Friday, 26 February 2016

Lost in history

I am not going to write yet again about the EU Referendum today, or at least not directly, but rather about some reflections prompted by an article that appeared in The Guardian today by John Harris which was about the referendum but with a particular take. Harris, who is an invariably interesting journalist by the way, argues that many inclined to vote to leave the EU are reacting to having had huge and rapid social changes “imposed on them”. They should not, therefore, be patronizingly dismissed as “irrational, unhinged and gullible”.
Whether or not this is a valid reason for voting to leave the EU is an open question, and as I say not what I want to discuss here. Rather, it seems to me that the sentiment Harris is reporting is a variant of something I discuss and criticise at length in the book (especially pp. 88-92): the idea of a world in rapid, perhaps unprecedented, change which makes mandatory constant organizational change. It is one of the many ways in which organizations and politics are both connected and harmonic, something which is becoming a regular theme of this blog.
What strikes me most is how unchanging these claims are, and how they are both meaningful and meaningless. Harris is talking about the period since Britain joined the EU, so the forty or so years since 1973. But in 1973, which I can just about remember (I was 8), similar sentiments were expressed, and very vociferously too. The past, it seemed, was not just another country but, in the past, we had been another country. The memories of war, Empire, social cohesion and civility may have been refracted through the lens of nostalgia but they had their counterpart in more objective analyses of relative economic decline, shifting centres of geo-political power and changing social norms.
It was common then to hear adults talking about how ‘the country has gone to the dogs’, that ‘we won the war but we lost the peace’ and, though I can’t recall hearing these exact words, that ‘I just want my country back’. Some of this, as with the present EU debate, was about immigration but, also as with the present EU debate, it was part of a more inchoate sense of unchosen changes. Indeed it’s worth remembering that this kind of sentiment was a big part of what lay*, a few years later, behind electoral support for Margaret Thatcher, including her remarks at the 1979 election campaign about British people feeling ‘swamped’ by immigration. And yet people now are wont to say that immigration ‘used to be ok’, even though their predecessors did not say anything like that at all.
So that sense of unchosen change isn’t new and perhaps this means that it is actually itself rather patronizing to uncritically accept it as an authentic, respectworthy sentiment. If anything it is just an unremarkable truism: 2016 is different to 1973, just as 1976 was different to 1933 in all kinds of ways, most of which were not ‘chosen’ and could not reasonably have been ‘asked’ about. Why would anyone expect otherwise? The issue seems to lie more in a sense that this change is going somewhere frightening or, perhaps most frightening of all, that it is going nowhere. It’s this fearful sense of being lost in history that I want to explore.
Fear of redundancy, fear of being left behind, fear of being judged unequal to the demands of change. That this fear is largely orchestrated through an invocation of hordes of Asians and Slavs – or, in more politically acceptable language, the challenge from the emerging economies of China, India and Eastern Europe; or the anodyne ‘global economic race’ – serves to underscore the perhaps not racist but certainly racialised tang of contemporary stories about Britishness. We may have no clear idea of what the future holds, but we are continually told that failure to change will mean that the future will occur elsewhere, in a faraway country of which we know little. There is therefore an easy translation from the ubiquitous experience of change in the workplace to a fear of foreign competition, and an easy translation from that to fear of foreigners in general and immigration and European integration in particular.
It is indeed quite remarkable that the bullishness about change in the organizational sphere has been so comprehensively unmatched in other areas. The most charitable interpretation of British involvement in the Iraq war is that it was animated by a desire to maintain the ‘special relationship’ and to influence US policy – a desire which was a continuation of British foreign policy since 1945 and which persists to the present day. New Labour’s attitude to the EU, initially relatively conciliatory, later became rather similar to that towards Old Labour: one of hectoring calls for modernization and change in the face of global competition. The Coalition government after 2010 was relatively muted on the EU because of the presence of pro-EU Liberal Democrats but the Conservative administration since 2015 is defined by degrees of hostility to the EU relations. (Interestingly, these two foreign policy areas are in conflict, since the US relation to the UK is refracted through the UK’s membership of the EU, as President Obama is beginning to make clear).
Back on the home front, immigration and asylum policies have also been animated by fear. There is no doubt that New Labour were more relaxed about multi-culturalism than was Thatcherism. And Cameron’s ‘Notting Hill’ conservatism has largely followed them in this, which in part explains the rise of UKIP (which was not just fed by the EU issue but the sense that Cameron is not a ‘real Conservative’ e.g. in terms of gay marriage legislation). Nevertheless, across all recent governments policy in these areas has been draconian and it is noteworthy that the case for tolerance has mainly been made in purely economic terms – the economic need for immigration – so that it is in effect inseparable from the mantra of change as an adjunct to global competitiveness. There is no real suggestion that immigration is related to either our past responsibilities as a colonial power or to our future possibilities as a cosmopolitan society. It’s just an economic presence, bereft of past or future.
It would be unfair to ascribe this culture of fear solely to the polity. It is also the case that any capacity to be positive about the future is limited by the rabidity of a press where it is not just the tabloids which are filled with blood-curdling stories of new causes for alarm. On Europe, immigration, asylum, crime, terrorism, paedophilia as well as health, climate change and, notoriously, house prices the media tell of a world to which a cringing fearfulness is a quite reasonable response. Yet it is not a fear of anything in particular, even if it attaches at moments to something specific. A combination of rolling news and limited attention spans means that each fear is registered, instantaneously forgotten and superseded by a new terror. What endures is not any specific anxiety but a generalised neurotic dread. But whilst fed by the media this climate has been able to flourish at least in part because it fills the vacuum created by the political failure to articulate any compelling future vision of ‘the good life’.
There is clearly a symmetry between the febrile atmosphere engendered by the daily kaleidoscope of media-fuelled panics and the managerialized politics and political managerialism in which ‘the only constant is change’. If we want an image of contemporary Britain it would be of a person running in terror away from an unseen yet omnipresent enemy, but running on a treadmill rather than a road. Standing at the side is a sadistic personal trainer in the form of politician, manager or journalist cajoling and bullying the runner to go faster, to redouble the effort to go nowhere on pain of being engulfed by the invisible demons which lie in wait for those who fail to keep up. The ‘global race’ has no finishing line. It is a journey with no beginning, no end and no purpose or meaning beyond its own self-fulfilling imperative to keep moving at any cost.
This is not, as is conventionally supposed, because we** are too wedded to the past but rather because we have too little sense of ourselves as located within the past-present-future continuum which more truly constitutes history. If, when I was a child, the problem was the weight of the past then for the coming generation it is the weightlessness of the future. When I was growing up, British identity was, unhappily and ultimately unsustainably, that of an old person stuck in the past with memories of a great empire, a heroic war, of glories lost. That is still discernible, but it is now much more akin to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Anyone who, as I have, has had the misfortune of witnessing this condition will know that what makes it so devastating is not simply that the sufferer recollects so little of the past and is often over-attached to those distant fragments which are flickeringly remembered. It is also that there is no conception of the future, and the present is just a fear-filled moment of transitory but ever recurring change. 

*Surprisingly from a present-day perspective it also in part lay behind the decision to join what was then the EEC in 1973. I can remember my highly Conservative – and conservative – primary school headmistress inventing a song about a ‘beautiful dream’ as part of a celebratory pageant of this event. I played – and I hope this will amuse anyone reading this who knows me – one of the ‘gnomes of Zurich’, then a slang term for Swiss bankers. Whether these gnomes were depicted positively or negatively in the pageant I unfortunately can’t recall.

**By ‘we’ I mean ‘we British’ but similar things may well be true in other countries. I think this is so in France, which I know quite well, and probably in the US and elsewhere. Indeed something like what I have said here seems to apply to US and is expressed by Donald Trump when, as in his now notorious ‘ban all Muslims’ speech he cried plaintively about the need to work out “what the hell is going on?”. Obnoxious as it was, it did express this sense of ‘historical lostness’ that I am trying to explore, and Trump’s popularity is surely a consequence of that sense.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Battling for Britain

I had intended to write a post about Owen Hatherley’s stimulating recent book The Ministry of Nostalgia, and then thought I wanted to write something about today’s EU summit where Britain is negotiating terms prior to a Referendum on continued membership. But it occurred to me that the two are in many ways linked.
Hatherley’s book picks up on something which I have also noticed and commented on in this blog, namely the grotesque historical spoonerism in which wartime and post-war austerity is invoked to justify swingeing public budget cuts. What was originally about shared suffering in order to build collective goods becomes the cover for their dismemberment. Hatherley analyses this “austerity nostalgia” at length, orchestrated in particular through the motif of the now ubiquitous ‘keep calm and carry on’ slogan. Originally devised (although not in fact used) as wartime propaganda, it now indexes a certain sort of British – or English – self-identity of stoical suffering.
Whilst most obviously consonant with the political projects of the right – and I will return to this – Hatherley deploys a most intriguing argument about how it fits in with a certain kind of leftist nostalgia which, whilst he has some sympathy with it, he finds to be ultimately impotent. That chimed with me because it is a nostalgia that I am prone to, as I wrote in my post about Jonathan Coe’s novelistic treatment of the same kind of thinking. And amongst the wide range of examples – many of them to do with architecture – that Hatherley deploys I was interested to see that one was Ken Loach’s film 1945, which I also posted about on this blog, even linking it to the perversity of the ‘keep calm and carry on’ motif! There’s also critical (but again sympathetic) mention of one of my favourite recent(ish) books, historian Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land, as a key statement of leftist nostalgia. So, in short, Hatherley’s book both spoke to but also challenged many of the things I believe and am interested in. I am still digesting what to make of it and may well post about this in due course.
But this book also re-enforces my sense of what lies beneath the EU Referendum. For “austerity nostalgia” and its associated tropes seems very much to inform David Cameron’s avowed intention to ‘battle for Britain’ in his EU re-negotiation. The very fact of using such language is surely designed to underline its primary purpose: to persuade the undecided or only vaguely interested to vote to stay in. It is not that the things under negotiation are of any great significance – they are as irrelevant to those implacably opposed to EU membership as to those, such as myself, who are broadly supportive. But the language speaks to the softer edges of opposition, the hard core of which is animated by the still potent idea of Britain ‘standing alone’ during the war, and which seems still to dream of a world something like that of (an imagination of) early post-war Britain. It speaks to a sullen, resentful sensibility, sometimes vicious, other times sentimental. Local, not cosmopolitan. Pathetic (in its literal sense) but not always necessarily ignoble.
In a more practical vein, though, the re-negotiation shows the incoherence of the Brexit case in at least two ways. One is that the persistent complaint of those making that case is that the EU is ruled by diktat from Brussels, with no democracy. Yet when it emerged that even if Brussels agreed to the terms, they would be subject to ratification by the democratically elected European Parliament there was outrage. The other is that the terms of the re-negotiation were seen as hopelessly limited and yet even these had been ‘watered down’ as the protracted negotiation progressed. Yet it is an article of faith amongst Brexiters that on leaving the UK will be able to quickly negotiate with exactly the same counterparties a full-spectrum free trade deal on the most generous of terms.
Those two things seem to spell out the twin poles of the Brexit version of nostalgia. On the one hand, the idea of Britain being hamstrung; on the other of Britain being overweaningly powerful. A battle of Britain speaks well to this, since 1940 was the moment at which Britain was both at its weakest and strongest. But how long are we to live in the long shadow of that summer, now 75 years ago? In my book (Grey, 2012) about Bletchley Park (the wartime codebreaking centre) I write about how ‘the war’ was an omnipresent part of my childhood in the 1970s, since it had been the defining experience of my parents and teachers. One might have thought that this would have diminished in the subsequent years, but it has not. Hathaway notes how it is now the experience of our grandparents that gets referenced in austerity nostalgia. Certainly the TV channels remain full of wartime films and documentaries. I am not sure that any other country in the world is still so preoccupied with the war, unless it is Putin’s Russia which, by the way, would more than any other country be the benefactor of Brexit.
In this sense, though, one can certainly see the present situation as a battle for Britain in a rather different sense. The decision about whether to remain in the EU is in some ways a decision about what Britain is to be and how it is to think about itself. A Brexit would re-enforce the remark made in 1963 by American Secretary of State Dean Acheson that Britain had lost an empire and not yet found a role. That indeed is very evident in the historical and geo-political absurdity of the idea championed by many Brexiters of creating a politics and trade bloc based on the Commonwealth. And it would very forcibly bring home to British people quite how much the world has changed since 1940 since in a muted way the US, Indian and Chinese administrations have made it clear that Britain is only of interest as a partner to the extent that it is an EU member. Plus Britain itself would surely not survive Brexit, since Scotland, for sure, would become independent.
So this is the link between Hatherley’s perceptive book and the EU Referendum negotiations going on even as I write: is Britain, or England in fact, to be locked into a nostalgic fantasy of keeping calm and carrying on? Or will it embrace the undoubted imperfections of the EU and acknowledge the geo-political realpolitik of the present? This is about unquantifiable feelings, images and sensibilities but it will in the end come down to some quite precise, quite narrowly-ranged, numbers between 60-40 for in and 60-40 for out. The 20% difference between those two outcomes represents the undecided or shiftable vote that Cameron’s otherwise meaningless renegotiation is designed to appeal to. His gamble is that they can be persuaded to keep calm and carry on with EU membership and if he is right he will win the vote. The argument? Well, that has still to be faced up to, let alone won.
Grey, C. (2012). Decoding Organization. Bletchley Park, Codebreaking and Organization Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Judt, T. (2011). Ill Fares the Land. London: Penguin

Hatherley, O. (2016). The Ministry of Nostalgia. London: Verso.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Nothing works

One of the persistent themes in the book (which I am engaging with closely at the moment as I prepare the fourth edition) is to probe the meanings of efficiency to argue that these are often ethically deficient, and beyond that to say that it is not just that they are deficient and yet ‘work’, but that often they simply don’t work.
With that in mind, I have been thinking about a series of things which have happened in the last week or so. These include:

·       I arrived in good time at a train station. The ticket office was closed and two of the four machines were out of order, with long queues at the remaining ones. I missed my train. Soon after one of the ticket booths opened and the ticket seller told me that the company now only employed one seller because there were now machines, and so when she had her break the office was closed. When I finally got the train, there were no seats and it arrived 20 minutes late due to faulty signals.

·       I received payment for some work I did – last May. It has taken seven reminders to get paid.

·       I was due to pick my wife up from the airport. She texted me to say that boarding was two hours delayed, but the airport website still showed her arrival as being on schedule even after that scheduled time had passed. I phoned them (on a premium rate number), went through a long automated sequence, then was put on hold, then spoke to someone who told me the flight had landed. I pointed out that it had not even taken off yet, and that the flight he mentioned was the earlier one from the same destination. He hung up.

·       My phone line and hence broadband connection went down (this happens every couple of months). The usual horrible process of the automated phone call system to report it, and it was almost 24 hours until the fault was fixed.

·       I needed to contact HMRC (the UK tax office). This isn’t the usual horrible process of the automated phone call system. It’s far worse. Because it has a voice/word recognition system that doesn’t seem to recognize anything I say. I gave up.

·       I had arranged to have some ironing and dry cleaning picked up one afternoon (yes, I know, a first world problem if ever there was one). They don’t turn up so I call them – they say that they came in the morning when I was not in. And this, unlike the other examples, is a small, family-run firm.

I think that this was a fairly typical week. Now it could be said that I am ignoring the many other transactions and interactions I have had with organizations this week that have gone perfectly well. That is true (although I could add to my list of problems as well, although with fairly trivial examples). But even so I experience these transactions and interactions as a constant struggle. A struggle against inefficiency, against organizations just not being very well organized, but also a struggle against efficiency in that many of the problems (the ticket office closure, the automated phone systems) derive from company’s introducing what for them are efficient systems.
It might also be said that I am unusually tetchy or impatient with such problems. That may be true – it’s difficult for me to judge. But my sense is that I am not alone and certainly things like train overcrowding and delays, automated phone lines in general, and the HMRC phone line in particular are quite widely complained about. There seems to be some basic sense in which, across a wide range of transactions and interactions, organizations just don’t work very well.
It’s also the case, to reprise another of the book’s themes, that the notion of choice in all this is quite bogus. In most of the cases listed above I had no choice about using the company I did, even though with the exception of the HMRC they are private companies (albeit often formerly public utilities). And even in cases where similar problems are common like banks where I can choose a different bank (although not, realistically not to have a bank at all) I’m unlikely to find much difference between them.
It’s not just that these things are irritating - although they are – it’s that they transfer inefficiency to others. When my broadband connection isn’t working, there are many work tasks I can’t do; when my train is late, I miss a meeting (actually, I didn’t, because knowing that delays are highly likely I factor them in, but that still means that had I got the train I planned I would have wasted time hanging around due to being early). These things in turn mean that I may cause problems for other people. It’s not that I am wedded to some productivist notion of constant work – I quite enjoy, for example, the ‘wasted’ hour when I am early for a meeting, or the respite from emails when the broadband is down - but there is an irony in the fact that those who are create through their practices the unintended consequence of eroding its possibility.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

What lies outside of organization studies?

I received an interesting email about this blog the other day. As the sender did not post it publicly I won’t reveal his name but I suppose it was what used to be called a ‘green ink letter’ in that the language was a little intemperate and capital letters and exclamation remarks abounded (and I would just mention that this is not necessarily the most effective way to make one’s arguments). The main point he made was that most of what I write about on the blog is not organization studies but economics and politics and he was particularly exercised by my posts on British membership of the EU. Why, he asked, don’t I just stick to writing about what I know about, meaning organization studies?

The answer to that is important to my view of what organization studies is, or should be. Because I don’t recognize any real distinctions between organization studies and economics and politics or, for that matter, social science or social affairs or history (all of which I often write about), philosophy (though I rarely write about it) or literature (which occasionally I do). That’s actually one of the key messages of the book.

One reason for that is the fairly obvious one that organizations exist within an economic, political and social context so anything about that context is relevant to organizations. In Europe (and more widely), the EU is certainly an important part of that context and although my correspondent clearly disagreed with my views on the matter, the robustness of his email leads me to think that he very much agrees about that importance. Another reason is that the organization-context distinction (or, more often in organization theory, the organization-environment distinction) is a bogus one: they are mutually constitutive. As I argue in the book (p.93), somewhat counter-intuitively organizations are part of their own environment. And a third is that politics, economics and the social are themselves organized both in general and in terms of specific organizations (e.g. political parties). No one bats an eyelid if leadership researchers invoke examples of political leaders alongside business leaders – so why should it not be the same for organization studies in general?

All this suggests another, and I think genuinely interesting, question: does it mean that there is nothing that lies outside of organization studies? I am really not sure. Certainly there is little which lies outside organizations, in that all human life has a collective and therefore organized aspect. Even Robinson Crusoe, sometimes invoked in economic theory as an atomised individual, relied upon stuff that he had rescued from his shipwrecked boat, and both the boat and the stuff were there because of organization. And as soon as he met another (black) person he turned him into a slave – effecting an organization on the basis of how he had learned to organize. So maybe organization studies is about everything?

There are parallels in other subjects. Economics is actually a good example in that it often seeks to recast all human experience in terms of its own categories, and politics can claim that everything is in some sense political. In recent years I’ve noticed that geography has become ever more expansive in its scope, perhaps on the basis that everything, after all, occurs in space and in a place. Anything social must in some sense be amenable to sociological analysis. And does anything about human behaviour lie outside the ambit of psychology? I suppose that many facets of art and science lie outside of organization studies, and that it would be immensely and absurdly flattening to try to argue otherwise. Still, all facets of art and science are in some way organized, and in this regard organization studies has (or could have) something to say about them. Perhaps only aesthetic experience lies wholly outside organization studies?

Like many academics who work in organization studies my training was outside of the field. In fact, although the email correspondent suggested that I should stick to organization studies as that is what I know about, the reality is that I probably don’t have anything like the comprehensive knowledge of the subject that I might be assumed to have, and probably should have. In my case my training was primarily in political philosophy and to a lesser extent economics; for others in the field it was anthropology, psychology and sociology amongst other things. This is actually becoming less true, as the growth of organization studies means that younger academics are more often trained in the subject, and usually within business schools. I am inclined to think that this is change for the worse, although it may well be that they have a more thorough grounding in organization studies per se than do I and others of my generation.

Anyway, I don’t propose to limit myself to the conventional repertoire of organization studies, but I can see the danger that the more it is about everything the more it may be about nothing. Even so, what strikes me more, as regards this blog, is that it is actually rather repetitive in the things I write about. So my belated New Year resolution (with no promises that I will stick to it) is to try to extend my range a bit further. That will not please my correspondent, alas, but since his main complaint was about my “fascistic”, “Quisling”, “big business [loving]” and “liberal-left elitist” support for British membership of the EU I fear that I am unlikely to do so. And I am sure I will continue to post about British membership of the EU – in fact something about the extraordinary intellectual legerdemain (if this does not slightly flatter it) by which its supporters can simultaneously be cast as fascists, traitors, corporate lackeys, liberals and leftists would be well worth writing.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Fat cats?

The British government have today announced plans to further restrict redundancy pay-offs made to public sector employees. Proposing an £80,000 cap, this will only affect senior staff, and it is in part a response to a populist media campaign, enraged about public sector ‘fat cats’ not just because of redundancy pay-offs but, more generally, high salaries and ‘gold-plated’ pensions.
Fair enough, perhaps – although where is the comparable outrage about private sector rewards? – but it is worth considering how it has come about that public sector managers enjoy the high rewards that they do. For it was not always so. Traditionally, senior managers (then more often called administrators or officials) had substantially lower salaries than in the private sector, and were expected to be motivated primarily by their commitment to public service.
That all changed from the 1980s, when under the general ideology of the market and the particular influence of the ‘New Public Management’ that derived from it, it was argued that the public sector was inefficient because it did not have the dynamic management of the private sector and that, therefore, it had to offer rewards commensurate with those in the private sector so as to attract that talent. This new breed of managers could hardly be expected to work for so fluffy an ideal as public service – no, in line with the motivational theories of what was then called the New Right, they had to be paid top dollar. And they were – bringing with them many of the reforms that have laid waste to the public sector. But that is another story, about which I have written elsewhere in the blog.
One way of understanding this story is to see it as one of a huge number of examples where the consequences of decisions by now long-retired or dead politicians who were in power in the 1980s neo-liberal heyday have now come to fruition. Examples range from the decision to relax planning regulations on flood plain building because the market should decide where to build, leading to the floods of recent years, through to the deregulation that led to the global financial crisis.
It’s the same with the 1980s approach to those parts of the public sector that were not privatised (those that were, by the way, have mostly now died). Wind forward 30 years and we see that the very same ideologues who blasted the public sector for not paying the going rate for top managers now blast the public sector for … paying the going rate for top managers. It is a hypocrisy unleavened by any acknowledgement that the going rate for top managers is ludicrously high. Because of course their quarrel is not with top management pay rates at all, but with the very existence of the public sector.
Indeed, the attack on public sector fatcat pay is really only a way of finding a soft point to attack public sector pay in general. It is part and parcel of two claims. One is that public sector workers are paid more than private sector workers. The other is that public sector workers get 'gold-plated pensions’. Often, the two claims are linked together.
The problem with the first claim is that – again because of the impact of market ideology and neo-liberal reforms – the lowest skilled (and therefore lowest paid) jobs in the public sector have been outsourced to private sector contractors. Thus, of course, average public sector pay is higher. As regards pensions, in 2012 (the latest year for which I have been able to find comparative figures) the median-average public sector pension was £5,600 pa (mean-average £7,800 pa) and the median-average private sector pension was £5,860 pa (mean-average £7,467). It’s true that most final salary pension schemes in the private sector have closed; it’s also true that those in the public sector are closing (one reason being the pressure put on them by high paid managers).
So let’s by all means challenge the high pay and pensions of senior managers in the public sector. But doing so only makes sense if we do so across the board, perhaps by considering a maximum wage. In 1998 FTSE-100 CEOs were paid a huge 47 times the pay of their average employee. Shocked? Well, by 2014 they were paid 130 times as much as their average employee. We might think about Fred Goodwin, who brought down Royal Bank of Scotland and cost the taxpayer billions of pounds, scraping by on a reported pension of £342,500 pa, poor fellow. We might think about Paul Dacre, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Mail which has so vociferously campaigned against public sector largesse. In 2014 his pay and bonus package was £2.4M. The average UK pay in 2014 was £26,500 or 1.1% of what anti-elitist Dacre earned that year. The highest paid public official, and this by a long chalk, in 2015 was the Attorney-General at £205,000 or 8.5% of what public sector scourge Dacre earned the previous year. We might think about Jonathan Isaby, the Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance that campaigns against public sector pay in the interests of transparency – but, alas, so profound is his commitment to transparency that his pay isn’t on the public record, nor are the identities of the donors that fund the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Strange, perhaps, to learn that the Taxpayers’ Alliance are enthusiastic advocates of freedom of information, but we surely can’t doubt that everyone associated with them is an assiduous taxpayer, can we?
So let’s think about all that, let’s understand the hypocrisy of those who decry the consequences of what they advocate, and the underlying agenda they champion, and the kind of world they really want to see.