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Created on 11/4/2008

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?" Hillel, Pirkei Avot, 1:14

If you live in either the UK did you notice that there are more holes in the road? I believe this is an indication of the whole of our beautiful island going to pot. We simply seem to have lost the will to keep up appearances. It would be funny if it were not so serious.

At first there were small indications of a general decay. You will remember them starting with the proliferation of graffiti, which, to more liberal tastes, was termed street art. It is not street art, it is someone without a brain and too much time on their hands thinking that a spare piece of wall, or a railway carriage is more fun to play paint on than a piece of paper.

The decline in the UK took other, more serious form when our once wonderful, world leading National Health Service, began to seriously deteriorate. I don’t mean that the science and the doctoring suddenly became worse, I mean that the wards were not being cleaned properly, and once spotless hospitals where you could have eaten off the floor became, instead, dirt infested germ generators. Sometimes it seems from the terrifying statistics that you’re as likely to get ill or die from the germs in the wards as you are from the illnesses that brought you to the hospital in the first place. In this instance, as in many others, it is not lack of funding that has been the problem; it is the almost ruinously bad management of the increased spending.

The same applies to other major capital projects in the UK. We just built one of the biggest airport terminals in the World, Terminal 5 at Heathrow. It looks fantastic, and it is designed to meet a capacity of an additional 30 million passengers a year or more. They built this giant edifice over a period of years at a cost exceeding $10 billion. Everything was great until it opened for business about a week ago. Immediately the baggage system, touted as the most advanced in the world did not work. There are about 20,000 lost bags. British Airways have still not reunited all the passengers with all the bags. How could this happen unless the management is awful?

When the British go to war they are regarded as amongst the best fighting men and women in the world. The British don’t miss too many wars, and their fighting men are known for their bravery and efficiency. Presently the British are engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once again the service men are proving to be excellent at their difficult and dangerous jobs. What has also been noticeable is the fact that their weapons and support equipment has been sub standard and in short supply. This is clearly the result of bad strategic planning and management. As the German High Command commented of the British soldiers in the First World War, “They are lions led by donkeys.” Nothing much seems to have changed in nearly one hundred years.

The railways and underground service in London are in perpetual repair, despite the expenditure of many more billions of pounds. When will this ever end? Despite all this fixing and modernizing and re-inventing the service is still often delayed, and subject to myriad disruptions.

The roads have had huge and never-ending investment to give much needed improvements, but still we have endless tailbacks and increasing gridlock. No one you meet can remember a time when there were so many holes in these roads that were supposed to be improving. There are no days when we don’t have announcements of long delays on various roads and other means of transportation. I can name the roads today that will be accident bound next Monday, and the next day and so on without end. Monday, April 14th. 2008 I predict that there will be an accident between Junction 25 and 28 of the M25, there will also be some kind of incident on the North Circular Road, another traffic hold up between the junction of the M11 and M25, a further hold up in the road works on the M1 near Hemel Hempstead, another similar problem on the M6 and I could go on. If I can work out that these are incidents waiting to happen why can’t the management of our country? Instead of scrabbling around to patch up these obvious fault lines why not focus on getting them fixed properly?

The reasons are obvious to me. Our government is so concerned in micro-managing our lives they have lost sight of their real job, managing the running of our country. They need to get our civil service back to being civil and a service, they need to stop looking for ways to tell us what to do, how to eat, to drive and how to learn. They have self evidently got all of these disastrously wrong. It is interesting to share with you the information that there is a town in Holland called Drachten where they removed all the road signs, traffic lights, and road markings and instead of the accident rate going up it went down, so did the number of traffic jams and that can only be good. How about our government using their collective brain and following this example instead of wasting our time and money on hugely inefficient management.

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