Old-fashioned Trots used to talk in earnest tones of the permanent revolution, when the oppressed would seize once and for all the means of production, overthrowing capitalist tyrants and replacing them with socialist tyrants.
Revolutions are messy and violent, and anyone considering one in Blair’s Britain had better watch out for the inevitable asbo. Instead we now have the theory of the permanent merry-go-round, when everyone periodically changes places without anything much being knocked off course.
Each revolution - no, let’s call it a cycle - of the merry-go-round gives us different faces, different letterheads, and a new website or two. Ministers impose their authority on the new organisation, at least until another minister arrives and decides the structure is no longer fit for purpose.
So the carousel jingles on and English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation are poised to become a bright new bureaucracy. Some commentators have been following this avidly, issuing weekly updates on what might happen as if this were an event akin to the release of Nelson Mandela or the fall of the Berlin Wall. Meanwhile staff jockey for position, from chief executive to deputy understudy to the janitor.
Just how much difference does this costly and morale-sapping repositioning of deckchairs make where it matters? No doubt there’ll be efficiencies, though they’ll have to be radical indeed to offset the stultifying effect of devoting the energies of the best and most expensive staff to internal reshuffling for months on end.
There is, naturally, merit in having an organisation that is best structured to deal with the challenges of today. If that structure enables it to meet the challenges of tomorrow, better still. But however well the bureaucracy is constituted, it will soon become obsolete. What’s important is to have personnel in position who have the skills, attitude and freedom to overcome obstacles, internal or external.
That begs the question of whether such people are already in post. If they are, do we really need to create a new officialdom to enable them to function successfully? And if not, what exactly is this brave new world going to change? New Start