Dave can’t govern unless he destroys the quangos

Dennis Sewell on how the agencies stuffed full of Labour placemen have taken power in Britain. To govern properly, Cameron will have to take immediate, brutal action against them

2 September 2009

12:00 AM

2 September 2009

12:00 AM

The closer David Cameron gets to the election, the more he may come to realise how short-lived the elation following his victory may be. Defeating an exhausted Labour party will be the easy part. Winning real power will be a separate, longer battle — and one that requires him to outwit an enemy far more cunning and resilient than Gordon Brown. To transform Britain means seeing off the cronies, placemen and political stooges with whom the government has packed the boards of Britain’s quangos.

Over the Labour years these groups have swelled from an irritant into a state within a state. With 700,000 employees and boards that read like a who-was-who of the Blair/Brown era, the quangos will represent Labour’s stay-behind fifth column. Not only are the quangocrats implacably opposed to the Conservatives’ reform programme, but they are better placed than even the wiliest Sir Humphrey to thwart change and mount a guerrilla insurgency against public spending controls.

To go to war with some 1,160 disparate organisations may strike Mr Cameron as a tiring diversion, but he should remember what he has promised the British public: change. It is a word he used no fewer than 20 times at the Tory conference last year and he has used it at every opportunity since then. More even than Tony Blair and Barack Obama before him, Mr Cameron has held out the promise that his victory will inaugurate a thoroughgoing transformation of government in Britain. He will be judged by his ability to deliver on such an emphatic promise.

The electorate’s fury after a dozen years of Labour failure extends beyond a score of guilty ministers around the cabinet table. The public are thoroughly fed up too with the smug, preachy, arrogant and largely unaccountable class who are in day-to-day command of so much of national life. The maddening regulation, the endless network of agencies making a mare’s nest out of everything from exams to hospital standards — all of these are rooted in the quangos. To postpone picking a fight with the quangocracy will be to surrender to the status quo.

Back in 1997, Tony Blair certainly had no qualms about shooing out yesterday’s men and replacing them with diverse embodiments of modernity. Under cover of his ‘Big Tent’ and employing distracting rhetoric about reaching out across the political divide, he began what soon looked to Conservatives like a soviet-style purge. By the end of the year John Maples, the party’s then health spokesman, was calling for an independent enquiry into why trusted and experienced members of NHS boards were being turfed out to make way for Labour councillors and failed parliamentary candidates.

A new establishment was being created —  one exemplified by Dame Suzi Leather. Until 1997 she had been working as a freelance consumer consultant (whatever one of those may be — perhaps the third sector’s equivalent of a personal shopper?). She was then made chair of Exeter & District NHS Trust, thence to deputy chair of the Food Standards Agency, chair of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority, and via the School Food Trust and sundry other public offices to her present eminence as chair of the Charity Commission, where her avowed Labour party membership alarms the heads and governors of private schools who fear losing their charitable status.

Dame Suzi may have appeared from nowhere, but many senior public appointments have been filled by former Labour ministers. David Clark got the Forestry Commission, Chris Smith the Environment Agency, Geoff Rooker the Food Standards Agency. Larry Whitty, the party’s former general secretary, is chairman of Consumer Focus (where Dame Suzi is a fellow board member — that freelance consumer consultancy experience came in useful after all). Baroness Morgan won a seat on the board of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Lord Warner went straight into a paid NHS chairmanship. The list seems endless.

The quangos are far more than just a useful retirement pasture for clapped-out political donkeys. Take the Big Lottery Fund, where it recently emerged that five out of 12 members, including its chairman Sir Clive Booth, had backgrounds in Labour activism. A Sunday Telegraph investigation into how fairly lottery money was distributed found that of the 117 parliamentary constituencies attracting substantial grants, 74 were Labour and just 20 held by the Tories.


Until Labour lost power in Scotland, the public appointments carve-up was even more shameless north of the border. Labour councillors and parliamentary candidates were frequently appointed to well-paid positions on Scottish quangos. Some even managed to live entirely off the public purse by building up a portfolio of appointments. One married couple (both former Labour activists) were found to be taking home £86,000 per annum between them for sitting on the boards of public bodies. The political bias was blatant. Among those Scottish appointees who declared a party affiliation in 2005, Labour members outnumbered SNP members by more than ten to one.

When not personally pocketing public money, the quangocrats are frequently to be found passing it on to their ideological soulmates in the left-leaning think-tanks. Demos, the IPPR and the New Economics Foundation have all been recipients of large sums from public bodies. Some quangos even retain political consultants to represent them at Westminster. Thus the taxpayer finds himself giving money to a government that passes it to a quango, which in turn hires a lobbyist to press the government to raise more money from the taxpayer to pass to the quango, and so on ad infinitum.

None of this would, perhaps, be very surprising if it weren’t for one salient fact: Labour has legislated to scrap political patronage. The bad old practices of cronyism have supposedly been outlawed and public appointments — with a small number of specified exceptions — are nowadays made according to the Nolan Principles, chief among which is that they must be decided entirely on merit. Independent assessors, accredited by a Public Appointments Commissioner, supervise recruitment.

The NHS even has its own dedicated fairness bureaucracy — the Appointments Commission — to guarantee objective assessment. There are formal procedures to follow, detailed person specifications are issued, and transparent selection criteria observed. Bizarrely, all this has made matters worse, not least because aiming to achieve political balance on the boards of public bodies is itself a practice expressly forbidden by the selfsame rules.

Yet card-carrying, politically motivated placemen represent probably less than half of the problem. Even more sinister is the way that the new recruitment practices ensure that even the politically non-aligned appointees have a bureaucratic, centralising mindset. A creeping credentialism threatens to circumscribe ever more narrowly the pool of potentially successful applicants for senior appointments. The loyalty required is not so much to the Labour party itself, but to the bureaucratic method.

Preferment goes to those already established within the system, and those joining public bodies from outside tend to be either the sort who have been schooled by one of those faintly repellent leadership organisations such as Common Purpose, or have been recruited from the big accountancy and management consultancy firms, most of which have been complicit in this government’s serial failures.

The recruitment advertisements make abundantly clear what sort of candidate is welcome and what sort is not through their insistence that successful candidates must display a commitment to conventional left-wing pieties. Even where there are no actual Labour stooge
s in place, the organisational culture of most quangos renders them inherently inimical to the Conservatives’ reform project.

Previous Tory governments facing a similar problem on coming into office have tried to repay Labour in kind, booting out those suspected of socialist sympathies and replacing them with the Lord Lieutenant’s cousins. That would not be David Cameron’s style, but the Notting Hill equivalent — hiring a new generation of Conservatives schooled in social entrepreneurship — is no longer a course open to him. He cannot change the membership, even if he were minded to.

By the simple ruse of stripping away the Prime Minister’s powers of patronage and establishing an independent appointments system, the Labour nomenklatura have dug themselves in for the long term. Many of the most ideologically hostile quangocrats have notionally won their positions on merit and the legal obstacles to their extirpation could be immense.

Ever since the 1970s, politicians have been promising drastic action against quangos. Margaret Thatcher called for a cull, Tony Blair vowed to ‘dismantle the quango state’, even Gordon Brown once promised a ‘bonfire of quangos’. Yet they have more staff, power and money than ever, with 18,500 people serving on their boards. The Tories talk about reducing the number of quangos, but this will not be enough. Their number has fallen under Labour — but only because they have amalgamated and grown stronger still.

The reason that quangos continue to flourish despite all this is simple: until now they have been regarded by politicians in opposition as corrupt, but by politicians in government as convenient. Now, though, Labour has changed the rules of the patronage game and they will no longer be convenient to an incoming Conservative government; they will be an active menace.

David Cameron discussed quangos in a somewhat ambivalent speech in July. He acknowledged that there were too many of them and that some would have to go. He revealed that he had instructed the shadow cabinet to examine every public body in their portfolios and consider whether they are really necessary. Yet at the same time he signalled a reluctance to undertake a full-scale purge and showed little sign of appreciating the scale of the threat he faces.

Others within his party are urging more vigorous action, arguing that the quango culture cannot be reformed and they must be destroyed. The Centre for Policy Studies recently released a compelling manifesto for the abolition of 11 education quangos, which would save the taxpayers some £630 million. This is just the start of questions that can be asked. If we have an Environment Agency, why do we also need an Energy Savings Trust, environmental campaigns, Environwise and an Air Quality Standards? What, precisely, has been achieved by the Regional Development Agencies after ten years and £15 billion of taxpayers’ money?

Seeking to reform quangos is pointless: this is the lesson of the last Tory government. Abolition is the only effective tool and one which would not just save billions and reduce the deficit, but also simplify government. All these things Mr Cameron says he wishes to do. But at some stage he will have to fight to get what he wants. To put off a battle with the quangos now means he will face an even tougher fight later.

Eighteen months ago a back-of-the-envelope plan for Mr Cameron’s first hundred days might have included significant tax cuts, a green light for Michael Gove’s Swedish schools plan, bold reform right across the public services and some eye-popping initiatives to show that the incoming premier is in earnest about recalibrating the relationship between the individual and the state. To listen to Mr Cameron now, it seems his government will be totally preoccupied with imposing discipline on public spending and repairing the public finances.

Postponing a fight with the quangocracy would be a serious mistake. Unless Mr Cameron is prepared to slash the institutional base from beneath their feet, his much-promised change will never be safe from saboteurs. He has promised nothing less than a fundamental transformation of government. It is a bold and welcome promise. And how he deals with the quangos will tell us how serious he is about keeping it.

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Show comments
  • Christopher Chantrill

    Obviously Siegried musn’t waken Fafner too early. However it wouldn’t hurt to spill a little blood before the election. The Forest Bird may have some interesting intelligence.

    I say: Abolish all Labour sinecures.

  • cuffleyburgers

    Disturbing, and I hope Cameron does indeed intend to do something drastic with these bloodsuckers.

    However, there is no point in making a huge hue and cry about it now, much better to discuss the need for public sector reform in the abstract and then pounce during the night following the meeting with the Queen…

    A night of the long knives – bring it on

  • Ricky

    The huge client state was partly inspired by Livingstone at the GLC in the 1970s and the concept of “Swedification” that developed whilst Labour was in opposition. Puzzled why the British tended to vote Conservative throughout the twentieth century, the Evil Three were determined to follow the Swedish model and a deliberate policy decision was established on gaining power – to build a massive and dependent public sector on our tax receipts, packed with placemen and women whose livelihood was subject to the power, directives, ticked boxes and largesse of central government. Legislation imposed Gramsci-style politically correct value-systems on all worker drones, outlawing dissent and inventing a new “victim” culture to justify the regime and to crush any independent thought. Jobs were to reflect this politically correct culture and an army of obedient, groomed public sector workers would follow the dictats, including outlawing everything from criticism of minorities to alienating rural, conservative communities and starving them of funds. You can see this pattern everywhere – from the Charity Commission to the National Trust, from the Big Lottery to Local Government. An essential principle is this: minority good, majority bad. Many of the larger public sector zombies departments are moved out – like the BBC staffers – into regional marginals to influence voting patterns locally.

    Denis Sewell uses the word cunning. It’s worse than that and it’ll be very hard to dislodge them. It’s part of the reason a solid 25% of the electorate still support the most appalling government in our history.

  • Olaf Rye

    Indeed, the assault on the quangos is the real battle. We need to extirpate all these Labour beneficiaries from the public sector, because they will do whatever possible to undermine the initiatives of the new government. This is an evil Fifth-Column, guided by a paternalistic and conceited view of their wisdom and power to ‘do good’, all of which are delusional. Look at the mobs of non-entities designated as ‘managers’ in the NHS, universities, education, etc, siphoning money from those meant to receive it to pay for their expenses, their salaries, their pensions. We should shun these people as the apparatchniks were shunned in Eastern Europe after the collapse of communist dictatorship.

  • HedgePig

    I suspect Mr Cameron is wise not to fight a war on two fronts, and he has made clear Michael Gove will lead the attack on the education establishment. Totally agree the above, but suspect they will be dealt with as needs must as part of the larger battles – Education first term, NHS second term.

  • bill

    Excellent article and comments.

  • Michael

    A very important article.

  • Verity

    The quangoes are not just blood/tax suckers, but they carry a lethal AIDS of the soul called Common Purpose.

    Common Purpose has to be annilihated and its resurgence made illegal, and Julia whatever-her-name-is must be publically, and lengthily, tried for treason.

  • terence patrick hewett

    My guess is that when Cameron becomes PM, he will have a honeymoon period of about three and a half seconds. And if he’s got any sense at all he will attack the Quangos and the PC brigade with an axe. Strip out all the bullshit legislation and all the bullshit enforcers. If you are going to have to do all the unpleasant things that the Tories are going to have to do to get the country back on track, it would be wise to create a diversion, and no diversion would be more satisfying than to spit roast those bastards over a slow fire. The wailing and the gnashing of teeth will be deafening; there’s nothing like a good public execution and it would put everybody in a good mood for months. The litmus test will be whether he puts smoking rooms back into pubs. If he fails the smoking test, his administration will probably fail through lack of balls and his votes will go to UKIP.

  • Tom Burkard

    May I recommend the recent Centre for Policy Studies booklet “School quangos: a blueprint for abolition and reform”–it can be downloaded from the CPS website. It’s really very good (I wrote most of it). It is a part of a much more detailed project designed to give ministers a blueprint for a project just as Dennis Sewell suggests.

    Your support for this project will be very much appreciated–by your children & grandchildren, who might just have a chance to live in a free country.

  • Danielle

    When in the 80’s the Left realised their policies for society would never be endorsed at the ballot box they began the long march through the institutions/quangos and they have carried on marching right up until the present day. Thatchers defeat of the unions was hard enough. But if history were to be acted out today and Cameron were Thatcher his union equivalents are the the left in the civil service, the BBC, higher ranks of the police, local government, all manner of unelected and unaccountable quangos, local education authorities, prisons, NHS, social workers and most dangerous of all the judiciary. All of these will need to be comprehensively defeated. It is a massive task, is Cameron up to it? We will have to wait and see.

  • Snowman

    The best column by a mile, and the comments also, Ricky’s in particular. I too fear, however, that Cameron may chicken out from a wholesale destruction of this allied, blindingly undemocratic, but growing-in-size-and-power boil on the society.

    At a stroke destruction of the menace would save annually gross around £50bn in direct funding through taxation, and another £60bn that the quangos are sucking up indirectly from the money markets.

    I don’t know about you, but I haven’t yet made my mind whether I should vote for any party in what everyone sees as an ’epoch making’ election next year. The BNP tops the list as things stand. However much I loathe their bigotry, and the Michael Foot’s manifesto pledge on the economy, I do dislike the mainstream parties’ ignorance of the views of the majority, and the blindness to the plight of the country even more.

  • Stan. UK

    I agree it has got to be all out WAR fighting on every front from day one. It is going to be a very hard slog dismatling what Labour have created over the last 12 years.

  • Callie

    Cameron could start by answering James Murdoch call for deregulation of the broadcast media to end the BBC strangle hold over the air waves. At least an alternative message would get out to the people.

  • M. Rowley

    Dennis Sewell is spot on in his belief that an incoming Conservative administration will need to face down the quangos. Unfortunately this approach will not be enough as the past twelve years has also seen the politicisation by stealth of large swathes in the upper echelons of the the Civil Service.

    As it stands most departments of state are stuffed at the top with people, at best complicit in the New Labour agenda, and at worst enthusiastic converts to the cause. The fact that almost all public sector jobs have been advertised in the house journal of Labour, that is The Guardian, then unsurprisingly they have recruited in their own narrow self-image. On the basis that turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, the concept of ever bigger government appeals instinctively to the senior apparatchiks who have multiplied and prospered since 1997, and any attempt to rein them in will be stifly resisted.

    The guerilla tactics that Dennis Sewell predicts will break out in the quangocracies will be replicated across Whitehall as a whole when Cameron tries wielding the knife. New Labour has been extremely successful at creating a bloated client state of juicy, well paid public sector jobs, so don’t think they too won’t go down without a fight.

  • Oldman

    Oh, Danielle, Danielle, if only ‘the history were to be acted out again’ and the Cameron’s dragons to be slain were the pseudo-liberal layers in the institutions you mention, I would go to my grave much happier in the knowledge that my grandsons would live in a country akin to the one that adopted me.

  • Verity

    An excellent article and very meaty comments, but everyone writes as though a) The Conservatives are going to get in and b) David Cameron has the faintest intention of following any of the excellent advice herein. (And c), incidentally, that he’s going to win.)

    Those quangos are a very useful tool for pushing through any programme you want. There is no way someone with such meagre powers of suasion as David Cameron is going to give up that tool.

    Anyway, even if the Tories get in, it would be with the slenderest of majorities and he would not be able to claim a mandate to make major changes.

  • Jarod Weaver

    Dave? Upset The Guardian and the BBC? Brilliant article Dennis but, I fear wasted.

    Dave is more interested in the Liberal media than he is about the supporters of his party.

  • keithbryer

    Dear God, it’s worse than I thought. Truly, nothing less than an Augean Stable Clean is needed. It will take balls of steel. I pray heaven Dave has them.

  • ATFlynn

    Every one of the eighteen comments has a measure of Political contempt about it. Not one of the comments has even a vague idea of what the future holds whatever Party wins the next election.
    Only this morning, the BBC. news had a report of Financial and Off-Shore controls on all transfer and bonus payments. Do any of you remember currency controls when you were allowed only £50 to take abroad with you on a trip? This is what Adair Turner, (The man who wrote the report that destroyed
    the Private Pension Industry.)
    now wants to do to Londons Banking Industry. Never mind this bunch of crap has also destroyed most of our Manufacturing.
    I had best stop, before I get really angry. But before I go, let me just say that it is in your hands what happens next.
    Legally, you do not have to pay direct Taxation to Westminster, you can build an alternative system based on the County Council structure and use the Parish, Town and District Council to administer the Services and the County to control the Revenue. Westminster would have no chance at-all of stopping you.
    Regards, ATFlynn,
    “Norfolk’s Mutineer”

  • Cupoftea

    Couldn’t agree more. If he manages this I might, just might, consider moving back.

  • InTheMiddle

    Good article, well reasoned arguments and *some* good comments. However, I really do fear for some of the commentators belief in the evil left’s ability to cobble together a conspiracy! A little bit of perspective would help. I’m a dead centre politically minded guy, some left, some right and general even out in the middle. I can see that the public sector is too big and needs to be reduced and that having a large non-productive section of the economy is stupid. But making out that it’s a left wing conspiracy over the last 30 years to impose the their will as some commentators have here is lunacy of the order of Bilderburgers and the like! Spend some time with the people you’re accusing and you’ll realise most of them do not have the skills, intelligence or tenacity to do this.

    Oh and please leave the BBC alone guys, both the Tories and Labour don’t like Auntie which in my mind means they’re probably doing a good job (bar a few mess-ups as you’d expect). She has enough problems on her plate with the latest Murdoch assault.

    Anyway, hopefully Cameron will win with enough of a majority to sort out the finances, then education, Energy (the worst thing the Lab govt has done is to ignore this) and move economy to something which doesn’t rely so heavily on London’s financial weight.

  • Derek Sibthorpe

    I thought Dennis Sewells’ article was excellent, as were the comments, all of which I endorse. However, none of the wish list here is attainable unless we detach ourselves from the European Union; the biggest ‘quango’ of all.

    Dave won’t liberate us from the E.U. of course so forget his promises and his rhetoric. Peter Hitches has, in my opinion, the right course of action. If you want a return to conservative values don’t vote for the Conservative Party and, hopefully, a Phoenix will arise from the ashes.

  • Roger Daley

    Sounds like Dave has a bit of a problem with this NKVD if he gets elected.

    Purge the lot of them I say, leeches on society that should have been looking after the common people but more like looking after themselves while destroying society as we knew it.
    No wonder the Russians let the Iron Curtain fall- the velvet revolution was a sham – the Marxist’s have achieved what they always wanted, the folk under the yoke, without a shot being fired, all our independence sold down the river

  • Hawkeye

    Great article. I hope that “Call me Dave” is up to it. Socialism needs to be rooted out and then extirpated.

    The evil philosophy of socialism has destroyed hundreds of millions of lives. It needs wiping out.

  • Christopher Cooke

    The quango bacillus is pervasive but not indestructible. The quangocrats’
    Achilles’ heel is that they all need public money to survive. Cut the money off and they will wither away.

  • Pavo Absolutus

    The picture of Camerons’ scythe with its reversed blade says everything we need to know about the man – ‘piss-ups and breweries’ comes to mind !

    “Vox et praeterea nihil !”

    ( a voice and nothing besides – empty words )

  • Pavo Absolutus

    If we cannot trust Cameron to safeguard the United Kingdoms’ sovereignty from his much-loved EUmonster rulers, then why think he has the backbone to resolve internal ‘who governs this country anyway ?’ issues !

    Brown & Cameron – ” par nobile fratrum !”

    scornfully – ( a noble pair of brothers !)

  • There is no point voting Conservative

    Boris Johnson: ‘fast during Ramadan to understand Muslims’

    Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has encouraged people to undergo a day of fasting to help them gain a better understanding of their ”Muslim neighbour”.


  • Verity

    In The Middle writes dismissively: “However, I really do fear for some of the commentators belief in the evil left’s ability to cobble together a conspiracy!”

    Yes, it’s almost as if the evil left had conspired to, and managed to pull off, turning all of Russia and the Eastern republics as far West as East Germany into a fearful, poverty stricken, Fascist slave state, isn’t it?

    Derek Sibthorpe, agreed.

  • Derek Emery

    There’s going to have to be massive cuts for decades to pay back the huge public debt. The rich will leave the UK in droves if they are heavily taxed and so will companies. We are living in la-la land until after the election as the size of cuts is an all party vote loser.
    I think you will need a huge temporary department (let’s call it a quango) that mans the guillotines and selects bodies for the chop. It will be cannibalistic because some of the quarry will be other quangoes. Top of the list will be quangoes full of labour placemen instituting labour dogma. It will be very important to make sure people cannot award themselves magnificent lump sums and fantastic pensions as this can only extend the pain for the public who have to pay for all this. We do not want to make they people as well off but without having to work.

  • Ricky

    Your last post was excellent Verity. Thank you Snowman for your kind words.

    The criticism of these posts by some has been touchingly naive, to say the least.

    Obviously, they are unaware of left wing internationalism or the tactics laid down by Trotsky in the 1920s and later Stalin in the 1930s-50s.

    You should also be aware that there is huge evidence that the BBC is a self-confessed left wing bolt hole, as are many of the quangos.

    Every government department is policed by political commissars or “Special Advisers” who control budgets, access to Ministers and preferment.

    Anyone hoping to advance in their career – whether it is in the police “service”, local government, the NHS, the BBC, or the Civil Service had better tow the official line.

    It’s also worth remembering this set of facts:

    Peter Mandelson Former member of the Young Communist League. A founder of “New Labour”. Now an unelected peer, the de facto Deputy Prime Minister

    David Miliband Sons of radical Marxist writer Ralph Miliband. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
    Ed Miliband Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

    Tony McNulty Quote “I know it’s terribly hard to believe but I used to be radical myself… like a lot of government I’m an ex-Trot.” Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform.

    John Reid Former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Former Home Secretary, proponent of ID cards and detention without trial.

    Bob Ainsworth Attended meetings of the International Marxist Group Secretary of State for Defence.

    Harriet Harman, Deputy Prime Minister – learned her craft on the picket line of the Grunwick Dispute – one of the most violent of the 1970s.

    Anthony Blair – an alleged member of CND – an organisation funded by Soviet paymasters according to recently opened KGB files.

    All Communist sympathisers were dedicated to the overthrow of the State by violent means or by stealth.

    It’s also worth noting that since the 1960s almost every University student in the UK has been lectured to by a significant number of Marxists and have employed study methods based upon the ideas of Gramsci or Marx, particularly in the social sciences, English in it’s various forms, climatology, politics, economics and government & etc.

    As for the very necessary job of purging the quangos, I am afraid they will have constructed a bomb proof legal web around themselves, making it nigh on impossible to remove them.

  • Mr Grumpy

    “Thus the taxpayer finds himself giving money to a government that passes it to a quango, which in turn hires a lobbyist to press the government to raise more money from the taxpayer to pass to the quango, and so on ad infinitum.”

    Exactly the same goes for the big charities, not least the unashamedly leftist aid charities. The additional twist here is that the grant-disbursing DfID is packed with former aid charity employees. Unreformable indeed.

  • Verity

    Ricky, regarding your last post, I return the compliment. A very thorough and chilling exposition. The only baffling thing is, how were huge tranches of former Conservatives persuaded to vote for this detritus? I mean, how stupid can people be and yet still be able to work a hot water tap?

    Re the CND, I didn’t know, although I’d always suspected, that they were funded by the Soviet. Otherwise, why would so many stupid CoE bishops be involved?

    I remember reading somewhere (it could have been incorrect information), at the advent of Tony Blair’s inaugural slither onto the national stage, that he and the manatee had been keen members and hectoring, chippy marchers.

    However, as long ago as six years ago, when I started to trying to track their membership down, they had been air-brushed out of the organisation. Absolutely no proof, that I could find, anyway, that they had ever belonged, never mind been keen marchers.

    Interesting, that.

  • Sam

    Article and comments should be essential reading for every Tory MP and candidate, and certainly for every prospective minister. But Derek Sibthorpe is correct – unless Cameron is prepared to release us from the uber-bureaucracy of the EU, it’s pointless (even if it’s possible) to take back the reins of Govt from the quangos. Foremost and most pernicious of which is the BBC – a fifth column for the New Labour Project – ‘Auntie’ popped her clogs long ago.

    Don’t underestimate Mandelson, and what he has put in place – it will almost impossible to dismantle not least due to the labour laws and HR legislation now in place. And agreed, the Civil Service has been totally suborned, and must be purged from the top – but how?

  • terence patrick hewett

    I agree with Ricky that the criticism is touchingly naive. The most spectacularly successful conspiracy is that of the Fabian Society. They made no secret of what they wished to achieve, and how they meant to achieve it; by Entryism of all the political parties and political structure and institutions of the country. I don’t like leaving links but nothing describes it better than the article ‘The Fabian Model’ on the Socialist Workers Party website.


  • Ricky

    Verity – although Marxist ideology is now an anachronistic 19th century concept, steeped in a long forgotten world of radical syndicalists, industrialised class warfare, Chartism and Ludditism – it can still cast a beguiling and compelling spell over the naive and the young.

    It’s anger at authority whilst being authoritarian, it’s attachment to violence as a means to an end, it’s religious construct – with it’s own Prophet, priesthood, bible and belief in suffering now for a promised utopian future – are all very convincing. It’s no small coincidence that many former 1960s lefties have transferred their faith from Maoism or International Socialism to the new authoritarian and politically correct faiths of racial and sexual politics or the Church of Green Politics (viz Prescott, Gore, Cohn Bendit).

    Such quasi-religious cults are bound to appeal to Labour supporting Anglicans like Rowan “Sharia” Williams.

  • Nigel

    Not only quangos but actual Ministries should be looked at for elimination.
    We now have double the number of Cabinet Ministers than we had in the Second World War.
    This is a nonsense,what are they supposed to be actually doing that is of any real use.When we hear that the EU has more and more power,it makes more and more of our laws where is the justification for all those Ministries.It seems that politicians have been intoxicated with the idea of having a giant Social Service whilst forgetting what governments real jobs are.

  • John

    A challenge, but also a great opportunity. I think most people who vote for Cameron will be expecting a cull of the costly but useless elements of the public sector. He must immediately launch an assualt, with the emphasis being (as was the approach of the Canadian conservatives) why do we need to do this at all, rather than an examination of effectiveness/ cost of any particular Quango.

    This will be extremely popular with the hard pressed taxpayer, who generally have a visceral hatred of parasitic apparatchiks.

    They will squeal, but the tumbrills will be very popular with working people.

    Should be great for wool sales

  • Minnie Ovens

    September 4th, 2009 4:14pm

    Firstly, one of the best and most informative articles I have read and the remarks made are, for the most part, well informed.
    But it scares the **** out of me.
    Ricky, your 4.14pm post was excellent and it was very informative. Thank you.
    I have long wondered why political correctness, hated and derided by all, seemed to prosper.
    As for David Cameron I am most uncertain.
    Is he actually a Conservative?
    I have seen little that makes me think of him being Margeret Thatcher with balls and that is what is needed if the task is as Ricky states.

  • Joanna Cash

    Anyone unaware of the state this country is in or what institutional problems Cameron faces, read this:


  • Snowman

    I subscribe to a theory, partly of my own making, that explains why the country (or more generally the West) keeps no marching to the pseudo-liberal tune even though the majority of people either roll their eyes at best, or talk about bodies on lampposts at worst.

    God, or if you prefer Nature endowed us with two capacities with which we respond to events, or initiate events: sagacity and emotions. We can think and we can feel. In most cases, our reaction to the outside world is made up from a mixture of both. However, when obtaining subsistence is hard, it’s thinking that predominates. Conversely, when we don’t have to worry where the next loaf of bread comes from, our emotions take over in formulating our responses to the outside world. The shift towards emotion driven receptivity has allowed those on the pseudo-liberal Left to take over in all walks of life. Just look at anything that causes rational, logical people to despair: Criminal justice system totally vacuous of real punishment, ie punishment that hurts, a switch from retributive to restorative justice did bugger all to reduce criminality, aid to Africa has only compounded the suffering of the masses there, the Health and Safety pap eats up resources without any noticeable results, single motherhood encouraged regardless its disastrous social consequences, CCTV galore yet its contribution to crime reduction minimal etc. etc.

    All policy responses engineered by the pseudo-liberal elite feel noble, heart warming, and compassionate. The unintended consequences that invariably follow the emotion loaded responses to the problematic issues never lead to a policy reversals. On the contrary, the argument of the Left maintains that we ought to do more of the same. Luckily, sooner or later, this societal approach, inimical to human nature must end.

  • Sigh

    I sympathise with Dennis Sewell but I fear he has missed the elephant in the room: the European Union (well spotted, Mr Sibthorpe and Verity!).

    It is the EU that mandates we must have regional development agencies (which are the only conduits allowed for EU grants). The Food Standards Agency, meanwhile, is mandated by the European Food Safety Authority and can act only its orders. I could go on.

    Now, because Dave Cameron believes in EU membership, none of the very many EU-mandated quangos will ever go while he is “in charge” (ie Mr Barroso is). Dave really wasn’t kidding when he said he was the heir to Blair.

  • DJT

    And I bet quango posts are advertised in the Guardian only…

  • Jarndyce

    Quangos are not just parasites on the taxpayer, they can also do serious damage to the taxpayers’ ability to pay taxes. The British Council may be thought of as a sort of benevolent dispenser of British talent to the benighted, but it is also a state-subsidised business which therefore competes unfairly with organisations that have to find their own overhead and their own pension arrangements and their own (risked) investment, and do not have diplomatic and charitable status and massive state subvention. Result is that this particular quango destroys businesses at home as well as abroad.

  • Pat

    A battle that needs winning indeed. A few suggestions:-
    Quangos are by and large unpopular, so why not submit the disestablishment of each to a mini referendum? Any could opt to go private, possibly as a charity, if it chose.
    If the government started with the most obnoxious cases, offering full pension and redundancy rights, and a thorough audit for non co-operative quangocrats (with any fiddled expenses being rigorously pursued) then maybe there would be less opposition.
    Any donations to charity would have to be outlawed- the whole point of charities is voluntary donation. There might be difficulties with the judiciary getting convictions for this offence- but there should be no difficulty sacking people without compensation. And with no fake charities there’ll be a lot less cheerleading for the larger state.
    Of course the biggest quango of all is the BBC- and it occurs to me that the solution is to put public service broadcasting out to tender- with no one organisation allowed to get more than a third of the service- we should get more diverse news and a cheaper service. And quite possibly the winning tenderers, who will be perfectly entitled to run commercial services as well if they wish, will be less inclined to cheer big government.
    I do tend to agree with a commentator above that The reform of education via the voucher scheme is first priority- along with public sector broadcasting. Not only will it save money and improve standards, but it will considerably reduce propaganda on behalf of the bureaucracy, Hence it will make further reform easier.

  • Scallywag

    Cameron would do well to have a quiet word with Nicolas Sarkozy. He planned to rid France of the ‘Enarques’ and their disproportionate influence over just about everything. I’m not sure he’s achieved his objective yet, but he may have a few tips for Dave which could short circuit his efforts once elected.

  • Tony

    How very true this is.

    I only hope that David is listening.

    We will need to deal with the “Enemy Within” very quickly and the only way is by abolition.

  • LION OF England

    Very good i just hope that cameron has the spine and balls to do what he says,in comparison to Mcbroon whos got a Jelly fish one!but Hey People It is really so Easy all you have to do is stop giving them Money
    they can not survive without the Paper if you want change you must be
    prepard to suffer a Little, so stop moaning into your teacups and lay your tools down,without the working ants the state does not exsist YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM YOU HAVE.

  • michael

    -Union leadership-Europe-Quangos-
    NHS management-PFI projects-Westminster-QE-….

    “Owing to technocratic indifference and a self-indulgent binge, the gravy train will probably be departing from platform Cameron.
    Could the remaining loyal customers please read the safety notices as HSE assesments warn of impending derailment.”

  • Lydia J
  • David Short

    Some of these people who comment make you wonder! The worst kind of people! They’re been drawn to the new-style Speccie, hoping that the new masthead might include a swastika.

    I dearly hope now that Cameron will not get in; I don’t want to live in a Nazi Britain.

    Let’s have a LibDem-Lab UK.

  • michael

    A decade of the uber-state presided over by a leadership whose decision making is largely egotisticalcal (save the world) in which the deluge of legislation is mostly for political gain, unelected government scrutinising and cctv-ing everything we do, Orwellian political correctness stifling dissent, the party faithfull beggetting the bisto…and some,
    That’s unser Gordi’s National Socialism.

  • ian skidmore

    I hope to God he listens to you

  • Concerned Citizen

    It’s worse as the ‘independent’ Commissioner for Public Appointments is actaully an old Islington neighbour and friend of the Blairs.

  • Lucy

    Blake’s “Oh Rose, thou art sick! the invisible worm that flies in the night,in the howling storm” is the “lethal AIDS of the soul” mentioned in Verity’s post September 3rd 2.19pm. It is scandalous that the average member of the public doesn’t know anything about Common Purpose or that their taxes are being used to train future “leaders” of the Post Democratic Society. Common Purpose should be the perfect subject for serious investigative journalism. If light could be shed on the “invisible worm” I would be surprised if there would be any justification for taxpayers’ money to be spent on them or thier trainees. This would be a big step towards implementing the CHANGE that David Cameron says he wants.

  • M Hall

    Sounds seriously like a good idea, these Quango’s only take money from those meant to recieve it and that is mostly the most vulnerable in society. Some Quango’s, such as possibly the environment agency, will be needed where an area of work is not best done by government directly. But most of the work can and should be done by the Home Civil Service which is politically independant after all. Therefore why do we need an army of quango’s??? Get the independant civil service to do this instead. Another crucial area to reduce public spending is welfare reform, that means stopping universal monetary payouts via the benefits system to working people who can look after themselves. You don’t need to be taxed and then given back your own money-just charged a fair and equitable tax rate in the first place. Get the new deal programmes to focus on making people who can be worksmart and workready, not benefit smart and benefit ready. Welfare is for people who genuinely need it such as the pensioners, seriously ill and those who have fallen on hard times due to things like recession not the workshy or those who earn enough to support themselves.

  • Morvan

    Probably a bit late now, but Ricky’s two comments. one on September the third and the second on the fourth, really do spell out the problem Cameron – if he is up to it – faces.

    I would also add that the Conservative Party has been infiltrated and he will have to deal with that as well. To those that advance the theory that Cameron is in fact one of the infiltrators I would say that the accusation has not been proven, but you may well be right and only time will tell.

    There is no doubt that the best result at the next election would be for all three major parties to be totally annihilated, it just isn’t going to happen. We will have just have to make do with what we have got and pray that the Conservatives can pull it off for the third time in my lifetime.

  • Kevin Dunn

    Don’t forget the most well-armoured, rich and political;ly destructive Qango of them all – the BBC.

  • Tom Bell/ Katie Prince

    Arrived at this column rather late but still feel the need to contribute if I may – Wonderfully illuminating article – I was completely unaware of the sheer horrendous inroads that the left-wing apparatchiks had achieved in the past 11 years. God help us. Can I suggest that all readers of the piece and contributors, Email this to the Tory party (with comments) just to give Dave a wake-up call, especially our views on Europe!!! I shall.