Wednesday 19 December 2018

The Practical Realities of Government

In the sphere of my specialist subject (energy, that is; not the random history stories or the doggerel) I am well acquainted with the truism that governments will do whatever it takes to keep the lights on.  Indeed, I've often written here in exactly those terms, generally contrasting that primary political imperative with the distant and wholly subordinate 'aspiration' to be on the side of the angels as regards environmental concerns, be they CO2 or air quality or whatever green mantra is trending.  As even tinpot dictators know, when the lights go out, the government goes out.  

I've never really expanded, though, on just how seriously this is treated in Whitehall contingency planning.   Without needing to bang on at great length, just take it from me that they have carefully considered some blood-curdling possibilities.  If, for example, a prison loses its power for any length of time, the System is not at all equipped for the consequences.  (We don't have watchtowers with machine-gunners in this country.)  Likewise, if a major area of the Grid goes down for more than a short while, organised criminals will steal the grid itself:  that's what happens elsewhere.  The copper is worth a fortune, and it is only the self-protecting nature of a live grid that stops them at the best of times.

Something else I have also mentioned from time to time is that, when the chips are down, the grown-ups just take over, and everyone else is elbowed aside.  This can offend a lot of people's finer feelings, concern for propriety and due process etc etc; but there it is.

Taking these two things together, and I am sorry to say the the formal, nay legal 'inevitability' of crashing out in a No Deal Brexit, is somewhat irrelevant.  There are enough people in Whitehall who are utterly seized with lights-going-out-style No Deal disaster scenarios that, 'rightly or wrongly', it ain't gonna happen, IMHO.

If Parliament won't vote for something else, we'll just all wake up one morning to an announcement of whatever's been unilaterally decided.  And signed.  And sealed.

Conspiracy?  Unconstitutional?  Treasonous?  All of the above.  Realpolitik can make you feel ill.  But there's no way 'they' will let the lights go out.  That's just how thing are.



david morris said...

So what you're saying is

No Santa Rally this year ?

CityUnslicker said...

2019 predictions gonna be a toughie this year!

andrew said...

The "grownups" self identify as grownups because they are better at verbal combat than you.
I think we have had enough of grownups

jim said...

At this rate Brexit will not get decided until March 28th. Mrs May's children have had the run of the rumpus room and yelled, thrown teddies and rattles to no avail. She will leave them to play. Come March 28th Mrs May will stamp her foot, what happens next is anyone's guess. Possibly some severe grey suits will hand her a pre-prepared text to be read on March 28th @ 20:00 hours on all channels.

In a sense Britain has already shot its bolt. The unreliable partner, an economic tart who flits from America to Saudi to the EU, not an enviable reputation. Consider how the big new industries and corporations are going to set up, on a cold wet island with a sclerotic and unreliable government or a solid (and stolid) marketplace of rather larger size with boring but predictable rules. We will be lucky to get secondhand factories from China at this rate. April 1st sees the starting gun on a race to the bottom for us.

DJK said...

And there, jim, is the problem. We have decided to become supplicants, hoping to host other people's factories, with a combination of tax breaks and lax employee protection. But even in the EU, that is a crowded place to be, and not always a comfortable one.

But it is really not so long ago that Britain had its own world beating companies. I'm not entirely sure why that is no longer the case. But where they do exist, like ARM, or more recently GKN, they get quickly sold to foreigners.

E-K said...

That's fine by me. Better, in fact, than a second referendum.

Let's put to bed the myth that we live in a democracy.

The past two years has not been an attempt to deliver Brexit but to reverse the result and to make The People think it was their idea.

I don't know why we need a civil service to run a country this badly. Its policies have created a vast untermenschen class too - few of them actually in prison.

Clearly their unintended effect is managed decline towards an African type society (not in its ethnicity but in its chaos.) We are barely keeping a lid on violent criminality.

'Grown up' does not necessarily mean 'competent'.

To cover this incompetence our Parliament is in disarray.

A person may be an adult but it doesn't stop them being a total WANKER.

I could have fucked this country up for a fraction of the price that they charged - but then my principles wouldn't let me do it.

Raedwald said...

I tend to go with the consensus here - Bring It On!

We've all long suspected the power of what many call the 'Deep State' but have only rarely caught glimpses of it - the Brexit denouement may be the first time they have to break cover. Oh, they'll use the PM as a sort of sock puppet to make the announcements, perhaps with a few contrived security / public order / public safety incidents to justify 'emergency measures', but as you say it will be clear what's going on.

At least we can then move to a national debate as to whether we *want* a Deep State, or whether we should drag them out from their bomb-hardened lairs and put them in the tumbrils.

Not 'adults', Nick, but an unelected unaccoutable elite whom we should not fear, even though they may do dreadful and unlawful things to us.

Nick Drew said...

well, this is a business blog and we are where we are, despair though we might (and I do)

yes, those who seize the reins when the shit is flying are self-identifiers: usually, dynamic self-identifiers with a messily combined sense of exasperation, urgency, anger, duty, opportunity, maybe even destiny (self-identified again)

if there are any Leave grown-ups**, they all defaulted on their solemn and historical duties in late June 2016 et seq

** anyone care to nominate one? Farage? Gove? BoJo? Davis? R-M? North?

hovis said...

Nick are not the 'adults' self selecting from a group who are predominantly Remain - for at least the last 40 years if not longer. (Those atracted to wielding power will gravitate towards whereever it resides, and thus mouth the platitudes of those who hold it to identify as part of that 'in' group.

I'd agree Leave have few adults and many dilletantes. That however is not unexpected given you are looking for both a politician and an 'adult' to strategise but also wield power which they do not have at the moment. Were such a person to exists there is no vehicle for them - certainly not any of the main political

Graeme said...

Maybe GKN was a world-beating company but it is a bit of a stretch to think of it as a UK business. Of its 58000 employees, 5500 were in the UK and the UK accounted for about 10% of the revenues. The way that Corbyn and the establishment media wrapped themselves in the British flag and asked for it to be saved from corporate marauders was frankly risible. The board of Melrose was much more British than GKN. And just who were the workers for whom Corbyn was so concerned?

DJK said...

OK, Guest Keen and Nettlefolds may already have been hollowed out as a UK business, but give me ARM.

E-K said...

I'd just like to say to Jim at 7.35

Bro' in-law is the Chief Scientist Engineer at a global manufacturers.

His role for the past twenty years has included closing down American and British factories and setting them up in Brazil, China, Poland and India.

However reliable their governments we've got to be more stable surely ?

I'm also shocked to have seen recently how many of our factories were closed and shipped out to the EU with EU subsidy.

Had it not been for our London-centric sell-off-and-out-source economy the Brexit campaign would have got nowhere. In fact they doubled the trouble by insourcing competition for the jobs left.

E-K said...

Nick - I do nominate a Leave adult.


Elby the Beserk said...

Leave the EU without a deal in March 2019.
We are wasting Billions of pounds of taxpayers money trying to negotiate in a short space of time. Leaving the EU in March 2019 will allow the UK good time to negotiate more efficiently. The EU will be more eager to accept a deal on our terms having lost a major partner.

257,777 petitioners so far, and more piling in. Way ahead of the "Mummy, we need the EU" petition. Not that it will make any difference, however.

Shorter OED

"Leave : To depart from,. relinquish, quit"

No mention of a "deal". I didn't for a "deal". I voted to Leave (as above). Thatcher would have had us out a year or so back, and the EU would have paid us to go.

Graeme said...

The way the Eurozone is slowing down - remember all those forecasts a few months back that declared that the UK was the sick economy of Europe? - they would be crazy to alienate a major trading partner. France and Netherlands are at 0.2% growth per quarter, Germany has had a "blip" due to lower sales of cars (cough, cough), Italy is contracting and the other economies are not exactly booming

James Higham said...

Something else I have also mentioned from time to time is that, when the chips are down, the grown-ups just take over, and everyone else is elbowed aside. This can offend a lot of people's finer feelings, concern for propriety and due process etc etc; but there it is.

Thank goodness for that.

dearieme said...

If those ultra-defeatist remainers would simply fuck off to the Continent then the rest of us might do reasonably well.

jim said...

Planning for grisly scenarios? Well we have one playing out right now. Can no-one find those directional jammers, has no-one got a spectrum analyser and directional antenna? This all looks like a kind of 'bat a mole' with the police and airports authority.

This looks a serious and difficult problem. A bit like finding a clandestine radio. Background WiFi mush won't help unless you switch off Crawley. To do much about it you need some 30 people with frequency scanners and directional antennas who know how to use them. Available at short notice and backed up by some very rough policemen. Called in the military - rather late - we shall see if they have any clue what to do.

Nick Drew said...

It is as well to get the LGW incident done now (apols to Xmas holiday sufferers) and sorted soon

Anonymous said...

"they would be crazy to alienate a major trading partner"

Politics > economics, at least in the short term. In the long term a shoert-term hit in pursuit of a long-term economic strategy is quite acceptable.

E-K said...

It'll be an environmental pressure group and they'll get a light sentence.

Raedwald said...

.. just how seriously this is treated in Whitehall contingency planning. Without needing to bang on at great length, just take it from me that they have carefully considered some blood-curdling possibilities

Except for someone flying a drone over London's second airport, obv.

Given that the alleged cumulative flight time exceeds the battery capacity of a single drone, there may have been several. Which can be pre-programmed and left nearby days or weeks in advance. Jammers wouldn't stop them and the perpetrator could be back in Brussels by now ..

dearieme said...

Was Quisling a grown-up?

Anonymous said...

Just in case it hasn't been mentioned before ....

Yes Minister explains the EEC (EU)

See what rings true.

E-K said...

Fear not.

The same Sir Humphry's will thwart anything the incoming Labour government want to do.

If they can stuff Brexit then they can jolly well sort that mess out too.

Elby the Beserk said...

Telegraoph says the tech to deal with this is available but they took ages to call it in. Grown ups clearly not involved in this caper ...

Peter MacFarlane said...

"The copper is worth a fortune"

Probably it is, but most grid transmission cables are actually made of aluminium; better conductivity by weight you see, and they have to be strung up in the air.

None of this negates your primary point of course.

Graeme said...

"Politics > economics, at least in the short term" perhaps you should try telling that to that nice Mr Macron