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Snouts in the trough

Commenting on the previous posting, RAB says:

Being very non technical, I don’t know how to start a thread, but there is a good leader in the Telegraph today on the 800 million quids worth of government non jobs Bliar and co have created. If someone would like to start one, I’m sure Verity, for one, would have a field day!

It is not technology you lack, RAB; it is the right to do postings on Samizdata. But your point is a good one, I think, even though personally I loathe the word “Bliar”, because name-calling is the language of loser propagandists, I think.

But getting back to that 800 million quid’s worth of government jobbery (as this kind of thing used actually to be called), I think RAB is right to ask us to post about this, and presumably he is referring to this:

There you will see page after page of vacancies on the state payroll: outreach workers, diversity co-ordinators, policy advisers, liaison officers. Some of them come with six-figure salaries. Indeed, the average annual pay for the posts advertised in Guardian Society this year is £10,000 higher than the mean private sector wage.

I seem to recall Richard Littlejohn writing about this years ago, in a book. But that was then (i.e. 1995). This is now.

All governments start out reasonably honest (I speak comparatively), but get more corrupt as they persist, and as the army of camp followers finds its way around and finds out where all the treasure is to be found and how to dig it out and take possession of it. Well, I reckon a big clear out of this lot may now be due any general election now. If not at the next, then pretty soon. Much has been written, here and elsewhere, about David Cameron, but I believe the vital quality that Cameron has which his Tory predecessors and leadership rivals did not possess was that he is not one of that tainted generation of Tories who did well out of Thatcherism, or who thought that they were going to. Cameron got serious about being a Tory when that had stopped being the smart move, the clever thing to do, the good bet, or so he has managed or been lucky enough to suggest. The David Davis generation all had their fingers in the pie of government, whether they actually got their spoons out and ate or not, and the voters came to hate the entire lot of them. The voters came to believe that these Tories were costing too much, and that they were all too bloody smug by half, not admitting that they got as far as they had merely by climbing aboard the Thatcher bandwagon. Too many dodgy privatisations, and cushy city directorships – I seem to recall Lawson, fresh from wrecking the British economy, getting paid colossal sums by some bank – in exchange not for old fashioned work but for the inside track and the inside dope. In a word, the voters came to think that the Tories were corrupt – “sleaze” was the word, I seem to recall, and they wanted that whole generation punished, for as long as they continued to put themselves forward for high office. Hence the succession of Tory electoral humiliations. It was not that the voters disliked what the Tories said. They just did not want to hear it, thank you. Not from those evil twats. But now, it would appear, the voters are ready to listen to the Tories again.

Which means that they will at least be willing to think about Labour corruptions, and about the unearned income and undeserved careers that the Tony Blair bandwagon has made possible. Such as all these non jobs. The Labour Party has for the last decade lived the life of a protected species, in terms of the media coverage of what Labour people actually do all day, and what they get paid for it, and above all how damned numerous these people now are.

As I heard a Tory sympathiser say on the telly a few weeks back, it is not at all impossible that the Tories will win the next election. That mountainous Labour majority was created in one fell swoop, and it would not need nearly such a big further fell swoop to wipe it out and put the Tories back in. The British electorate is more unified than it used to be. It is less loyal to Party, and more concerned about its own finances. It now stampedes this way and that in one big herd. If it now decides that its finances are now being eaten away at by a generation of Labour parasites, it will vote these people into the long grass until they are all deep into their declining years. This kind of thing doesn’t help either.

I stopped being confident about my ability to predict election results since the day I accurately predicted, on the afternoon of the voting itself, the John Major victory against Neil Kinnock. Ever since then I have been electorally confused, so do not take my word for all this. I merely speculate.

I also agree with what has been said here that “Cameronism”, if it materialises at all soon, may not make much difference. There will be very similar policies. It will merely be that the snouts in the trough will be different, and somewhat different minorities will be victimised, and more so as time goes by.

30 comments to Snouts in the trough

  • John Rippengal

    The non job proliferation is indeed a scandal. More should be made of it in the press to bring it to public attention. The real problem is that the three quarters of a million of the jobsworths know only too well that their heads will be on the block if the Tories are elected; at least I hope so; never can tell with Cameron and probably just as well in this case. Their votes are going to stay solidly NUlabour. If Tony employs enough of them there will never be a change of govt.

    You rightly refer to them as ‘twats’. In doing so I wonder if you are aware that the pronunciation is correctly to rhyme with ‘What’ not ‘That’ and that the meaning is exactly the same as the ‘c’ word.
    I mean normally one would not see the ‘c’ word used quite so freely as journalists use the word ‘twat’ and I just wonder if they really know what they are saying.
    You need to be of an older generation to be knowledgeable on these matters.

  • Karl Rove

    Only £800 million? Surely we’ve got off lightly? Or is there a 0 or 2 missing?

  • Julian Morrison

    I think you’re right about the Thatcher generation. It’s not that the public dislikes tories or toryism, it’s that they remember those particular people. It’s not even the sleaze, that was just a symptom. It’s the utter, unshakeable smirking arrogance that says “we’re lying, we’re wrecking your stuff, we’re partying with your money, we’re laughing at you, and you can’t touch us”. I remember the ’97 election and the intense feeling of “take that, you bastards”. I’m not even sure picking Labour then was the bad choice. They’ve played havoc with the constitution, but the Tories were doing the same.

    I’m willing to give Cameron a lot more rope than a lot of folks on this blog. I think people haven’t really got what he’s meaning, including more than a few of his own troops. He’s learned the Labour trick of “a word means what I want it to mean”. He seems to be trying to invert their game, talking toryism in the language of the left. Certainly it’s too early to be sure, so I’ll keep watch and keep an open mind.

  • John East

    I think this whole, “Cameron will repeat Blair’s success” bandwagon is likely to be just that, a bandwagon, and nothing more. The media have played along with it over Christmas, and if true to form they will ruthlessly, and quite rightly, jump on Cameron as soon as he articulates any policy remotely conservative.

    The simplistic view that all we have to do is copy Blair relies on the hope that because the electorate fell for Tony Blair’s PR spin in 1997, then they will fall for exactly the same strategy from Cameron. Yes, they might, but I will be very surprised if they do. Life is rarely this simple, particularly as the strategy is so transparent this time that Nulab, the Lib Dems, and all but the most stupid of voters are already aware what is happening.

    Speaking of the Lib Dems, Kennedy will be gone soon, and if/when? Nulab falter, and if Cameron is perceived as a sham, keep an eye on Kennedy’s successor.

    Menzies Campbell is a very convincing statesman, better in this respect than anything on the government or opposition front benches, and Simon Hughes comes across as even more honest and trustworthy than Blair did in 1997. The Tories current strategy is also guaranteed to lose a lot of votes (including mine) to UKIP, or even to the BNP as a last ditch protest over the loss of right wing representation.

    The next general election might be more interesting than we expect.

  • Verity

    RAB – I made my points on this issue a couple of times, before you joined us.

    Very briefly, I suggested that the problem with Labour enlarging the public sector in order to buy votes could be solved by disenfranchising the public sector. They could have a different voting system put in place – to give them the sense of having a voice – but not allowing them to pariticipate in national elections. In other words, all the people in toy jobs could have toy votes. The same goes for all the people on the benefits system – excepting pensioners, who presumably worked all their lives to get a pension. But the unemployed and those on disability benefit should have no say in who decides how much money they’re to be given from the wealth producers. Only the wealth producers (and pensioners) should have that right.

    As I have said before, I would include our armed services in the voting sector because of the undeniable benefits they bring to our country. Perhaps the emergency services – anyway, that’s fine-tuning.

    It may be too radical even for discussion, but those who benefit the most should not be able to vote themselves rises from the purse of the wealth producers. And that is all that the public purse is – money paid in by people who contribute to the economy by producing wealth.

    They could participate in local and “European” (snigger) elections, but not national elections.

  • esbonio

    It is a disgrace the way public money has been thrown around creating unproductive non-jobs. One would have to be naive beyond belief to think this was simple Keynesian job creation and nothing more. But Labour have ruthlessly preferred their own advantage in many ways. Of course when the Tories in power acted in what was seen as a party political manner there was a hue and cry from Labour and the broadcast media. Somehow our new Tories seem to think the answer now is to say thank you sir, can I have some more!

  • Interesting to see the link about the tube strike threatened for the New Year. The New York strike around Christmas touched a nerve among commuters that the public employees’ union is unlikely ever to forget. I was amazed at some of the comments on this blog, among many others. And New York is a Democratic state! Public employees are playing with fire. Let’s hope some of it spreads across the Atlantic.

  • veryretired

    When John Galt was offered the post of “Economic Czar” by the utterly clueless Mr Thompson, his first dictate was “abolish all taxes”. The respnse was, “But then we couldn’t pay government employees.”

    The next dictat was, “Fire all government employees.” If you recall, the response to that was “Oh, but that’s politics, not economics.”

    Rand’s point was just what we’re talking about now. Continously enlarging the state’s workforce is entirely political, and economic consequences be damned.

    I once read a description of the “War on Poverty” monstrosity as “the greatest make work, middle-class employment program in history.”

    Regardless of the rhetoric, that has always been the one and only point.

  • RAB

    Yes I thought it might be something like that Brian.
    I am slapping my own wrist as we speak.
    I shall speak until spoken to, as it were.
    Right! get on with it.
    I’ll be back after dinner to see how you’re getting along.

  • Hank Scorpio

    The link to the transit strike was interesting. What most jumped out at me was the 35 hour work week.

    In the shop I work at we have a term for someone who works 35 hours a week; part-timer. I may work long hours (approximately 65-70 a week), but I’m certainly not an anomaly here in the US, long hours seem to be bred into our bones.

    Were my transportation and ability to earn a living compromised by a motley crew of lazy ass, government-paid parasites (in New York or London) you can be sure that I’d insist my mayor fire the lot of ’em. And if he didn’t I’d cast my vote to fire him.

  • HJHJ

    My first post in quite a long time due to various other pressures…

    I have commented before on the impracticality of Verity’s proposal on voting. She forgets, for example, when she proposes to exclude the unemployed from voting that many get little or no government benefits (especially if they have a working spouse). Furthermore, many of the unemployed are created as a consequence of government policy – for example the 3G licence tax shut down practically the whole of the wireless infrastructure development industry in this country. The comparatively high interest rates and taxes created by the rising cost of the public sector has thrown many people in private industry (i.e. those that have to compete with overseas competitors) out of work (I found out just before Christmas that the entire engineering team at a former employer of mine have recently been made redundant. Given that the electronics industry in the UK has shrunk more than in any other country, their prospects of finding work in the near future are low). These sort of people have the right to vote against the government that bears a large part of the responsibility for this, whilst claiming some sort of economic miracle.

    On the subject of Cameron, his strategy to win the next election may well be right. The question, however, is whether he has the substance to carry out the necessary reforms if he gets into government. I suspect not, unfortunately.

    Incidentally, as the electoral system is rigged against the Conservatives and in Labour’s favour (NuLab did a good job on the Electoral Commission), it will have to be a landslide victory in terms of votes in order for the Consevatives to win even a modest majority of seats.

  • Verity

    HJHJ – I did say there would have to be fine-tuning, and I agree, many unemployed people are unemployed because of dimwit, or destructive, government policies. I had in mind more the single mothers of three or four who will never work. They shouldn’t be voting for the party they think will give them more treats. They shouldn’t be voting at all. And the people on ‘disability’. They shouldn’t be able to vote themselves a rise – in return for their vote – every few years.

    For the unemployed, I would make it ‘long-term unemployed’, meaning, longer than 18 months say. Anyone should be able to find some form of employment in 18 months. And I don’t say their benefits should be removed. I just say that after a certain length of time, they should be removed from the electoral roll until they are a performing member of society again. At which point, they get their vote back.

    I don’t want these people to have the ability to vote themselves rises out of the public purse, which is taxes paid by wealth generators.

    It has to come to that one day. The public sector, is at least 50% – perhaps as much as 65% – parasites. Do you welcome fleas and mosquitoes onto your skin to suck your blood?

    I agree with you about Dave. I don’t think he has the substance to follow through. He’s a pr guy.

  • Gavin

    Verity’s ideas on limiting the voting class are interesting, but probably unworkable. Still, if we are going to dream impossible dreams — how about tackling the problems of democracy from the other end, the elected representatives.

    Let’s take as the basis a bi-cameral legislature (and, no, the House of Lords does not count).

    One chamber would consist of elected representatives who would be prohibited from standing for any elected office while sitting as an elected representative; and also prohibited after leaving office from getting any pay from the taxpayer for a term equal to the term for which they were elected. Thus, it would no longer be possible for someone to be a professional politician; they would have to spend at least half their working lives out in the rain with the rest of us. As a side benefit, no incumbent would ever stand for election, and every election would be (potentially) competitive. These elected representatives would be solely responsible for raising money to fund the government, from taxes and borrowing.

    The other chamber would be, in effect, doing jury service. Randomly selected individuals would serve for, say, two years, being paid at the national average wage. They would be solely responsible for spending (or not spending) the budget provided by the other chamber.

    This legislature would work with an elected Head of State, subject to the same provisions as other elected officials of not being able to succeed himself.

    There are a lot of other issues to be dealt with, but that is an outline of how to save democracy.

  • RAB

    Quite apart from the cost, where is the embarrassment factor?
    Could you tell someone that what you did for a living was a “four pieces a day fruit encouragement officer” and keep a straight face?

  • Verity

    Well, Gavin, I don’t like your “elected head of state”. I prefer the British and northern European royalty as head of state because it provides a continuum. Governments come and go, but our head of state is always our monarch.

    I don’t agree that my idea of limiting (temporarily, of course; until they start to contribute to the national wealth) voting to people not welfare recipients – in one way or another – wouldn’t work. The will to make it work is what’s missing.

    Why? Because, all too obviously, patronage buys votes. And until a democracy comes to terms with this fact, the tax payers’ funds will, by fiat, be siphoned off to support parasites in the name of “social justice”.

  • Chris Harper

    Maybe someone can help here. I have been trying to find a reference to a quotation, which I believe was first made in ancient Greece, in Athens, and which I felt was pertinent to this discussion. It was along the lines of “Democracy starts to collapse once the people learn that they can vote themselves subsidies from the public purse”

    I believe this is exactly what is happening here.

  • John Rippengal

    I would suggest that as many people as possible write to their local councils and demand under the freedom of information act the list of job descriptions used in that council’s domain.

    This could provide ammunition for an avalanche of protests about spending ‘My money’ on useless pursuits. There is in any case already an underground swell of resentment at huge percentage rises in local tax which would provide fertile ground for local revolt.

  • Thon Brocket

    Chris Harper:

    Scottish Professor Alexander Tyler, writing more than 200 years ago, on the fall of the Athenian republic.

    A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.

    I can certainly see where you’re coming from in wanting to disenfranchise jobsworths, but I don’t think it’s remotely doable. Instead, I advocate the separation of the powers of legislation and taxation – so that power-seekers can no longer make the standard corrupt bargain with part of the electorate to disadvantage the rest. Have the main legislature pretty much as we do now, but with its power to raise taxes removed. The financing of any legislation from the House of Commons would be by taxes raised by the separately elected – there’s the rub – House of the Exchequer (give it a nice historical-sounding name, why not?) Spending legislators would be elected on their promises to enact (or repeal) legislation on its merits alone, and the the taxing legislators would be elected solely for the flinty parsimony of their approach to public money. See? A natural check and balance, which is entirely absent from the current arrangement.

    And the idea, unlike yours of disenfranchisement, is proof against any squealing from the statists about “democracy denied”. On the contrary, it would be easy to argue that a separated-legislatures arrangement would increase democratic rights (two votes, not one, right?) and that the current corrupt arrangement is in contrast profoundly undemocratic.

    Apply this as a thought experiment to a few of this blogs’s betes noirs. What if the taxers had at their exclusive disposal the possibility of financing agricultural subsidies mandated by our EU treaty obligations not through general taxation, but (tee-hee) via an agricultural land-tax?. Game over for the UK’s participation in the CAP, right there – if that’s what the electorate wanted. And they would.

    Even progressive, PAYE-enforced income taxation, which is the rock on which the UeberState is founded, might become vulnerable under such an arrangement. Now, isn’t that a prize worth going for?

    Of course, the political establishment would fight any such proposal with the terrified desperation of cornered rats. But it would be fun to watch.

  • Thon Brocket

    Chris Harper:


    The quote’s probably fictitious. On re-reading, “loose fiscal policy” certainly doesn’t suggest 1787 to me.


  • Might be worth noting about the pay rates for the non-jobs. Those advertised in a national newspaper are likely to have higher wages than the mean, whether public or private, are they not?

    The low paid and crap jobs are at the Jobcentre, aren’t they?

    Should really compare like with like. Add up the pay rates of private sector jobs advertised in the national press and see where that is in relation to the mean, surely?

    I’ve spent enough time recently screaming about the way the EOC fiddles the gender gap numbers, sauce for goose and gander and all that.

  • John McVey

    This thread is close enough for this. I recently ran across it in C S Lewis’s Chronicals of Narnia, in The Silver Chair (p663 in the Harper Collins tome I am reading):

    And the wall, at Aslan’s word, was made whole again. When the police arrived and found no lion, no broken wall, and no convicts, and the Head behaving like a lunatic, there was an inquiry into the whole thing. And in the inquiry all sorts of things about Experiment House came out, and about ten people got expelled. After that, the Head’s friends saw that the Head was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found she wasn’t much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after.

    Experiment House is the kind of touchy-feelly school the left have fallen in love with, and evidently have used to create a self-perpetuating multi-generational system. No more Lewisian tongue-in-cheek.


  • Pavel

    Chris Harper, Thon Brocket –

    As to the alleged Alexander Tytler’s quotation, it’s probably fictitious indeed. Yet it may be true in its essence. Ancient Romans really conducted loose fiscal and monetary policy (loose monetary policy in the ancient times meant frequent debasing of currency.)

  • Luniversal

    Cameronism: “Vote Tory for more immigrants, no tax cuts, no withdrawal from the EU, gay marriage, black and women candidates foisted on your constituency, and squaddies endlessly trotting behind America’s army. All run by me and my rich-boy pals, and laced with bourgeois liberal guilt.”

    How can he lose?

  • Verity

    Thon Brocket – Your idea’s very clever and it would be workable except for the fact that no government or opposition is ever going to allow it to happen. There might be ways round that though. I’ll bet there’s something in our Constitution that could be interpreted as a mandate?

    In the more immediate, John Rippengal’s suggestion of demanding, using the Freedom of Information Act, a list of job descriptions under the local council’s domain, plus salaries attached, is also very good. In fact this is so good and so immediately doable that you should write to someone like Stephen Pollard. His website is stephenpollard.net and there’s a buttont to send an email.

  • Thon Brocket


    Your idea … would be workable except for the fact that no government or opposition is ever going to allow it to happen. There might be ways round that though. I’ll bet there’s something in our Constitution that could be interpreted as a mandate?

    Yeah – right now, it’s fantasy. The only practical move I can think of is some sort of try-out or pilot at local level, but LG’s way too far under Whitehall’s thumb in the UK for that to work here. Maybe Eastern Europe or the Third World? The idea would be to try to create a snowball effect by demonstration, something like what’s happening with the flat tax. The “double-democracy” angle would be the one to push, as it puts the statists on the back foot – democracy’s their sacred cow, after all.

  • esbonio

    Re public sector jobs, we should not forget to adjust the cost upwards to reflect what are at the moment effectively government guaranteed final salary pension rights versus private sector pension rights which are increasingly reverting to money purchase defined benefit schemes.

  • Verity

    Thon Brocket – You’re right. Maybe start in Eastern Europe and, brilliant stroke, call it ‘double democracy’! Who could object? Just for entertainment, I’d love to see Tony Bliar try to twitter his way through that … And as you say, these things do catch on. Look at privatisation. Most of the entire world is now is privatised. It had never occured to anyone before that the utilities companies shouldn’t be run by central governments.

    I think your idea could be a go-er, but a helluva lot of work … You need to get someone with a national voice interested in it.

  • Daveon

    Rather than disenfranchising people, give everyone a notional vote and then give more based on other metrics- say, for example, the amount of tax you pay. You could cap it to avoid massive distortion…

  • guy herbert


    How does “how much tax you pay” handle the subject of this thread: those living on government largesse, who nominally pay substantial quantities of income tax but whose gross income is paid from the taxes of others?

    Any solution to this practical problem has to be politically practicable remember, folks.

  • Verity

    Guy Herbert – If they’re in the public sector, they are not paying taxes. Yes, of course, notionally, but not really. The government says, “We are going to take £40,000 out of the Exchequer to pay your salary. However, we will have to take £10,000 out in taxes. Therefore your take home pay will be £30,000.” That person’s salary was only ever £30,000. The rest is pretend.