Time Out Of Joint
Let us go in together,
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint—O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let’s go together.
—Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5, 186–190
Politicians like to panic, they need activity. It is their substitute for achievement —Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes, Minister
Despite the proposed budget-slashing havoc threatened by the Tories and their (I’m sorry to say) lap-dogs, the Liberal Democrats, I wonder how much damage these transient occupants of the halls of power will really be allowed to do? The civil service and its deeply entrenched under-secretaries and mandarins never take kindly to interference from politicians, something that the Tories are only too aware of.
But it’s a dangerous game that the Tories propose to play. Without a compliant (or at least co-operative) civil service, all their plans must come to naught. After all, politicians don’t really know how things run, making it virtually impossible for them to make them run differently. The proposals the Tories are making for reform of Whitehall have already alienated the very people that they must depend on to see their nasty agenda realised. It’s one thing to announce policies, programs and reforms and to pass legislation in the House; it’s a very different thing to actually get things done. Inertia is our friend. Here’s hoping.
In the meantime, as unpromising a subject as it must appear, let’s have poems on civil servants (mine’s a re-tread from about 3 years ago on Carol’s POTW thread):
From Memphis To Whitehall
The great trunks of stone lack tone, almost flaccid;
no sneer of command, hard faces placid:
devoid of surmise.
They solemnly wait for the river to rise;
all’s mystery to them; the real power lies
just off-stage, feline and wise,
the cat-footed servants, languid and thoughtful,
shift the scenery and paint the skies
and know they’re immortal.
(from a ‘hideous Pope’ to a hideous civil servant: sorry, hic…)