16 April 2011

Thinking Paper # 3 - Should we encourage our Prime Minister to drink more?

By Ron Ford-Golightly


Alcohol is everywhere at the moment. It is in my blood, it’s in your blood, and it’s all over the dusty shelves of our country’s finest supermarkets. In the opinion of health experts, dutifully misreported by The newspapers (One dry Sherry before Sunday Lunch can increase middle class cancers by up to 95%), alcohol should be drunk in moderation, especially by those who drive cars or run our country.

In this paper the IIPBA will explore the issue in more detail, tackling the subject in the context of the performance of the Prime Minister. Should our leaders refrain to improve their political performance or indulge to speed up decision making? This paper will look at the history of alcoholism in our leaders and ask should we, the voting public, demand a minimum amount of alcohol intake for our Prime Minister?

Alcohol and Prime Ministers – A selective history

According to statistical research carried out by our in house polling experts, the IIPBA’s favourite drunk Prime Minister is Winston Churchill. Let’s look at his record:

(1) When Churchill was sent to the front line of the Boer war, he took with him 36 bottles of wine, 18 bottles of ten-year old scotch, and 6 bottles of vintage brandy (a drink he believed was essential to a stable diet);

(2) When King George V set a personal example to the troops by giving up alcohol, Churchill declared the whole idea absurd and announced he would not be giving up drink just because the King had;

(3) during the war he would take briefings from the armed forces chief of staff in bed or in the bath, usually with a bottle of champagne, brandy or whisky.

Looking at a longitudinal time series analysis of public polling, we can definitively say that the public love Churchill. He was a big fat drunk but also a successful wartime leader and eternally popular Prime Minister. Coincidence?

Of all the revelations in former Prime Minister Tony Blair's autobiography, his admission to habitually drinking wine and spirits each night was perhaps the most surprising. But did it matter? In terms of units drunk, he confessed, he was definitely at "the outer limit" of what would be regarded as healthy to drink in a week. If we leave out his rather hasty decision to condemn large amounts of people to a grizzly death, it’s fair to say that Blair was one of the most popular and successful Prime Minister’s of all time due, in large part, to his common touch and ability to make decisions after a few whiskeys.

Prime Minister Herbert "squiffy" Asquith, so called because of his penchant for certain toxins, used to sway on his feet when speaking or answering questions in the House of Commons. He even became the muse of a ditty writer during World War I (when "Mr Asquith says in a manner sweet and calm: Another little drink won't do us any harm"). However, Asquith was one of the longest continuously serving Prime Minister’s of the 20th century who has been noted by historians and social study’s alike to have been a successful peacetime Prime Minister.

William Pitt the Younger habitually drank several bottles of port a day, which is said to have been prescribed by his physician. Now this love of port didn’t go without its consequences. He died in 1806 at the age of 46, and from contemporary accounts it appears that he succumbed to renal failure and cirrhosis. However, Pitt was not only the youngest Prime Minister, but he also presided over what has been described as “one of the most completely successful ten years in the history of British government” (take that Gordon Brown).

Moving on to the cow headed, iron fisted, silent comedian, Gordon Brown was said to enjoy a bottle of Becks and a pizza with the “lads” (Ed Balls and Ed Miliband) during his opposition and treasury days. However, he also said that he woke up to Arctic Monkeys in the morning so I think we can safely discount both. According to Westminster rumours, he actually enjoyed Luke warm urine, hessian sacks and self flagellation. The rocking horse rumour is, to date, still unfounded. It may be too soon to determine what Brown’s legacy will be, but I think it is fair to say that the ten successful years of boom in the economy that he presided over was also one of the contributing factors which will make the next 10 years so miserable for so many. In summary, he didn’t drink as much as Tony and still went on to ruin the economy for a generation.

Prime Minister Dave – Recommendations

Dave has admitted to enjoying “a can of Guinness” sat in front of the TV watching darts (“There’s a good old boy, open me another Guinness wont you old chap”). Two things: one this has to be a lie and two why was he trying to win votes in the Republic of Ireland? Watching Dave drink a pint down his local pub on the TV during election night was like watching a young boy tasting his dad’s beer for the first time, trying ever so hard to like it but not being able to avoid screwing up his face in disgust (but daddy that’s yucky). The IIPBA can’t help but feel that a good Prime Minister needs to have a thirst for the old poison. From winning wars to presiding over decade long periods of good government, our finest leaders have always enjoyed a good old fashioned binge to help them along the way.

In summary, get with the programme Dave, the squeezed middle likes a man who can get through two bottles of red wine and still do his tax return of an evening. Don’t shout about your drinking from the rooftops (poor William Hague) just get down to a bit of hard edged spirit toasting whilst you pore over your red box. One, it generally makes reading easier and two decisions will come quicker because of the lift in confidence. Too far and too fast is more than acceptable when it comes to alcohol intake Prime Minister.

Thanks for listening.

^Picture copyright James Stringer, used under Creative Commons^

6 April 2011

Thinking Paper #5 - On the need for a post-bureaucratic age -Is Muamar Gaddafi in league with bureaucracy?

By Tim Massingberd-James
  • Abstract
Whilst Libyan rebels state that bureaucracy is the cause of losses in the Libyan ground war, Muamar Gaddafi maintains a significant bureaucracy. However, as seen elsewhere in the world, public officials have actually been a stifling force, and have delayed key reforms that may have led to much-needed changes. Muamar Gaddafi is only in league with bureaucracy because he has to be. Like all of us, he has no choice.

  • Is Muamar Gaddafi in league with bureaucracy?
In a press conference on 6th April 2011, Libyan rebels complained that NATO bureaucracy was delaying their response to calls from airstrikes, allowing the Libyan regime’s tanks and artillery to attack rebel forces before retreating into civilian areas, to avoid airstrikes.

Many believe the reason NATO forces were so quick to become involved in Libya was a plan unveiled by Gaddafi in 2009, where he proposed the nationalisation of Libya’s oil wealth, effectively handing over resources to the country’s huge bureaucracy, which both American and Chinese officials described as ‘byzantine’ in leaked wikileaks cables. In a landmark speech on state TV, Gaddafi said "the state's economy has failed. Enough is enough. The solution is for the Libyan people to directly receive oil revenues and decide what to do with them".

However, as part of this plan, Gaddafi urged a radical reform of government bureaucracy, leading to senior government officials voting to delay his plans, with only 64 of 468 Popular Committee members in support.

In a 2003 Corruption Perceptions Index survey, where people were asked to rate the degree of corruption of the Libyan civil service on a scale between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt), a highly questionable score of 2.1 was awarded, showing that the Libyan bureaucracy, like Muamar Gaddafi, is perceived as corrupt.

In an article for the Independent in 2011, Paul Peachey described the way that Gaddafi keeps power in a country with no written constitution, where he is technically not actually president. Peachey said “in an essentially tribal society with no constitution and a decisionmaking process...the system is administered by an old guard whose livelihood depends on continued graft… so deeply implicated that Colonel Gaddafi could depend on their loyalty”.

Despite this, Otman & Karlberg’s “The Libyan economy: economic diversification and international repositioning” (Springer, 2007) shows that the numbers employed by the Libyan civil service actually declined between 1978, shortly before Gaddafi took power, when it employed 76,800, to 1983, when numbers had been reduced to 61,000. Since then, numbers have, to an estimated 118,000, but this is more than accounted for by population growth, which saw the total population of Libya rise from roughly 1m in 1962 to more than 5.6m by 2006.

Indeed, as part of a plan of reform for the Libyan public service, the Gaddafi family appointed the Adam Smith Institute to devise a masterplan for reform of the Libyan public service, but this was sidelined in 2007, when Saif al-Islam Al-Gaddafi, Muamar’s eldest son announced that the salaries of public sector employees will be raised by 25%, and also increased the employees' housing allowance by 237%.

  • Conclusion
Whilst Libya maintains a significant bureaucracy, and NATO bureaucracy has apparently delayed air strikes on Gaddafi’s forces, it would appear that in Gaddafi’s Libya, far from being in league with the mad colonel, bureaucracy is one of the few ways his power is kept in check, to the extent that the Libyan bureaucracy has even been able to extract beneficial concessions in terms and concessions from his son.

^Picture © Abode of Chaos used under Creative Commons^