NZ public service reform for the UK?

It’s not unusual for governments to decide the solution to their frustrations is to tweak the machinery of government.  Nor for senior public servants to channel those ambitions to safety.

But things look more serious in the UK.  A sequence of reports from high-powered ‘independent’ commissions and well-connected think tanks are floating proposals which bear more than a resemblance to the state sector reforms implemented in New Zealand at the end of last century.

For one of the key players, the seeds of change were planted back in 2010. Back then, Michael Gove (now the Minister for the Cabinet Office) was put in charge of education.  He coined the term ‘the Blob’ to describe the coalition of resistant civil servants and external ideologists who opposed his proposals to change the school system.  And helping him on the Blob job was Dominic Cummings – PM Boris Johnson’s erstwhile chief strategist.

Continue reading “NZ public service reform for the UK?”

Has ‘Johnsonism’ arrived?

Britain’s new health minister, Sajid Javid, says he will keep wearing a mask after formal restrictions are removed in the next fortnight.  It’s a more political than public health gesture.  Unless perhaps he’s meeting unvaccinated ministerial visitors from Australia or New Zealand.

Britain’s Covid debate is morphing faster than the virus.  Thanks to the fast spreading Delta variant and a super-charged vaccination programme it’s plausible that pretty much everyone bar Scottish lighthouse keepers will have had Covid antibodies delivered to them by the end of the year via neighbours or needle. 

Continue reading “Has ‘Johnsonism’ arrived?”

G7 – not so good in the margins

Some say it wouldn’t be a proper G7 summit without a row between the UK and France.  In this case, Boris Johnson taking the opportunity to ask France’s President Emmanuel Macron how he would feel if Toulousain could not sell their sausages in Paris.

The context for his remark is the negotiation between the UK and the EU over the application of the Brexit treaty to Northern Ireland.

Readers might recall our suggestion at the beginning of the year that the trade arrangements might prove a “charter for squabbling”. Perhaps that was too optimistic.

Continue reading “G7 – not so good in the margins”

Vaccine politics look like normal politics – just more extreme

Point of Order has been consistent in anticipating an irritable post-Brexit relationship between Britain and the EU.  But who would have thought vaccine politics would develop as a major flashpoint, let alone a possible relationship breaker?

Even hyper-critical Brits have had to acknowledge that the UK government is a leader in the global vaccination rollout.  And as more background information seeps into the public arena, the British government’s decisiveness in supporting vaccine development, committing early to contracts and driving mass vaccination is looking better and better.

But the same comparisons spell political danger for European politicians. Co-ordination by the EU appears to have resulted in slowness: slowness in making commitments, in tweaking the production process and in approving the product.

Continue reading “Vaccine politics look like normal politics – just more extreme”

Gangs, gongs and a nasty strain of Covid-19 become the stuff of ministerial statements over the holiday period

Funding of $63 million to help keep New Zealanders safe in the water was the subject of the last item of Beehive news we posted before Christmas.  To kick off 2021, the welfare of tongue-tied infants, digitally disadvantaged oldies and fastidious prison inmates (many of them gang members) was high on the government’s agenda for official statements.

The tightening of our  border controls to keep all of us safe from virulent new strains of Covid-19 was the subject of two press releases.

And three ministers (including the PM) took time out to congratulate  Kiwis awarded New Year gongs.

Oh – and let’s not forget that Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, on Christmas Day,  welcomed the agreement reached by the United Kingdom and the European Union on their future post-Brexit relationship.

While Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis issued just one statement, he was kept busy over several days dealing with something he called “the prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison”.

The “event” involved 16 belligerent blokes rioting for six days at Waikeria Prison, lighting fires, throwing debris at Department of Corrections staff, and destroying something called the top jail. Continue reading “Gangs, gongs and a nasty strain of Covid-19 become the stuff of ministerial statements over the holiday period”

Boris Johnson: the man who saved Europe?

This year has seen some spectacular political victories: Jacinda Ardern in NZ’s election and now Boris’s post-Brexit trade treaty with the EU. But having secured a triumph, the risk is in resting on the laurels, when one should be looking to exploit to the full.

And Boris’s victory does look comprehensive. His critics alternated between saying he would never get a deal or it would be a very bad one. In fact, he has achieved his main objectives of rolling over the existing tariff-and-quota-free trade terms and securing recognition of the UK’s sovereign equality in managing the ongoing relationship.

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Some Christmas cheer from the Brits – their trade deal with the EU is as good as we could have expected

As readers well know, we at Point of Order never rest. So, we break your post-Christmas reverie to report some very good news for New Zealand from Britain’s exit from the European Union. 

The Christmas Eve deal ensures there will be no tariffs and no quotas on British-EU trade.

Neither side will impose tariffs on goods being traded and a zero quota agreement  means there will be no limits on the quantity of any type of goods that could be traded.  Furthermore, the UK will be able to strike free trade deals with other countries including NZ.

In essence, with both sides agreeing there will be no tariffs and quotas, NZ avoids the worst-possible alternative which would seriously impact NZ exports into the EU and Britain. Exporters trading across the UK and the EU may still face issues.  It’s as good as NZ negotiators hoped for. Continue reading “Some Christmas cheer from the Brits – their trade deal with the EU is as good as we could have expected”

Tsunami of Nanny State summer safety warnings includes a welcome reminder to avoid a tsunami

Jacinda’s Nanny State wants us to have a happy Christmas and a safe one. 

Ministers devoted to improving our wellbeing have issued advice and warnings on how to avoid food poisoning, how to keep skin cancer at bay and – you can never be too careful, people – how to respond to a tsunami warning.

We are also being equipped to recognise the conditions that increase fire risk.

And there’s advice on the summer programme of resealing and repair work on state highways, to help steer motorists through the holiday driving season.

Transport Minister Michael Wood brought infrastructure investment  and job creation into considerations on that one:  more than 2,000 people will be working on highways across the country this summer, resealing and repairing around 1,900 lane kilometres of state highway (the equivalent of a two-lane road from Picton to Bluff or a single lane on SH1 from Bluff to Kaitaia).

The wellbeing of businesses has not been forgotten.  The Government is working with New Zealand businesses, industry representatives and other stakeholders to ensure they are prepared for all Brexit eventualities from 1 January. Continue reading “Tsunami of Nanny State summer safety warnings includes a welcome reminder to avoid a tsunami”

Brexit ho – is a deal in sight?

On again, off again.  Then, after British PM Boris Johnson’s statement that there was no point in continuing negotiations without movement from the EU, there are signals that a trade and economic deal might be possible in the next few weeks.

We shall see.  But it’s a good moment to pay tribute to the skill of the negotiators and their principals.

Continue reading “Brexit ho – is a deal in sight?”

US politicians – with a fondness for Ireland – warn UK about Brexit negotiations

As if the UK doesn’t have enough trouble negotiating Brexit with the European Union, it has now entered the US presidential election campaign.

Democrat candidate Joe Biden says there will be “no US-UK free trade agreement” if London tampers with the exit arrangements over Northern Ireland.  House speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi and four congressmen also claim Brexit is posing dangers to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

Northern Ireland is an article of faith for the Democrats. Former president Bill Clinton still claims the lion’s share for bringing the conflict to an end.  Ever since President John F Kennedy in the 1950s, there has been a strong bond with Ireland.

It became an act of authenticity with Democrats to claim some form of identity with Ireland. Ireland loved the Kennedys. At Galway Cathedral, there is a mosaic representation of Kennedy and Patrick Pearse, the leader of the 1916 rebellion, praying to an image of the risen Christ. Continue reading “US politicians – with a fondness for Ireland – warn UK about Brexit negotiations”