31 May 2011

Thinking Paper # 11: Should bureaucrats decide which events bureaucrats get free tickets to?

By Tim Massingberd-James

Abstract

Government Ministers recently revealed that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has asked to purchase 9,000 tickets to the Olympic Games, including 3,000 for Departmental staff who have worked on the Olympics.

In this paper, we shall examine whether Government bureaucrats should be allowed to decide policy on what events they get free tickets to, and whether the purchasing of 3,000 tickets to a major sporting event would have been agreed – or suggested – by (i) those Civil Servants who will get to have some nice days out at the Olympics or (ii) someone else.


Should bureaucrats decide which events bureaucrats get free tickets to?

Most people like getting free tickets to things, even if they are things that they don't particularly want to go to. In a study of 40,000 people, the IIPBA found that 67% would accept free tickets to the Inter-Consortium Morris Dancing Championships, with 8% saying it actually sounds like bloody good fun, and the other 59% asking whether there will be a bar, and how long it actually goes on for.

The Olympics are no different, and some people have hyped the event up to the stage that they actually think they might be bearable, for a short while. Like most of us bureaucrats generally live a fairly tedious existence, with some possibly having been to a Toploader gig in the late 1990s and thought it was pretty ruddy good, and 1 in 40 actually knowing a little bit about superclubs, having heard a documentary about them on Radio 4. For bureaucrats and the squeezed middle, the idea of having a jolly nice day off work getting leathered in Stratford sounds positively fun, even if it isn't the Shakespeare Stratford, but the other one with the poor people in.

However, whilst most people have agreed to sell everything they own in order to afford the 'prize' of an hour at the women's weightlifting quarter finals, the Civil Servants at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have hit upon a cunning ruse. Because they work in jobs vaguely related to the Olympics, one of the more cunning ones (probably a temp who used to do something important, like driving a van) buried a piece of paper in in a box of other papers he gave to a Minister, and asked the Minister later in the day if he agreed all the things on the pieces of paper.

The Minister had a flight to Tuscany booked later in the afternoon and just nodded without saying much, and signed in all the boxes without reading anything. One of the pieces of paper agreed that the cunning Civil Servant and 2,999 of his friends could go to see the Olympics. The Civil Servant was very popular, and got to kiss the nice girl from the photocopying room at 'work drinks' on the Thursday night, but now six months have passed and they are having a baby and he feels anxious about it.

Whether or not the tickets purchasing should have been approved is irrelevant. And the baby is now coming, so the life of the young bureaucrat who got it agreed is already ruined. We should, at least, be thankful for that as he will not be allowed to go by his then wife, who will be too tired, but should this decision have been allowed to have been made by a bureaucrat?

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the decision wasn't made by a bureaucrat it was made by the Minister. The problem was the flight to Tuscany was later that day. We should perhaps consider a post-flights-to-Tuscany age.

However, in a post-bureaucratic age, there would be no bureaucrats to buy tickets for. That would be much cheaper. That is the solution.

26 May 2011

Thinking Paper # 10: House of Lords Reform – Is it sufficiently post bureaucratic?

By Ronnie Ford-Golightly

Abstract

At 3.30pm on 17th May our beloved Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, made a statement about the Government’s plans to reform the other place – the House of Lords. By this point in the paragraph I expect to have lost 100% of our readership so I will continue to write as if no one is actually reading.


The Detail

In this section we will analyse the details of the draft bill setting out our analysis of its post bureaucratic credentials. The statement went on for some time and it was followed by a number of questions from Labour, Tory and Lib Dem MP's. Nick Clegg ranged between angry and condescending in his responses, in large part because of his frustrated public schoolboy background.

The main points are highlighted below:

The DPM said: “The Prime Minister and I are clear that we want the first elections to the reformed upper Chamber to take place in 2015”.

The IIPBA say: “Seems clear enough. Clear target but 4 years suggests a little too much process”.

The DPM said: “We propose an upper House made up of 300 members, each eligible for a single term of three Parliaments. Three hundred is the number that we judge to be right.”

The IIPBA say: “15 years? Elected for 15 years? Sorry, back to the bureaucratic point. I like the second sentence – “300 is the number we judge to be right” – no consultation, no evidence, no analysis, it’s just the right number, end of story. We judge this to be sufficiently post bureaucratic.”

The DPM said: “The Bill makes provision for 80% of Members to be elected, with the remaining 20% to be appointed independently. The 60 appointed Members would sit as Cross Benchers, not as representatives of political parties, and in addition bishops of the Church of England would continue to sit in the other place, but would be reduced in number from 26 to 12”.

The IIPBA say: “I hope that’s clear”.

The DPM said: “In the Bill, we have proposed a staged election—or election and appointment—by thirds in 2015, 2020 and 2025, alongside a staged reduction, commensurate with that, from the House of Lords as it is at the moment.”

The IIPBA say: “Our Parliamentary team here at the IIPBA suggests that even Nick Clegg didn’t know what he was talking about on this point and we therefore strongly feel that it probably came from the quill of a senior civil servant and is therefore a little too bureaucratic.”

Concluding comments

Our favourite quote from the debate came in response to a question from Helen Goodman, Labour MP:

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): How would you do that (the reduction by thirds)?"

The Deputy Prime Minister replied: "We will leave it to the House of Lords itself to decide the precise method."

If our analysis is correct, and this amused us somewhat, the House of Lords will be reduced in numbers and be made more democratic by allowing the House of Lords itself to “decide the precise method”. We suggest that if House of Lords reform is a genuine ambition of the Coalition government, then this is unwise.

These efforts are kind of credible and well intentioned, as were the other 1,000 attempts to reform the other place since the time of Asquith, but as with the AV referendum few people care about what seems to be an overly complex, bureaucratic and flawed reform bill.

Policy recommendations

1. In line with the post bureaucratic age philosophy, the decision on whether we should reform the other place should be left to the court of The Daily Mail comments page.

2. If, as we predict, the Daily Mail readers descend into vicious infighting about how Britain has gone to the dogs, we suggest that to solve all House of Lords related reform problems, we simply get members of the public to nominate themselves and appear on television in a talent contest. The nations fat people can then vote for their preferred 300 Lords using the red button and the individuals that are elected will stay there forever. During this time, they will be locked in the upper chamber and filmed for our pleasure.

3. Aforementioned infighting on the Daily Mail comments page may lead to calls for Chris Huhne to be hung on charges of witchcraft but we suggest that these calls may be credible.

4. There may also be mixed debate about what the mob should do with Ryan Giggs – we recommend that he fill one of the 300 vacancies in the House of Lords.

5. Simon Hoggart, Guardian sketchwriter, should be the main celebrity panellist judge on the talent show.

^Picture from Flickr by UK Parliament under a Creative Commons license^

24 May 2011

Thinking Paper #9 - Screaming schoolgirls – Is Barack Obama bigger than The Beatles?

By Tim Massingberd-James

Abstract

This week, Barack Obama embarked on a week-long European tour. In Dublin, he addressed an audience of 25,000 screaming Irish schoolgirls, and the tour sees him playing massive gigs at various venues in Ireland, the UK, France and Poland, accompanied by an entourage of 1,500, including a personal chef.

If Barack Obama were a band, he would undoubtedly be one of the biggest in the world, but would he be bigger than the Beatles?



Is Obama bigger than The Beatles?

The Beatles' biggest European Tour was in Summer 1965, when they played dates in Italy, France, Spain and the UK, before jetting off to the US for more gigs. This focusses on large European powers, and was undertaken during the Cold War, when it was basically impossible to consider taking the tour to Poland. At the time, the Beatles were described by the USSR as the "belch of Western culture" and in the 1980s McCartney was refused permission to play behind the Iron Curtain.

So, the largest tour of the Beatles had about the same number of countries (and screaming girls) as Barack Obama's Tour, and was only about a week longer. Details remaining from the tour show that alongside eight gigs, the band held press conferences, radio interviews, stayed in hotels, and even attracted political scrutiny in the Italian Parliament, with MP Mr. Quintieri questioning whether the Beatles would pay their taxes, in an echo of Mayor of London Boris Johnson's electioneering / questioning of whether the US Embassy should be paying the Congestion Charge during Obama's visit. Records show that the Beatles even attended a reception in their honour in Jerez, Spain, on 1st July 1965, much like the Obama's probably attended lots of receptions.

At Buckingham Palace, Obama was given a 41 gun salute by the Queen, but this is just box-ticking when meeting a foreign head of state. It is worth noting that in June 1965 – around the time of the European Tour - The Beatles were given the MBE by the Queen, and were invited to Buckingham Palace later that year. There were, however, no guns.

Earlier this month, President Obama listed $4 million in personal assets and income, including book royalties, and pensions, however, Sir Paul McCartney alone was estimated to have a personal fortune of $1.2 billion in 2009, and if we add in Ringo Starr's wealth, we might raise the figure by a few bob, alongside the estates of George Harrison and John Lennon.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it would seem that the Beatles were as big as Obama in 1965, and as more than 40 years has passed since then it seems that they're probably much bigger. If we factor in the likelihood that the Beatles will all die before Obama, however, the President will undoubtedly win in the end.

^Picture by Anthony Baker under Creative Commons^

23 May 2011

Thinking Paper # 8: Prison reform - The Chris Huhne factor

By Ron Ford-Golightly

Abstract

Chris “Murray” Huhne, our beloved Energy Secretary, may or may not drive cars, he may or may not have been driving a car too fast and he may or may not have been behind the wheel of the speeding car in question. We do know however, that Chris Huhne’s memory seems to be returning to him.

We also know that England imprisons more people than any other country in Western Europe and marginally less per 100,000 of the population than China (and they really enjoy punishing their people). Finally, we know that there is room for more people in our prisons. The prison population in this country currently stands at 85,000 with a maximum capacity of around 100,000. In the opinion of the IIPBA this leaves plenty of room for Chris Huhne and all of his relevant hair products.



The Context

Chris Huhne has a lovely head of hair. He has a bisexual partner and a very disgruntled ex-wife. His middle name is Murray.

His ex-wife said that in 2003 he “pressurised” someone into taking his driving licence penalty points. Essex Police said that they were “investigating” but that they couldn’t wait to charge the “floppy haired prick”.

Investigators here at the IIPBA looked into these matters as a priority issue. After a lengthy internet trawl of Chris Huhne’s Wikipedia page, they found that there was no reference to Murray’s like of cars, let alone whether he can drive them fast enough to be considered speeding. In fact, according to Wikipedia, his personal interests include “Electoral reform, European single currency, economics, third world debt and development.” Our investigators found this humorous.

David Cameron recently said that he had “confidence” in Chris Huhne. Followers of the Prime Minister’s rhetoric know that this translates to: “he can stay for now but once he begins to damage my reputation I will drop him quicker than a Conservative election manifesto commitment”.

Prisoners and wardens: How would they respond?

Our social researchers showed 400 fairly aggressive and sexually promiscuous prisoners in England a picture of Chris Huhne to gauge reactions to his face. 87% of those surveyed said that he would make a “wonderful wife” and the remaining 13% said that he had lovely hair.

Furthermore, we interviewed 69 prison wardens who face job cuts and below inflation pay rises under the government’s programme of cuts (too far, too fast!). Those interviewed responded “extremely positively” to news that a multi-millionaire politician who works for the Coalition government could face time in their prison. One warden from Somerset told our researchers that “with new fish, they like to leave the meting out of punishment to the bulls”. He went on to explain that bulls are a specific type of prisoner who specialise in “a rather unpleasant form of love making”.

Conclusion

In a trial conducted in the Royal Court of the Daily Mail comments page, the British public unanimously found him guilty. Furthermore, they think that climate change isn’t real and therefore none of this will matter. In fact, more people are angrier about Chris Huhne's work to prevent climate change than they are about his speeding. Our researchers found this humorous.

Policy Recommendations

1. Prisons should be reformed as a matter of urgency to ensure that Chris Huhne gets to maintain his high quality hair cut whilst incarcerated.

2. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) should be disbanded following his incarceration and each member of staff should be able to roam free in St James’s Park alongside the ducks and the homeless.

3. Chris Huhne’s ex-wife should be given an award at a ceremony attended by Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan. Other invitees should include the Spice Girls, Simon Hoggart and Ryan Giggs.

4. All of the above should be implemented without any unnecessary bureaucracy in line with the IIPBA’s manifesto commitments.

^Picture from DECCgovuk under Creative Commons^

18 May 2011

Thinking Paper # 7: Imaginary Super-Injunctions – A way forward.

By Tim Massingberd-James

Abstract

With the news that an imaginary super-injunction hasn't been imposed by the Hon. Mr Justice Peter Talling to prevent the publication of non-existent pictures of the George Osborne engaged in an intimate act with a Mute Swan, the IIPBA looks at the blight of imaginary super-injunctions, and whether the prevention of publication of imagined news is healthy, in a modern democracy



Imaginary Super-Injunctions

The IIPBA is the nerve centre of modern politics, and as such is aware of countless non-existent court cases which ban publication of imagined facts about well known celebrities.

We feel we have a duty to report these facts, and as such this paper will examine the circumstances surrounding the following unreal news stories, which are common knowledge amongst Westminster illuminati:

  • David Cameron is a Minotaur
  • The BBC's Huw Edwards sleeps on a bed of fennel
  • Sir Paul McCartney has kept a frozen weasel heart in a golden box in Dusseldorf since 1967, believing it to be the source of his musical power
  • Channel Four's Rick Edwards once raped his own reflection
  • Tim Henman once ate a lollipop stick whole without chewing

Whilst these stories are all manufactured by our elite team of pastry chefs, the individual words they contain are real words, except Huw, which is actually spelled Hugh.

However, imaginary super-injunctions are big business, with city law firms earning between £0 and £4.8m per case, and celebrities queuing up to pretend to take them out.

We must ask, however, whether the imagined gagging of the press is a notional infringement on the right to free speech, and whether we should allow these pretend injunctions to take place, when a quick Google search will normally provide spurious lies and gossip about any famous person you can imagine.

Conclusion

The IIPBA believes that media outlets should have the right to print anything they like, providing they make it clear that the stories they print are partly or entirely fictional.

A version of this process is referred to as yellow journalism and is practiced by many newspapers who pretend to be factual tomes whilst actually peddling rubbish.

To end the bureaucratic legal system which can be extremely costly for yellow journalists, we propose all newspapers should be required to carry an imaginary disclaimer on the 42nd page identifying which stories are factual, and which are imagined.

^Picture from fotopedia by Cyril Blazy^

7 May 2011

Thinking Paper # 6: Why won’t Ed Miliband ever be Prime Minister?

Abstract

On the continued theme of faces, the IIPBA looks this week at Labour leader, Ed Miliband and assesses what it is exactly that is so unappealing about him. Is it because he looks like a Panda, sounds a little silly, has zero to traces of gravitas, and “human” qualities that leave most humans wondering, and I quote, “if he does human, what the fuck am I meant to be?”.


We consulted several studies on the issue and carried out our own market research. The conclusion is pretty strong: he’s got a silly face.

Cited studies

  • A study by Tailor and Harpington 2010, found that 9 out of 10 sniffer dogs, when asked to identify a human, could not pick Miliband out of a line up which included three tins of soup, a 2008 Lake District calendar, a copy of Heat magazine and one of those balls that some people make using elastic bands.
  • We asked 39,000 people about Miliband’s “human” qualities. Our favourite quote from the responses we received was from Gary Smythe who said “I hate Ed Miliband; I genuinely hate everything about his stupid face”.
  • In a study by Young et al 2008, sociologists asked 150 two year olds to look at pictures of existing Cabinet members of the then Labour government. All but three of them began crying when they saw a picture depicting Ed Miliband smiling. One of the mothers of the children involved claimed that her child’s first word followed shortly after the experiment – although unsubstantiated, the child reportedly said the word “hate”. We would like to suggest to our readers that this is definitely true.
  • During a brainstorming session we held with a troop of Bonobo monkeys, 98% of participants threw shit (their own and others) at a picture of Miliband on the wall. Despite the session being attended primarily by Bonobo’s, this is called “chimping”. Headline stat: 98% of all Bonobo’s choose to “chimp” Miliband's face.


Conclusion

Gary Smythe captured the predominant feeling we captured in our research and leads us to the very basic conclusion that he will never be Prime Minister because of his “stupid face”.

^Picture copyright ARCHIVED Department of Energy and Climate Change, used under Creative Commons license^

5 May 2011

Thinking Paper # 5 – Will Nick Clegg’s face last the full 5 years?

By Ron Ford-Golightly

Abstract

There has been widespread discussion about whether the Coalition will last until 2015, but we here at the IIPBA think that this is a mere side issue when compared to the more pressing factor of Nick Clegg’s face and whether will see out the 5 years. IIPBA analysts have looked at a time lapse video of his face between May 2010 and May 2011 and have drawn out several interesting trends set out in the analysis below.


Background

Nick Clegg has a face just like me and you. He also has feelings. Sadly, he heads up a political party that, before May 2010, tended to be somewhat idealistic in its policy position. Upon entering Government, it had to leave all of these policies behind in the face of reality. Unfortunately for Nick, many of his grassroots supporters don’t see the value in leaving behind much of what makes the Lib Dems the Lib Dems, in large part because they don’t earn a quarter of a million pounds and have not been tainted by power.

The Detail

Returning to Nick Clegg’s face, we will now focus on the factors at play in the decline of his face, notably: free lunches, late nights, some angry performances at the House of Commons, rage, regret, the wind and last winter’s snow.

Daily Routine

According to our sources, Nick Clegg eats approximately three animals a day, he drinks seven cups of coffee and rarely gets access to fresh fruit and vegetables. He sees the outside of his office for the 20 minutes that he spends in the toilet and he sleeps sporadically between trying to get into No10 through the connecting door (he regularly fails). Upon getting home, his wife, Miriam, demands a foot rub and its 1am before he opens his red box full up with briefing that he will never read from Civil Servants who simply don’t care as much as they should. Each day lines form around his eyes and mouth and his face falls slightly further towards the levels of Lib Dem polling.

Workload pre-government

As leader of the third party, workload tends to be light and sporadic. Sources suggest that as Lib Dem leader in opposition he used to wakae up for 10am, watch Jeremy Kyle whilst eating his Weetabix (it makes you strong) before making his way down to Lib Dem HQ for 11ish. Some days he would read his emails, other days, not so much. He would enjoy a budget lunch at one of the many canteens at the House of Commons before settling down to have a nice nap in the afternoon, curled up on a sofa bed in his office with Chris Huhne’s dog. Occasionally, he would appear on television but only if he was accompanied by an aging but elegant TV celebrity.

Some days he would get really rather cross about something or other and 24 news stations might film what he said but then make disparaging remarks about it. He would be home for 4pm, make himself a nice bowl of soup with crusty bread and bed-in for the night watching soap operas whilst his wife (an international lawyer) made a real living. He would usually be asleep by around 9pm and is reported to have regularly dreamt about living in a harmonious society as a Bonobo Monkey.


Workload as Deputy Prime Minister

He’s bloody everywhere isn’t he? Pounding his fist on the despatch box, getting angry about political systems and making speeches which usually contradict what the Prime Minister has told him to say (good for you Nick). He seems to work terribly hard and likes to get involved with a bit of everything, making sure that Lib Dem views are sufficiently represented across Government. At the end of a hard day of getting a bit angry and terribly frustrated with the Civil Service, he faces his most arduous task of the day – getting through the red box. The red box is similar to a school child’s homework. A box packed full of all of the important things that he should know and tasks for the following day. For many new Ministers it usually replaces their wife/husband/partner as the night time bed fellow and is made up of very useless information which, in Nick’s case, won’t prevent the Tories from systemically bringing about the destruction of the Lib Dems at the next general election.

Conclusion

The IIPBA believes that it is this very latter point which is the biggest contributor to the fall of Nick Clegg’s face. No amount of power, free lunches and back slapping can make up for the sad fact that Nick must surely be aware of i.e. since May 2010 the Lib Dems have been on a hiding to nothing. It was right for them to work with the Tories to form a Coalition and they would have been stupid to pass up the opportunity to work in Government and shape the country. However, it may result in the complete destruction of the Lib Dems in the long run and the collapse of Nick Clegg's face in the short term.

Final Answer to the question “Will Nick Clegg’s face last the full 5 years?”

Probably not, but the Coalition will. And David Cameron’s face will simply get shinier, smoother and ever so gradually pinker, in line with the predictions of Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell.

^Picture copyright Liberal Democrats, used under Creative Commons^