Incompetence Rules, OK?

There is a philosophical overview of the question of incompetence including the issue of competence to overcome incompetence. Might sound a bit strange but, in my view, quite simply sums up much of what is going wrong today.

As a British citizen I have for years been arguing that my country needs full constitutional and administrative reform. I have been saying for just as long that the European Union needs the same, while having to admit that it is, in fact, technically in the process of such process in terms of its legal structure, but is saddled with institutionalised administrative problems that also amount to incompetence.

I am encouraged by comments of Kate Bingham, a former chief advisor to Boris Johnson the UK Prime Minister. Described as ‘Vaccine tsar’ in the press she is reported as saying in a speech at Oxford University that Britain would have faced months of delay in getting Covid vaccines if it had been up to the normal machinery of government.

That this is also relevant to countries across Europe now experiencing Covid epidemic resurgences appears to be the case. According to the Times newspaper she went much further. Her view is that Civil Service ‘groupthink’ and ‘risk aversion’ leaves her country exposed on issues from climate change to cyber warfare.

She described Civil Servants as obsessive about avoiding blame and paranoid about media controversy with the promotions system failing to weed out poor performers or reward those with specialist knowledge.

In the past few days newspapers have been full of reports that the current UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak is “increasingly frustrated with Boris Johnson’s chaotic Number 10 operation” and that he feels there needs to be greater professionalism. True or false?

Much the same is being said about France, as well as other member states and the EU itself. The problems are, as Kate Bingham reportedly stated, deeply embedded, however recent reports indicate that industry and business are embarking on new training methods. As the old saying goes "keeping up with the times".

Also, as the song says “Times they are a changing”. Kate Bingham concluded that there are very few ministers with scientific or practical background which would not matter if there were senior civil servants with that knowledge and technical understanding.

She referred to 'fear of the media’ which is an echo of this reporter’s viewpoint. The media is lacking professional competence and direction. The term ‘shallow coverage with a tear down approach’ is a justifiable description. Competence is not a hall mark of the traditional media faced with a rapidly changing business environment.

Political incompetence has for centuries led to crises, disorder and war. The migrant crisis that is affecting Europe and the western world is, as I write, rupturing already difficult relations between Britain and France and perhaps, as the weekend conference without a British presence may reveal, an increasing schism with the EU.

That the approach to migration is marked by incompetence is incontrovertible. Those of us who followed the UK’s entry into the EU well remember one of the key reasons it did not sign up for Schengen and free movement. The lack of proper controls on the, then Common Market’s, eastern borders was fundamental.

As I listened to the notably incompetent BBC reporting on the French dispute yesterday - Friday - I was truck by the number of times politicians and experts referred to the RAF “helping France in North Africa”. I asked myself why they kept focussing on that? I have said it before and I say again, the EU should pay close attention to public opinion in the UK. The cost of defence, at a time of economic difficulties, is already being reviewed by the UK government.

Pulling back UK forces from North Africa just might turn into a populist media and political campaign.

----------- Dateline: Corner Cafe, Deal, Kent. November 27, 2021 ----------

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Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a former UK national newspaper journalist and was the founder and editor of a magazine focussed on EU affairs.

Now writing for EUToday, Chris has his own column, 'Chris's Corner'.

Chris is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world, having been founded in October 1884

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