Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Some Ministers Are Better Than Others

I know it would be really hard to be a government minister - I've seen some fairly robust, (if we are fair minded about the current executive/legislature setup) decent and clear defences over how recently promoted ministers have had to change the way they were going to vote on an issue. And as my partner will know, in private to people I trust, I can have robust criticisms which I think are fair minded, of our own Lib Dem ministers.

However, it's quite striking as Steve Webb goes on to build on the success of NEST and auto-enrolment to start taking on unfair pension charges, that some ministers are more competent than others. You can tell it's the right target, in this case with pension charges, if the only criticism is it's not going far enough. This man understands his brief, and the more he does, the more I approve. OK, the triple lock is more likely to benefit others than me - as the generation I am in is likely to both work till they are 70, and personally I think we are probably going to have a degree of means-testing on our pensions by the time I retire. But overall I think he's doing a fantastic job.

It appears his objectives are SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. He knows what he's doing.

Meanwhile, Iain Duncan Smith seems very well intentioned but... well, doesn't seem to be having as much success. I queried the aims of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments at the time, but some told me to wait and see. So I waited, and we have seen. PIPs are in chaos and UC is beset by more and more delays. I do think, unlike some, that a lot of the Tories including IDS are well intentioned, but sometimes suffer from either lack of attention to detail or over ambition, or both.

So, Webb 2 IDS 0 so far, wonder what the score will be at the end of the term? 

Monday, 14 October 2013

The unexamined life of an activist and other Liberal Democrat animals

This blog post from earlier this year, "Argonauts of the incredibly specific: Anthropological field notes on the Liberal Democrat animal" is superb, and the author should be given a column in Ad Lib immediately.

They also state:

"If you are reading a blog for peer-reviewed, citable, academia then you should seek help. Stick around though, I quote Napoleon later."

So I'm not doing that, but I do think this blog is excellent, because of acute observations like this

"If you want to be an MP it helps to be rich, charismatic, likeable, hard-working, lucky, good with the media, have a good back story, have a solid track record with the party, and good at campaigning. But you don’t need to be any of these things. 
The only thing you absolutely need is ridiculous, and I mean absolutely ridiculous, levels of self-belief. This is because no rational human being would ever want to do it. 
 If you want to be an MP you must give up all semblance of a normal life for years, often decades, at a time. You must be unemployed, or have a very patient employer and a meaningless job, for about a year before the election. You must surrender all meaningful contact with friends and family. In the months before an election you must spend around twenty hours a day shaking hands, smiling, and making token purchases. 
And if you are not driven completely insane by this you also have to come to terms with the fact that there is a very very good chance that you are going to lose, that it will all have been for nothing, and that you have to wait four more years and then have another go – only it will be harder the next time because now you are tagged as a loser." 

"Campaigners work around 90 hours a week and there is a machismo culture around who can do the longest hours. Unsurprisingly Campaigners live on a diet of nicotine, alcohol, coffee, and anything with lots of sugar in it. Perhaps surprisingly Campaigners have not yet discovered crystal meth."
Then, after following a Facebook status where a friend talked about a non-political activity she had enjoyed and other people all commented that this was good and healthy, I googled BurnoutHerbert J. Freudenberger and Gail North have concluded that the burnout process can be divided into 12 phases, which don't have to be followed sequentially.

These include:

The Compulsion to Prove Oneself
Often found at the beginning is excessive ambition. This is one's desire to prove themselves while at the workplace. This desire turns into determination and compulsion

Working Harder
Because they have to prove themselves to others or try to fit in an organization that does not suit them, people establish high personal expectations. In order to meet these expectations, they tend to focus only on work while they take on more work than they usually would. It may happen that they become obsessed with doing everything themselves. This will show that they are irreplaceable since they are able to do so much work without enlisting in the help of others

Revision of Values
In this stage, people isolate themselves from others, they avoid conflicts, and fall into a state of denial towards their basic physical needs while their perceptions change. They also change their value systems. The work consumes all energy they have left, leaving no energy and time for friends and hobbies. Their new value system is their job and they start to be emotionally blunt

Losing contact with themselves, it's possible that they no longer see themselves or others as valuable. As well, the person loses track of their personal needs. Their view of life narrows to only seeing in the present time, while their life turns to a series of mechanical functions

Well, it's made me think..... In the words of Jerry Springer - look after yourselves and each other.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

In defence of Call Centres

Some young people don't like Job Centres. There's a blog about it explaining why for Liberal Youth . This is one of those cases where I've listened very hard to people I disagree with in order to understand them - something Seth Godin advocates. 

I disagree - I don't think the problem is all down to the job centre. As other people on twitter - (@_TommyLong and @make_trouble) have agreed with me, there is the need to try jobs, even "crap ones" in order to get started on your career. 

We've found that we, and other successful people started in crap office jobs, or tried out different careers to build up skills. We can't just educate skills - and this is somewhat of a pup I think current graduates have been sold. It's apparent there is a huge skills gap - it seems odd to have the most educated workforce ever, come bottom of the table for literacy and numeracy, and also to have so many young people unemployed. I ask could all these problems be related?

I think call centre jobs are excellent places to pick up skills. I've also been told that people may not have been offered those jobs as they didn't have the right skills and experience - this contrasts completely with my own experience where I picked up many skills and got promoted - my CV was collapsing under the strain of the amount of experience I picked up - they are fast paced environments with much "support" work to be done. 

Call centre jobs are often called "modern day factories". This is probably a decent analogy.

Tho I went into the conversation thinking the problem was one of expectation (I've been told directly before, "I didn't go to university so I could work in a call centre" - an attitude which quite simply, sucks)  I think now perhaps it's also one of framing - somewhere has been bred an expectation that the system will find you the perfect job, rather than thinking you may need to try a few things, picking experience up along the way, until you find the right one for you, or pick up enough experience to apply for your perfect job.

After all, we definitely advise our kids that with respect to romance, so why not work as well? 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Reshuffle & redundancy

Big news day - reshuffle, which will probably be analysed a lot over the next few days - what it means for the coalition, what it means for the referendum, what it means for women and obviously for the ministers themselves.

I've seen a couple of comments about how tough it is on advisors, and that's a good point - as ministers often bring in their own Special Advisors, they may leave with the ministers, in fact are likely to.

Imagine losing your job because your boss had lost theirs - perhaps you (and they!) had been doing a great job but it was decided everything needed a new direction (which is given as the reason Michael Moore has been replaced with Alistair Carmichael, though clearly will still need to take a bit of a Michael into the Scottish job....*) . I suppose it's another way that politics differs from "normal" life - if your boss lost their job due to a restructure, and so did you, you should at least receive some sort of redundancy payment to tide you over.....

*think cryptic crossword clues