Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why Brits Elect Incompetents

Blair is good example of the Brit preference for incompetent pols - he thinks vouchers are great, but lacks the executive skills to overcome bureaucratic opposition. Another example is the opposition Tory party which is set to elect a leader with zero management experience against a man with plenty. This stems from Brit class prejudice with its distrust of professionalism - they only accept competent managers (Churchill, Maggie) when times are really tough.

Choice in education is a no-brainer, but state services are controlled by suppliers (e.g. teachers' unions), and it's hard to prize their fingers off the controls. So we get this (my emphasis):

Schools will be free to reject the Government's ambitious plans to "transform" the education system and abolish "traditional comprehensives", a long-awaited White Paper made plain yesterday.

In a foreword to the White Paper, Mr Blair said he had learned from other countries' experience of school choice. The two successful examples he cited were Sweden and Florida, in both of which parents are offered a voucher worth the cost of their child's education which they are free to "spend" in either state or independent schools.

It was not an option offered by the White Paper.

The suppliers won.

Brit managers successfully coerce balky employees every day, although it isn't easy.
Established bureaucracies have years of experience resisting change, exemplified in Yes Minister, and Yes Prime Minister. Overcoming these tactics requires skill, cunning and brutality, and takes years to perfect.

Unlike the US, where presidents usually learn management running businesses then States (GWB, maybe Arnie), Brit pols go straight from school to law practice (zero executive content) to politics to running the country. Blair
exemplifies this - after a brief spell as a lawyer, at age 30 he became a full-time pol and has been one ever since:

Born 1953...studied law...becoming a lawyer specializing in trade union and industrial law in 1976...began his political career in 1983, when he was elected to the British Parliament as a member of the Labour Party.

The careers of the two candidates to run the Tory party are illuminating (my ellipsis).

David Cameron - front runner

Born 1966...graduated in 1988 with a first class honours degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics...worked for the Conservative (Tory) Research Department between 1988 and 1992...became a Special Advisor to the Conservative government...then the Home Office (Department of Interior). Between 1994 and 2001 he was the Director of Corporate Affairs (not what you think, but not line management) at (entertainment company)...(elected to Parliament in 2001).

He may be a great pol with sound policies, but with this resume I'd never hire him as a senior exec.

David Davis - losing

Born 1948...leaving school his (grades) were not good enough to secure a university place...worked as an insurance clerk and became a member of the Territorial SAS in order to earn the money to retake his examinations...won a place at Warwick University (Molecular Science/Computer Science)...London Business School (Master's Degree in Business)...Harvard University (Advanced Management Program)...worked for (sugar manufacturer) for 17 years rising to become a senior executive having saved a failing subsidiary in Canada...elected to Parliament in...1987.

Great resume - achiever, SAS, science degree like Maggie, MBA, Harvard, good management experience.

He can console himself that when the Brits next hit the wall, his time will come.