cones Hotline more than we need anything else.
I phoned it once, just to see if it was there. I got an engaged tone so I guess it was.

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago

Potholes actually stimulate a part of the economy. A new wheel and tyre costs around ÂŁ100+. More if the suspension is damaged. The fallacy of paying kids to break windows to keep glaziers in business.

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago

Potholes actually stimulate a part of the economy. A new wheel and tyre costs around ÂŁ100+. More if the suspension is damaged. The fallacy of paying kids to break windows to keep glaziers in business.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Welcome to the petit bourgeois republictoylitte of nu britn Hew Kay Unbridled Kaos… The whole place is rotting and crumbling as the rayon draylon clad beardy spawn of Pooter continue their odious seepage into every corner of life….

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Welcome to the petit bourgeois republictoylitte of nu britn Hew Kay Unbridled Kaos… The whole place is rotting and crumbling as the rayon draylon clad beardy spawn of Pooter continue their odious seepage into every corner of life….

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
1 year ago

Funnily enough, as I travel around my area of South East London, I notice a multiplicity of roadworks constantly impeding the flow of traffic. Whatever the roadworks are for they are certainly not to repair the many potholes, which have now become more like craters.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
1 year ago

Funnily enough, as I travel around my area of South East London, I notice a multiplicity of roadworks constantly impeding the flow of traffic. Whatever the roadworks are for they are certainly not to repair the many potholes, which have now become more like craters.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

The building fury over seemingly minor issues such as this does indeed represent the increasing gap between the rulers and the ruled. 5G towers are built because they make money for billionaires because it uses patented protected technology and more critically because it is gated. Only those who pay can use the service. This ‘tragedy of the commons’ has been written about and studied so extensively that volumes could and have been written on every aspect of it and every possible means to address it. Some have questioned the entire capitalist system on this basis. Once upon a time, private philanthropy helped fill the gap between the need for these common goods and the dearth of profit that could be gained from maintaining them. This attunement of the ruling class towards the needs and concerns of those they ruled, both in terms of government policy and private engagement, ameliorated the concerns of the common folk enough to stave off revolution at least and keep conditions tolerable, leading to the social cohesion and national pride that characterized successful modern nation states. Now, however, the concerns of the ruling class are radically diverged from those being ruled. The common man’s outlook is, necessarily, local and personal. The rulers are globalist tycoons and managers whose outlook toward business and philanthropy is global, so they spend their billions in places where they perceive the need is greatest, and that’s not on Britain’s potholed roads. Further, they spend still more on the issues which are important to them and their projects, things like the ‘climate crisis’, diversity, tolerance, etc., because those are the things they want to cultivate in order to achieve their vision of the future, unrealistic though it be. Since money and power have always driven government policy, the government reflects these same concerns, spending on foreign wars and pipe dreams like Net Zero. Once upon a time, Marie Antoinette declared ‘let them eat cake’. I wonder how many Tories and others have privately said ‘well they should all just telecommute’ in private to their friends. I’d wager it’s far too many for their long-term survival and too few would even understand how the statements represent the same aristocratic hubris.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

The building fury over seemingly minor issues such as this does indeed represent the increasing gap between the rulers and the ruled. 5G towers are built because they make money for billionaires because it uses patented protected technology and more critically because it is gated. Only those who pay can use the service. This ‘tragedy of the commons’ has been written about and studied so extensively that volumes could and have been written on every aspect of it and every possible means to address it. Some have questioned the entire capitalist system on this basis. Once upon a time, private philanthropy helped fill the gap between the need for these common goods and the dearth of profit that could be gained from maintaining them. This attunement of the ruling class towards the needs and concerns of those they ruled, both in terms of government policy and private engagement, ameliorated the concerns of the common folk enough to stave off revolution at least and keep conditions tolerable, leading to the social cohesion and national pride that characterized successful modern nation states. Now, however, the concerns of the ruling class are radically diverged from those being ruled. The common man’s outlook is, necessarily, local and personal. The rulers are globalist tycoons and managers whose outlook toward business and philanthropy is global, so they spend their billions in places where they perceive the need is greatest, and that’s not on Britain’s potholed roads. Further, they spend still more on the issues which are important to them and their projects, things like the ‘climate crisis’, diversity, tolerance, etc., because those are the things they want to cultivate in order to achieve their vision of the future, unrealistic though it be. Since money and power have always driven government policy, the government reflects these same concerns, spending on foreign wars and pipe dreams like Net Zero. Once upon a time, Marie Antoinette declared ‘let them eat cake’. I wonder how many Tories and others have privately said ‘well they should all just telecommute’ in private to their friends. I’d wager it’s far too many for their long-term survival and too few would even understand how the statements represent the same aristocratic hubris.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
1 year ago

Which politician could gain prominence by fixing potholes? None.

justin fisher
justin fisher
1 year ago

Well, Schwarzenegger made headlines for doing it himself the other day, but I suppose that was because he’s already prominent.

justin fisher
justin fisher
1 year ago

Well, Schwarzenegger made headlines for doing it himself the other day, but I suppose that was because he’s already prominent.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
1 year ago

Which politician could gain prominence by fixing potholes? None.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

For me, this insight hit when the whole USA shifted to HDTV. Nary a peep from the “small government” crowd over the bureaucratic fiat or the subsidies for indigent SDTV owners (and HD models were pricier then). And not a tittle, either, from the left, over the subsidizing of TV purchases (and manufacturers) in an obscenly wealthy country that still can’t see fit to insure its poorest against the ordinary vicissitudes of modern life (much less fix its roads!). Obviously everyone agreed that it was imperative to see the next made-for-cable kabuki scandal in sharp, high resolution. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

For me, this insight hit when the whole USA shifted to HDTV. Nary a peep from the “small government” crowd over the bureaucratic fiat or the subsidies for indigent SDTV owners (and HD models were pricier then). And not a tittle, either, from the left, over the subsidizing of TV purchases (and manufacturers) in an obscenly wealthy country that still can’t see fit to insure its poorest against the ordinary vicissitudes of modern life (much less fix its roads!). Obviously everyone agreed that it was imperative to see the next made-for-cable kabuki scandal in sharp, high resolution. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Caroline Murray
Caroline Murray
1 year ago

Thanks for reinforcing my view that Cambridgeshire is the pothole capital of England – but I expect many other counties will have a similar claim, alas.

Caroline Murray
Caroline Murray
1 year ago

Thanks for reinforcing my view that Cambridgeshire is the pothole capital of England – but I expect many other counties will have a similar claim, alas.

Richard Barnes
Richard Barnes
1 year ago

The writer has failed to factor in the malign effect of outsourcing. The fact that it takes 2 weeks to fix even the most urgently identified pothole is probably the result of an SLA figure agreed with the outsourced contractor.

Richard Barnes
Richard Barnes
1 year ago

The writer has failed to factor in the malign effect of outsourcing. The fact that it takes 2 weeks to fix even the most urgently identified pothole is probably the result of an SLA figure agreed with the outsourced contractor.

Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
1 year ago

Isn’t road maintenance the province of local councils, though, not the national government? ISTM that part of the problem, which is evidenced in this article as well, is that people expect the central government to do everything, with the result that local governments can be as incompetent as anything with no pressure to improve.

Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
1 year ago

Isn’t road maintenance the province of local councils, though, not the national government? ISTM that part of the problem, which is evidenced in this article as well, is that people expect the central government to do everything, with the result that local governments can be as incompetent as anything with no pressure to improve.

Simon Segall
Simon Segall
1 year ago

This excellent essay doesn’t only describe Britain. Here in Canada, it’s exactly the same.

Simon Segall
Simon Segall
1 year ago

This excellent essay doesn’t only describe Britain. Here in Canada, it’s exactly the same.

Dionne Finch
Dionne Finch
1 year ago

As a trades worker myself, I would like to point out that we do in fact ‘think’.
Typically when I hire someone who has only ever had a desk job they come into the work with the preconceived notion that all they have to do is ‘do’. It’s a wake up call when they realize that doing (efficiently and properly) requires thinking.

Dionne Finch
Dionne Finch
1 year ago

As a trades worker myself, I would like to point out that we do in fact ‘think’.
Typically when I hire someone who has only ever had a desk job they come into the work with the preconceived notion that all they have to do is ‘do’. It’s a wake up call when they realize that doing (efficiently and properly) requires thinking.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

It seems the word SCOTCH is prohibited by the Censor!
Has someone been whining?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

It seems the word SCOTCH is prohibited by the Censor!
Has someone been whining?

Tony Orchard
Tony Orchard
1 year ago

Just try looking at the number of Secretaries of State in each department in the last 13 years to realise that the Governments since 2010 have not cared about the management of the executive functions from police, justice, health, defence et al, but have chosen self preservation of the Conservative party as being their raison d’ĂȘtre.
Tony
PS – why is this string so bizarre as to be talking about Sherman tanks ?

Tony Orchard
Tony Orchard
1 year ago

Just try looking at the number of Secretaries of State in each department in the last 13 years to realise that the Governments since 2010 have not cared about the management of the executive functions from police, justice, health, defence et al, but have chosen self preservation of the Conservative party as being their raison d’ĂȘtre.
Tony
PS – why is this string so bizarre as to be talking about Sherman tanks ?

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

Good article and, of course, absolutely true, as many have observed btl, that councillors etc aren’t interested in such boring things as potholes when they have to save the world. Ridiculous but…
However there might also be another reason for all these problems “Network Rail may be falling apart; the road to Cambridge may increasingly have a texture akin to a giant cheese-grater; it may have taken a fortnight to fix the most famous pothole in Britain. But even as these aspects of our infrastructure have grown shabby, a forest of 5G masts has shot up across Britain, appearing with none of the faffing, incompetence or cost overrun that has characterised, say, the proposed East-West Rail.”
Is it a coincidence that the failing items are Government run while the 5G masts are private business. Too simplistic? Maybe but …..

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

The point you miss is that the “government ran” projects are being “ran” by a government that doesn’t believe governments should “run” anything.  

Last edited 1 year ago by Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

The point you miss is that the “government ran” projects are being “ran” by a government that doesn’t believe governments should “run” anything.  

Last edited 1 year ago by Frank McCusker
Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

Good article and, of course, absolutely true, as many have observed btl, that councillors etc aren’t interested in such boring things as potholes when they have to save the world. Ridiculous but…
However there might also be another reason for all these problems “Network Rail may be falling apart; the road to Cambridge may increasingly have a texture akin to a giant cheese-grater; it may have taken a fortnight to fix the most famous pothole in Britain. But even as these aspects of our infrastructure have grown shabby, a forest of 5G masts has shot up across Britain, appearing with none of the faffing, incompetence or cost overrun that has characterised, say, the proposed East-West Rail.”
Is it a coincidence that the failing items are Government run while the 5G masts are private business. Too simplistic? Maybe but …..

Mark St Giles
Mark St Giles
1 year ago

The can’t do nation. Just think of an excuse.

Mark St Giles
Mark St Giles
1 year ago

The can’t do nation. Just think of an excuse.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago

“… young elites seek refuge in disguising themselves as middle-class and simply pursuing material wealth, or else fill the gap variously with “risk-averse managerialism” or destructive woke activism.”
Spot on!

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago

“… young elites seek refuge in disguising themselves as middle-class and simply pursuing material wealth, or else fill the gap variously with “risk-averse managerialism” or destructive woke activism.”
Spot on!

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

Brilliant analysis of why nothing seems to work any more, especially where government is in charge. I think as well we suffer from systems that are too complicated that we become less and less efficient in dealing with them. And the people who run the systems don’t know how the systems actually work. instead of form following function, or a harmony between the engine and the engineer, style trumps substance.