Monday, 31 October 2011

A modest proposal

For some time now, I've been looking at the lunacies of the world and thinking about how we might mitigate them somewhat.

You may have heard of the 17th century Witchfinder General? If not, have a quick refresher here.

I propose that we institute a new office of Bollocks-Finder General. A carefully selected body of men and women will be employed by we, the people, to wander round the country investigating anything that catches their eye. I have in mind the sort of people who you'd find as senior NCOs, old-style hospital matrons, experienced construction engineers, passenger liner captains and the like - the sort of people accustomed to taking on huge responsibilities, getting big things done and making life-and-death decisions. (But not, please note, so high in any corporate structure that they get too far up their own arse.) Where appropriate - and it will surely be often - they will cry: "Hang on, this is bollocks!"

Our Bollocks-Finders General will have rather extensive powers, much as you might expect senior military types to have in wartime. (Let's face it, the War against Terror is never going to be won, but we might make headway in the War against Bollocks.) They will be able to issue summary commands to all and sundry, backed up by civil and military authorities where required. They will have administrative and judicial powers, and may well be armed. There will be no appeal, other than by way of an outraged populace stringing them up if they get it wrong too often. I suspect that, on the contrary, they will be well loved by ordinary people, though hated by bureaucrats, corporate bandits, politicians and other lowlives.

Here are some examples of where the Bollocks-Finder General might usefully step in, along with the actions that might well be taken.

Imagine if we'd had a B-FG way back in 2002 when the Government announced the National Programme for IT for the NHS. This was, in theory, going to make patient records centrally available. There would, shortly after the announcement, have been an interview along these lines:

B-FG: "So exactly which doctors and hospitals have asked for this?"
Bureaucrat: "Ah... well, it's more of a government initiative."
B-FG: "So nobody who's looking after patients actually wants it?"
Bureaucrat: "Well, we're sure it will be jolly useful, and it won't cost more than £6.2 billion to have all the patient records in one place, accessible to all doctors and nurses everywhere."
B-FG: "So how often, exactly, would that be better than just picking up the telephone or sending an email? And how will it speed up patient care or save money?"
Bureaucrat: "Oh, well, we haven't looked into that in great detail... but it will be jolly good, we're quite sure..."
B-FG: "No. This is complete bollocks. You're fired. And so is whoever employed you."

See? That would have saved over £11 billion in the end.

Another example - the Millennium Dome.

Tony Blair: "So, we'll have this huge big tent and we'll fill it with all sorts of interesting stuff."
B-FG: "Like what?"
Tony Blair: "Erm... well, really interesting stuff. It'll be iconic."
B-FG: "So in other words you have no idea?"
Tony Blair: "Well, look, I think we should focus on the real point here..."
B-FG: "Bollocks. Not going to happen. Try and focus on not getting us into any more wars, eh?"

If only we'd had B-FGs here in Nottingham in the '60s. Imagine one of them wandering into the town planning meetings:

Town planners: "So, we're agreed. Get rid of the cobbled streets and Georgian buildings, and have a six-lane highway and lots of concrete high-rise buildings. That's what we'll do."
B-FG: "Will you bollocks. You're all fired."
Outraged Councillor: "You can't fire me - I was democratically elected!"
B-FG: "Good point. I'll just have to shoot you, then."

Think of the crass stupidity we could avoid. The Bollocks-Finders General would have plenty to say (and would probably use up a fair bit of ammunition) about such things as The X-Factor, Tescos in everybody's back garden, councils banning conker fights, CCTV on every streetlamp, Harriet Harman, alcopops, PCSOs, merchant bankers, travellers who don't, the European Agricultural Policy (and much else from Brussels), Graham Norton, the railways, wind turbines... the list is long.

You're probably thinking that I'd like to be a Bollocks-Finder General myself. Well, yes, I have to admit, I would, but I lack the self-control required. I'd shoot everyone instead of just firing them. A sense of perspective is required, after all.

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