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Failure to prepare is preparing to fail

The above is a commonly used and understood maxim. Unfortunately not one used or even understood in the corridors of power. When the State takes political control of huge swathes of the economy, the net result is short term thinking usually linked to the election cycle.

The lack of strategic planning has left the country with one of the worst medical delivery systems in the world in terms of outcomes, a transport system teetering on the brink of collapse and a banking system that has largely withdrawn from banking.

These are just three areas that have been significant victims of central planning. There are others; Education, Defence and Energy.. If you fail in government long and hard enough the reward is a knighthood; Gavin Williamson and Vince Cable being prime examples.

The NHS is impervious to strategic planning, Exercise Cygnus in 2016 showed the glaring inability of the NHS to cope with a pandemic. So, instead of addressing the results, the political masters that control the purse strings made the report ‘classified’ and did nothing. Net result, panic in Whitehall when the plague came along - with the effective closure of the economy to ‘save the NHS’ for the following two years. We will be paying for that for the next fifty, with a stagnant economy and higher taxes. The death toll from untreated conditions was deemed acceptable collateral damage. Yet those in charge are again bestowed with honours for their nightly TV broadcasts of doom.

Transport is another area where for decades there has been an unmitigated failure of strategic planning. At the behest of the EU, which let’s face it we are now still a detached member of, as our political masters and civil service still hanker after rejoining years after the Referendum. The priority has been HS2, which might reach Birmingham at sometime in the future.

The priority for any government for a maritime trading nation should have been ensuring that trade routes are kept open. Governments don’t invest, they spend, they spend unwisely. Some unnamed bureaucrats decided that whole sections of the motorway system should be converted into lethal SMART motorways by the removal of the hard shoulder. Again, there have been collateral deaths that are deemed acceptable. As most of these decisions are made in London, the main beneficiary of these plans has been the South East. The old adage of all roads lead to Rome equally applies to London, just look at a map of the motorway system (a paper one not your SatNav), Getting goods away to our overseas markets should have been the priority not the collapsing holiday ferry companies. The East and West coast ports and airports have been under resourced for half a century.

At Filton, on the outskirts of Bristol, was one of the longest runways in the U.K., bounded by the M5 and M4 and actually had a nearby railway station. Anybody in their right mind would have developed Filton. However the South West is serviced by an airport that was used to train American aircrew to land in fog during World War Two. It is actually owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, and is not serviced by any Motorway system or rail link system because, for Whitehall, the South West is not worthy of strategic planning.

Banking is the oil that makes the engine of the economy work, the smaller banks that serviced local business for centuries were amalgamated into the big five during the economic madness of the Heath administration. Net result; the first run on the banking system in 2007 since the 1860’s in Britain. The Libertarian Party was formed that year because the collapse of the banking system was entirely predictable.

Again, knighthoods were in abundance for failed bankers. Former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin has had his knighthood removed. Mr Goodwin, who was heavily criticised over his role in the bank's near-collapse in 2008, was given the honour by the Labour government in 2004. The Queen cancelled and annulled the title following Whitehall advice. In Iceland, bankers went to jail. Goodwin had no background in banking he was from retail. Thank the stars Gordon Brown saved the world by de-facto nationalising the banks with our money thus removing ‘moral hazard’.

The access to capital for growing businesses is still restricted by the banking failure of fifteen years ago. The Royal Bank of Scotland, based in the former Edinburgh Lunatic Asylum, had strong political and geographical links to Gordon Brown’s constituency. It has now changed its name to the National Westminster.

For this party, there either needs to be an independent strategic authority staffed by business men and women or devolution to regional government free from short term London groupthink.

Andrew Withers FRSA

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