The Quango State

Back in the 1970s we used to laugh at failed countries whose economies depended upon one commodity. We called them “banana republics”.

Any resident of a former banana republic might well look across at Britain now and feel that things have changed somewhat. Not that the UK was a lovely place 30 years ago – think strikes, broken phone boxes and the Bay City Rollers – but at least you knew who was running the country. And when you didn’t like what was going on, you voted and there was a change of government. That’s how we got Margaret Thatcher and economic salvation.

The problem is nowadays that when things go wrong chances are that you can’t get rid of the people at fault. They aren’t answerable to the voters. For we now live in the Quango State.

Were you a bit of a failure in your previous career? Never mind, provided you can parrot new Labour phraseology there’s a well funded place on a Government commission waiting for you. No need to dirty your hands dealing with the general public. You are above that. You have joined the great and the good.

When David Cameron wins the next election, he will need to unravel this mess if he wants to earn the public’s trust and restore faith in politics. Today he has said this:

“The problem today is that too much of what government does is actually done by people that no-one can vote out, by organisations that feel no pressure to answer for what happens and in a way that is relatively unaccountable.”

The policy-making functions of Ofcom – such as deciding the future of local news and Channel 4 – will be handed back to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; and the responsibilities of the Qualifications, Curriculum and Development Agency will be transferred to the Department for Children Schools and Families.”

That’s a good start. Next let’s have a look at the FSA, the Local Government Association, the Government Office for the South-East, the South East England Regional Assembly, the Homes and Communities Agency, and the Tenants’ Services Authority to name only the ones whose activities cross my path daily. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of others. It’s going to be a daunting task.


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