I was wondering about a theme for today’s post when The Fates intervened with a central heating crisis. In the midst of attempting to recapture the gifts of hot water and hot radiators it came to me that we all have external influences in our lives for good or ill. Just like the gentleman who came and made our boiler work. So Mrs RPS and I debated hotly – it passed the time and creative some warmth – over who would be in our list of seven ‘significant others’ this year.
Anyway here it is. These are the individuals or organisations or groups that have had most impact on us as a family this year.
- This was a hard one but we eventually decided that it had to be – The NHS. A year ago Mrs RPS was very ill and the future looked extraordinarily bleak and uncertain. Without the excellent care she got we can only guess what might have happened. We found an NHS full of passionate and caring people, well-resourced and responsive to our needs as a family. Long may it be so.
- Number 2 was a bit of a battle but we finally decided it had to be – Nick Clegg. Not for winning the election since he spectacularly didn’t. Nor for providing our children with the greatest stimulus to become actively engaged citizens although we are quite pleased about that. No, Mr Clegg gets the nod in a photo-finish for enabling the coalition to come into being with all the good and ill that will flow from it.
- Just behind Mr Clegg comes David Cameron. Not solely because he is Prime Minister. No, we have chosen him because of the way he has chosen to be Prime Minister. He’s the Chairman of the Board. Having set the policy direction, and with a useful human shield at DPM, he has allowed Cabinet Ministers (and their SPADs) to do virtually what they like providing the sums add up. Public servants have seen that latitude impact on them in some startling forms.
- All of which brings us to choice #3: The Cabinet. the folks whose every action (or inaction) has huge significance for their employees. In every administration, in every Cabinet, there’s the good, the bad and the ‘I really don’t know how they got appointed (and neither do they)’. Society’s fetishism about youth and the growth of politics as a profession rather than a vocation means that it’s easier than ever to arrive at the top of the shop with next to no idea about how to make things work. Some ministers deal with this by letting officials get on with it. Some chose to find how things work by dismantling what they find. The remainder of their time as ministers in that particular department is then spent by them in a series of ever more desperate attempts to put the whole thing back together again before anyone notices it doesn’t work anymore. And some ministers, of course, are not much interested in what their departments supposedly exist to achieve. Career utility is their approach to deciding what happens and when in their fiefdom. Under a Chairman ministers get far more rope with which to hang themselves than is ever granted in a Presidential Prime Ministerial Regime. So good luck folks!
- Prime Ministers with Presidential tendencies obviously brings us back to New Labour and to Gordon Brown its last PM. We have chosen him not particularly for the deficit or the failure to ensure financial services were properly regulated. No we’ve chosen him because he encouraged byzantine tax arrangements while simultaneously starving my colleague public servants at HMRC of the resources needed to tackle tax avoidance. Paying tax seems increasingly something that only the ‘little people’ do and encouraging politicians to tackle softer targets, ones with fewer lawyers. Mr Brown talked a good game but failed to deliver on this one.
- In at #5 comes The Management. Mrs RPS and I have both experienced excellent management this year but, like everyone, we have had pants experiences as well. Visionary leadership is great when it is backed up by attention to detail and to the needs of the people you lead. Too often the poor bloody infantry gets caught under the chariot wheels of corporate Boudicca. Of course the change now sweeping all public sector organisations is coming so quickly that just keeping afloat as managers will be some achievement. Good managers and leaders can make change bearable and possible even as they are worrying about their own jobs. Good luck to them too.
- Finally the seventh member of our gang of significant others in 2010. Well, this was an easy one. It’s you. Just knowing that there are people out there encouraging us on and who are finding our witterings (and the resources on the site) helpful in some way has given us an additional sense of purpose as we have struggled to get to grips with all that is happening to us. Thank you.
So that’s it. Our RPS family list of the seven significant others who have helped shape our lives as a family this year.
Tomorrow, we’ll unveil the list of winners and losers in our Mystic Foretelling of 2011.