Cameron and his team are looking to outflank UKIP by restricting access to National Insurance numbers as a way of capping lower skilled worker entry to the UK labour market. This, as Barroso says, is illegal under EU law, and it just isn’t going to happen, though Cameron will be hoping to keep up the pretence that it might until the other side of the Rochester byelection.
For Labour (and the liberal-left in general), there’s a positive in this. There’s a short window in which it might set out its own more coherent proposals for restricting freedom of movement, and a legal mechanism to do so.
Let’s start with the legal mechanism, which requires an initial bit of myth-busting about what can and can’t be done under EU law.
Just about anyone in the commentariat or UK politics who claims to understand the EU will tell you that freedom of movement is ‘sacrosanct’, and a basic principle of the Single Market. They may also tell you that if a EU state restricts freedom movement for citizens of other EU states, then it’s in breach of the Lisbon Treaty.
This, though, is incorrect.
This is what Article 45 of the Lisbon Treaty actually says (my emphasis)
1. Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Union.
2. Such freedom of movement shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment.
3. It shall entail the right, subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health:
(a) to accept offers of employment actually made;
(b) to move freely within the territory of Member States for this purpose;
(c) to stay in a Member State for the purpose of employment in accordance with the provisions governing the employment of nationals of that State laid down by law, regulation or administrative action;
(d) to remain in the territory of a Member State after having been employed in that State, subject to conditions which shall be embodied in regulations to be drawn up by the Commission.
The limiting clause is there for a reason. It is there because early formulators of the legislation (and the limitations date from Clause 48, para 3 of the 1957 Treaties of Rome) understood that total freedom of movement might be difficult to implement, and that there might be occasions when it is best to take a step back.
Now, it’s not quite as easy to invoke the limiting clause as it might once have been. This is because in 2004, EU Directive 2004/38/EC tightened up the process for curtailing freedom of movement by requiring that any person whose movement is curtailed has to be named, and specific reasons provided for the curtailment. Thus, if freedom of movement were to be restricted on a large scale, including for whole states, that Directive would need to be repealed. But the point is that, with political willing from all states, this repeal could take place through the ordinary legislative procedures of the EU, and would not require treaty change.
There are two questions that arise from this. First, why on earth would Southern and accession states voluntarily accede to the repeal of Directive 2004/38/EC when their citizens stand to lose freedom of movement and therefore earning power? Second, what good would it do Labour to engage in such a process (or set out promises for same in its manifesto.
The answer lies in another section of the Lisbon treaty. Article 30 states that “customs duties on imports and exports and charges having equivalent effect shall be prohibited between Member States. This prohibition shall also apply to customs duties of a fiscal nature.” but article 32 clear the way for exceptions to the rule:
In carrying out the tasks entrusted to it under this Chapter the Commission shall be guided by………the need to avoid serious disturbances in the economies of Member States and to ensure rational development of production and an expansion of consumption within the Union.
Invocation of this aspect of the Lisbon treaty as part of the overall deal between richer and poorer states would create the room for temporary suspension of the single market, and the creation of export subsidy/import substitution mechanisms, such that convergence can occur at a much quicker pace than might otherwise happen. It would effectively, give the newer EU states the space they need to catch up, as long as they agree to their side of the bargain – keeping and feeding their own citizens, especially if it were to go hand in hand with a redistribution of EU structural funds** towards the poorer states:
1. It hoists Farage by his own petard. He has claimed that slower economic growth in Britain is a price worth paying for reduced immigration, and what is proposed here is a route to just that, not just because in the real world immigration into the UK is an economic good, but because UK companies stand to lose business through temporary tariffs. Farage can hardly object to concrete proposals to put into practice what he adovcates.
2. It allows Labour to argue, correctly, that the root cause of EU immigration is the failure of the free market within the EU; economic convergence between rich and poor states has simply not taken place through free trade, and policy intervention by the EU is now needed to help convergence along the way.
3. Labour has no choice. Trying to outdo UKIP or the Tories on toughness is just a non-starter given the very low levels of trust the party suffers on immigration generally, which stem both from a hostile media and from the party’s failure to be clearer about the benefits of EU immigration back in the early 2000s – when it did enjoy considerable trust. Similarly, a late attempt to win over the electorate to the economic benefits of such immigration are doomed to failure, given the evidence that any form of redistributive policy, seen as demanding some form of self-sacrifice, is almost certain to get a hostile reception when political trust is low.
In these circumstances, the only realistic way forward for Labour is to be seen to accede to the expressed demands of much of the British population, and seek to reduce immigration from the EU in the short to medium term, irrespective of the fact that this may actually damage the economy (though in the longer term real economic convergence will benefit all EU states, of course).
*I use the term liberal-left purposely in order to distinguish it from the Marxist left. As a fairly gross generality, the Marxism-inspired left would see what I propose here as an accommodation with nationalism and xenohpobia, that the left’s efforts are better directed at collective action against the real enemy, capitalism, and that the desire of a large part of the population to reduce immigration is one rooted in false consciousness. I have some sympathy with this analysis, however crudely I express it, but I am also a democratic socialist who believes that people do have the right to express preferences, and that telling them their preferences are a product of ignirance is not productive for the most part
**Jacek Rostowski, ex-finance minister for Poland, said recently:
No Polish government could agree to Cameron’s renegotiation proposals except in return for a mountain of gold.
He, of course, recognises that there is a deal to be done. even if Cameron doesn’t.
As for why and how Labour would gain from setting out these proposals, there are three points to make.
Introduction to part 2
In part 1 of this critical engagement Professor Alexis Jay’s report on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham, the focus was mainly on the factors which drove the upsurge in CSE in the late 1990s and 2000s, rather than the council’s and other agencies’ response to that upsurge. Clearly, though, the way in which those ‘external’ factors took effect during the period had an effect on the appropriateness, or otherwise, of the response by those agencies.
In part 1, I made two main points in particular about the weaknesses in the Jay report in respect of these factors. Here in part 2, I’ll expand somewhat on the implications of these, and of how the reports interprets them, before moving on to the ‘internal’ institutional dynamics of the agencies response to CSE, and will again suggest that the analysis by Jay is inadequate, and indeed potentially counterproductive at a national level, given her new role as adviser to the public inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse announced in July.
In part 3, I’ll move on to what I think is the biggest conceptual flaw in the Jay report – the failure to grasp what community development actually is – and I’ll finish with an assessment of what does actually need to be done to stop and prevent the growth of CSE (and child abuse more generally), and offer some suggestions on how we might move in that direction. Needless to say, these suggestions won’t involve manadatory reporting, which is at best a distraction, or fabricating evidence so that staff can be disciplined, as the MP for Rotherham is now apparently suggesting. Sadly, Labour has been utterly useless in its response so far, and this is my attempt to help it respond better, before it is too late.
Ethnicity and political correctness
In part 1 I suggested that the report lacked the courage of some of its convictions about the “issue of ethnicity” (as one of the report chapters is entitled), with Jay going to lengths to say that ethnicity cannot possibly be seen as a predictor of child abuse perpetration, before backtracking and accepting that future work to combat CSE may have to confront ‘cultural issues’. I then set out an alternative way of approaching the matter, in a way that not only allows for a ‘race-blind’ approach to tackling CSE, but which is actually more effective because it is race-blind i.e. it is not caught up by extraneous issues of ethnicity, but focuses on the actual material circumstances which are predictive of CSE .
This is important stuff because, if we accept that race-blind intervention to stop and then prevent CSE is not only possible but more effective than ethnicity-focused intervention , much of the criticism, itself based in the report on little more than hearsay, that police, council staff and councillors betrayed children because they weren’t courageous enough to ‘take on political correctness’ – becomes an irrelevance.
Maybe, just maybe, the managers and councillors were correct in their approach. Maybe, just maybe, being politically correct can be correct in terms of lived outcomes as well as votes.
That’s not to say that sending the Home Office researcher off on diversity training course for using the word ‘Asian’ in a report was the correct thing to do; this does sound cack-handed, as it is pretty well impossible to imagine a Home Office researcher into CSE having anything other than a good understanding of diversity issues, and therefore open to a reasonable debate, based on the kind of evidence I produced in part one about circumstance being the overriding predictor, about whether her approach was reasonable. Her mistreatment, though, may have more to do with the dominant masculine managerialism referred to in the Jay report (and which I analyse below) than with the fact that she was right and they were wrong about the fundamentals of the best way to tackle the CSE epidemic.
Maybe it was the other way round. Maybe the managers were right. Maybe she was wrong.
Let”s be blunt, then. Even though the report hedges it is bets – “Recommendation 14 reads: The issue of race should be tackled as an absolute priority if it is a significant factor in the criminal activity of organised child sexual abuse in the Borough)” – this very hedging means that the media and popular reaction to the report has focused on the need to overcome political correctness and focus on ethnicity a way to prevent further abuse.
The Jay report may therefore end up doing children currently being exploited and at risk of exploitation more harm than good.
The perfect storm: external meets internal
Also in part 1, suggested that a key weakness in the Jay report – though this may have more to do with the terms of reference and timescales than Jay and her team’s own capacities – is the failure to assess why the incidence of CSE has risen. My own answer to this question is linked to the argument above about circumstance over ethnicity, and argues that the rise of mobile and social media technology, plus the easy availability of internet porn as a progressively misogynsing factors [link to Us article], creates both the ‘motivation’ and opportunity to develop exploitative techniques. Jay’s relative failure to assess the surge in incidence feeds into the over-emphasis on ethnicity. It also incidentally allows her a route out of commenting properly on the horribly inequitable funding of the council as a whole; while she notes the 33% loss of spending power in Rotherham in comparison with 4.8% in Buckinghamshire (para 12.14) , there is no recommendation as to what might be done about such clear inequity.
But this is just one part the ‘perfect storm’ that hit those principally and statutorily responsible for protecting children – frontline social workers. The other factors which hit children’s social care staff in the crucial period were understaffing – I’m not sure how any council department might be expected to operate with a vacancy rate of 43% (para 12.2) – and the rampant managerialism which took hold of public services delivery in the 1990s and 2000s.
I should be clear what I mean by managerialism, a term not used in the Jay report itself but which I use here to reflect the kind of events she describes (but doe not fully analyse) in her report.. I mean the ideologically-motivated assumption that if public services (indeed services of any kind) are subject to improved management targets and controls, then the quality of that services is bound to improve. This assumption, as Chris Dillow has set out on his blog and in his fine book New Labour and the folly of managerialism is wrong, not least because what may be gained through ‘efficiencies’ is lost through diminished professional/worker autonomy.
This we can see from the Jay report, is precisely what happened in Rotherham in the 2000s. The account at paras 6.21-6.24 about how social worker time was remorselessly squeezed away from both preventative and vital followup work is not just an account of understaffing. When I asked frontline social workers in my area about this section, they actually burst out laughing at the idea that there might not have been downward pressure to increase “throughput” (the beautifully managerial term used by Jay at para. 6.23); of course frontline professionals would deny that they had submitted to such pressures, they told me, as that would make them look unprofessional in the eyes of Jay’s team (and therefore open to disciplinary measures for loss of professional standards), but of course they will have submitted to pressures – how, if there were no such pressures, would have the question of such pressure have arisen in the first place?
Perhaps even more revealingly, Jay covers the role played by Barnardo’s in the removal of professional autonomy, through the introduction of a “numeric scoring system” (para 6.38). Jay detiails how, while managers may claim otherwise in their interviews (again, understandably in the view of possible sanctions), frontline social workers make it quite clear that there was little room for them to exercise professional judgment and override the scoring system where they felt the scoring was underplaying the actual risk at which children found themselves.
Again, I asked experienced children’s social workers, with whom I come into contact for me work, what they thought of these paragraphs in the Jay report (they had not read the report at that stage, so I paraphrased Jay but referred specifically to the Barnardo’s scoring system, which is well-known and in widespread use. These colleagues answered to the effect that the Barnardo’s scoring model is deficient not just because it doesn’t, of itself, allow for professional judgment alongside the scoring, but that professional judgment is actively excluded by the insistence on the need, within the scoring process, for concrete evidence.
The (recent) example I was given of a teenage girl who had been found by police (involved in other crime detection work) on an edge-of-town caravan park, miles from home, and in a place unfamiliar to her family. There was no evidence that she was on that night subject to sexual exploitation and so, despite the putting of two and two together by social workers, the risk assessment as scored downplayed a risk obvious to pretty well everybody involved in the case.
It is not always thus. One of the local authorities that my work connects with had looked at the Barnardo’s mode in the mid-2000s and, because they remained open to some real frontline social worker interaction, had chosen not to go with the ‘best practice’ Barnardo’s model, but instead asked frontline social workers to develop their own model for standardised assessment.
What to make of all this? Well, the first thing to mention is the level of control that Barnado’s, a voluntary sector organisation dominated by a controversial Chief Executive, appear to have had not only over Rotherham but across a swathe of local authorities in England. While a voluntary organisation in legal definition, Barnardo’s size and capacity to undercut smaller organisations and in-house provision, combined with its clever marketing means that it has become something of an untouchable. Even here, where the finger has been pointed at Barnardo’s for the introduction of a scoring model which is demonstrably not ‘best practice’, or even good practice, the (otherwise very good) Rotherham Council response to the Jay report continues to refer to it in these hallowed terms, and to make clear that it use will continue. Here is not the place to delve in detail into the relationship between Barnardo’s (and its arc-rival NCH) and the state, but it is worth stressing that if you are going to act effectively as an arm of the state, then you really need to be held to the same standards as the state. On this occasion, at least, this hasn’t happened.
The second, broader, point to make about this section of the Jay report is that, while Jay set out well the way frontline social worker were subject to managerialist influences to the detriment of their professional judgement , she probably fails to reach the correct conclusions on the basis of these findings. Instead of pointing out how the managerialism which spread across local authorities in the 1990s and 2000s at the expense of professional autonomy – some of this because of contracting out to bodies like Barnardo’s – may have caused the practice failures she uncovers, Jay instead opts for another broad explanatory factor: the aggressive. ‘macho’ culture which dominated the council in the same period. Yet no direct link is apparent between this macho culture and poor practice outcomes for children.
It seems to me that a more indirect explanation is brought forward while an indirect one is ignored, either because it is inconvenient or – I suspect more likely – the idea that managerialism night be a problem lies beyond Professor Jay’s conceptual paradigm of how a local authority should operate. This is not to say that councillor and senior officer misogyny and aggression did played no part in what happened, but it is also possible that this cultural aspect of the council’s failure was fed and watered by the ideological and institutional factors which came into local government from Thatcher onwards, whereby management efficiencies become more important than professional relationships in a way which then fostered ‘black box’-style – I don’t care how the target is met, just meet the target – approaches to management .
Again, this is not just esoteric wondering about the background causes to the Rotherham failures; establishing why the failures happened is essential to ensuring that they don’t happen in future. If the public eqnuiry on which Professor Jay will act as a key adviser and is chaired by a key proponent of privatization, accepts her analysis that macho, male-dominated councils are at the heart of the problem, then the solution will lie in human resources practice to ensure that more women are in top positions and /or that macho practice is trained and developed out of people. If, as I contend we should, the key problem is actually that professional autonomy has been stripped away from professionals (and from professional training), then the answers lie elsewhere. This will be a key battleground in the inquiry process, but at the moment the managerialists hold the higher ground.
That’s enough for part 2. Part 3, covering the key conceptual failure of the Jay report, and recommendations for action on the part of those willing to think and act in the interests of children, as opposed to the need to be seen to be angry, will follow soon.
 There is a straight analogy with the application of English law here. The basic principle is that an offender is prosecuted for an offence, not for the type of offender s/he is, although when assessing the level of offence it is leigtimate to take into account other offences committed to establing an offending pattern. It seems odd therefore, for people interested in ‘British values’ to be arguing that there should be a focus on offender profiling rather than offence profiling when it comes to CSE.
 Another question arises here about the ‘issue of ethnicity”: if CSE were in fact ethnic culture-driven, rather than circumstance-driven, what would we actually do about it? Is Jay actually suggesting that priority should be given to changing culture in some way, over and above measures to intervene tactically in the circumstances which we know actually create CSE opportunities? If so, this would seem to be anti-PC gone maaaad, a desperate attempt to paficy the Islam-correlates-with-rape crowd at the expense of children’s futures?
 It occurs to me that this may seem like too strong a defence of frontline social workers. After all, whatever managerialist influences they were subject to, they are still professionals, with professional standards, so should n’t we have expected them to stand up better to their bosses. The answer to this question is yes, we should, but my argument here (as elsewhere) is that moral condemnation of staff – and their sacking – does nothing about professional competence in the long term; we need to establish why and how professional didn’t feel able to act up to professional standards, and a failure to do so will be a like act of gross political failure (as well as failure in social work training, which i’ll cover in part 3)
Here is not the place to go into loss of professional ethics and standards in detail, other than to say that there is a rich seam of ressearch literature on the subject, for those politically professional enough to engage with it. It’s called, broadly, Implementation Studies, and starts with the seminal work of Michael Lipsky (1980), which details how frontline professionals move, in certain circumstances, from autonomy and advocacy towards alienation and disregard for their clients as whole human beings. It ends, for me at least for now, with this detailed qualitiative study of how even Finnish welfare professionals are subject to managerialism and see their work get worse as a result.
 The best read I know on this post-Thatcher trend, other than Chris Dillow’s book, is Gerry Stoker’s (2004) Transforming Local Governance: From Thatcherism to New Labour. Here’s how he summaries managerialism:
Managerialism……..began in the 1980s and 1990s to take an increasingly strong hold in local government. This ideology saw political leadership as important in setting direction but beyond that a potential source of inefficiency. Politicians should set goals but not dictate the means to achieve them. The key to managerialism is its emphasis on the right of managers to mange against inappropriate interference from politicians or, for that matter, the special pleading of professional groups (p.13, my italics)
I try not to join in twitterstorms, but the one about Michael Fabricant MP’s threat to punch a woman in the throat does bring with it an interesting question.
Why the throat? Why not the more common concept of a punch to the face or the nose?
Domestic violence-focused literature more than hints at a possible reason: this study finds that 68% in the ( fairly small) sample of women who suffered domestic violence have suffered from strangulation, and here’s one showing that violent death by strangulation is 6 times more likely for women than men.
The Fabricant tweet may reflect less sudden rage, and more a desire to subjugate, control and make defenceless, and be specific to women. That’s what makes the tweet more disturbing.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Fabricant is someone prone to violence against women, and of course punching is not strangling.. But I am suggesting that, as part of his making amends as best as he can, he might want to explore why he wanted to go for the throat, and make that exploration public. That might be a useful service.
The leak from the #ttip EU-USA Free Trade Agreement Talks is interesting, as far as the destruction of the NHS is concerned.
This (at p.23 of the pdf file) is the end of May position of the EU negotiation team:
The EU reserves the right to maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or state support in any form, and are therefore not considered to be privately funded (CPC 931, except for CPC 9312 Medical and Dental Services and part of 93191 relating to Midwifery Services and Services provided by Nurses, Psychotherapeutic and Para-medical services).
The numbering is that of the UN statistical division, and CPC931 is the overall Human Health Services classification, within which medical & dental and midwifery, nursing & the other services fit.
So it looks like that the current EU negotiation position is, by NOT “reserving the right” over these services, to open them to competitive tendering in a way which far outstrips the current Health and Social Care Act 2012 “any qualified provider” provisions.
It looks like the fears may be well-placed.
It’s beginning to look like Jean-Claude Juncker will not become President of the European Commission after all. Paul Mason from the left seems pleased, and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from the sane wing of conservatism will not, I think, be shedding any tears.
But Jurgen Habermas has a different view, worth listening to. He thinks that leaders of member states coming together to block Juncker’s election as Commission President by the European Parliament is very bad news indeed.
On the whole, I agree.
This is not because I think Juncker will be a good President – on this I agree with Mason and Evans-Pritchard that he is a member of a self-serving elite devoted to a massively counterproductive continuation of austerity.
It’s because I don’t like the idea of state leaders thinking they can ignore the rule of law as a means of bolstering their political fortunes.
Let’s be clear what’s going on here.
If a Juncker Presidency is not recommended to the European Parliament by the heads of state at the forthcoming European Council, then these heads of state will have deliberately and knowingly breached article 17 (7) of the Treaty of European Union , which requires that the European Council takes into account the results of the European elections. They may be able to talk their way round it if Junker decides, as seems likely, to withdraw his candidature before the European Council as a way to save face, but this will only be a technicality.
The Spitzenkandidat process – whereby the main European parliamentary grouping have selected their preferred candidates (Juncker for the EPP, Schulz for the SPD) as their part of the implementation of the treay – has been very clear for many months now, and it is only at this very late stage that national governments have started to suggest that “taking account” of the election results, in which the EPP gained the upper hand, might involve simply discounting them in favour of ‘candidates’ who have been nowhere near the process to date.
Moreover, there is a legal mechanism within the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU (article 234) for the European Parliament to make the President and his Commission resign should they lose the confidence of the Parliament, meaning that national governments could work with others in their political groupings to put an end to a Juncker presidency if he turned out to be the disaster they’ve suddenly worked out he might be. Indeed, They could even persuade enough MEPs to vote against Juncker after the European Council itself has proposed him – a bit odd-looking, but perfectly legal.
But that route has been ignored in favour of a bigger states vs. European Parliament powerplay, which prefers simply to ignore the rule of law in this case. (In Cameron’s detail-lite case, he possibly simply doesn’t know, just as he probably didn’t know that by taking the Tories out of the EPP, he removed himself from any influence on which Spitzenkandidat the EPP went for at its Dublin meeting in March).
What this likely breach of law is really all about is the panic of members states at the rise of the populist anti-EU right in the recent EU parliamentary elections. Cameron, and now it seems Merkel (I reserve judgment on Renzi) are desperate to show that they are on the side of ‘their’ peoples, and thereby bolster their own legitimacy as democratic representatives. But breaking the law is not a good way to do that.
Of course law shouldn’t be set in stone, and Habermas is very clear  that there needs to be a healthy tension between legality and legitimacy, with a space for forms of civil disobedience in cases where the law loses legitimacy, in a way which creates a process for the renewal and relegitimation of law . But this is the preserve of civil society, not the existing elite. If demonstrations erupt against a Juncker presidency, linked to a wider movement against austerity, then the European Council might have a legitimate part to play in meeting the expressed will of the people, and reforming the treaties as appropriate (though as noted, the scope for the Council to dismiss the Commission creates a legal route to meet that will anyway).* For national elites to seek their own legitimacy in the eyes of their people by ignoring international law is the thin end of a very big wedge.
If the anti-Juncker plan is carried through by Merkel, Cameron and others, I do hope the European Parliament will stand its ground and vote against their recommendation for President, wohever that may be, as an act of principle. Sadly, I can’t see it happening.
Shame the Labour party stopped me being an MEP. I’d have stood with Jurgen for a socialist AND democratic Europe.
 Article 17 (7) of the Treaty of European Union reads:
Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.
 Article 234 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union reads:
If a motion of censure on the activities of the Commission is tabled before it, the European Parliament shall not vote thereon until at least three days after the motion has been tabled and only by open vote.
If the motion of censure is carried by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast, representing a majority of the component Members of the European Parliament, the members of the Commission shall resign as a body and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall resign from duties that he or she carries out in the Commission. They shall remain in office and continue to deal with current business until they are replaced in accordance with Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union. In this case, the term of office of the members of the Commission appointed to replace them shall expire on the date on which the term of office of the members of the Commission obliged to resign as a body would have expired.
 Its interesting to see Habermas, in his interview with the Allgemeine Zeitung, positively welcome the rise of the populist vote in the European elections as a shock to the governing elite:
Der Rechtspopulismus erzwingt die Umstellung vom bisherigen Elitemodus auf die Beteiligung der Bürger. Das kann dem europäischen Parlament und seinem Einfluss auf die europäische Gesetzgebung nur guttun
[Rightwing populism requires the adjustment of hitherto elite modes of governance toward citizen participation. That can only be a good thing for rhe Europen Parliament and its influence on European lawmaking]
For further reading, see Bruce Miller’s useful post, including some useful translation of Habermas and others, and more generally Matthew G Specter’s Habermas: An intellectual biography, kindly sent my way by Chris Brooke.
You might think the government’s plans for new legislation, allowing workers to be sent to prison as a cover for the failures of management, would bring some kind of outraged reaction from the left. Yet two days on from the gleeful announcement that doctors and nurses may end up in Wormwood Scrubs, there’s been no such reaction.
Why’s that, then?
As Chris at Stumbling and Mumbling has repeatedly set out over the years, one of the enduring myths of modern capitalism is the efficacy of managerialism. Here, that myth is taken one stage further. Instead of an acknowledgment that the rise in very poor care in the NHS correlates closely to the rise of managerialism in the last 30 years* (and the corresponding decline in standards once maintained by professional ethic), we get a scapegoating of the workforce: the message that, because even strict quality managerial targets have not always been met, then management has no option but to go one step further, and invoke the law.
The alternative – admitting that doctors and nurses might be better than manager at maintaining standards if given the scope to do so** – is no longer even mentioned, not even by the professional bodies and unions themselves.
The efficacy of management was no. 1 on Chris’s recent ‘top 10 lazy assumptions’ list. No 2 was, with just cause, the “denigration of professional standards and ethics”. Quite right. My only quibble is that they, apparently, no longer need denigrating – even those who hold them dear no longer seem to thing they’re relevant to the debate.
Now that’s ideology.
* None of this should be taken as a way of excusing staff from personal responsibility for crime, I hasten to add. Portaying explanation and exploration as excuse-making is a favourite hobby of the rightwing press, but as I set out here it’s perfectly possible to excplore what’s gone wrong in the system without offering excuses for those who’ve used the inadequacies of that system to sate their lust for power and abuse.
** Or more properly, if it takes the scope for itself. The potential for that is something I’m exploring locally through my elected governorship of an NHS Foundation Trust, on which more soon.
Today’s I’ve written, on the basis that someone had to do so, to the Chief Constable Merseyside Police (hyperlinks added for info), about Knowsley Housing Trust’s letter to tenants threatened with eviction and now, arguably, with the removal of their children. I understand that this is not the only letter of its type going out from housing bodies.
Dear Chief Constable
Letter by Knowsley Housing Trust: Administration of Justice Act 1970
I enclose for your review and possible investigation a copy of a standard letter from the Income Manager at Knowsley Housing Trust, which I understand to have been sent recently to several of the Trust’s tenants.
I seek your review because I believe the sending of the letter may have constituted an offence under the Administration of Justice Act 1970 Section 40, para (1) & (1) (a), which states that:
A person commits an offence if, with the object of coercing another person to pay money claimed from the other as a debt due under a contract, he…..harasses the other with demands for payment which, in respect of their frequency or the manner or occasion of making any such demand, or of any threat or publicity by which any demand is accompanied, are calculated to subject him or members of his family or household to alarm, distress or humiliation.
In addition, paragraph 2 of Section 40 states that:
A person may be guilty of an offence by virtue of subsection (1)(a) above if he concerts with others in the taking of such action as is described in that paragraph, notwithstanding that his own course of conduct does not by itself amount to harassment.
It is my lay view that the contents of the final paragraph of the letter may have been “calculated” to cause just such alarm or distress, in order to exact payment of rent arrears. People receiving the standard letter may, from the wording, have been extremely concerned, to the point of alarm or distress, that their children might be removed from them if they become homeless. This impression would be inextricably linked to non-payment of arrears, and may therefore be construed as a demand for payment accompanied by action calculated by the author of the letter (or others requiring that such a letter be sent) to cause such alarm or distress.
This is not to suggest that Knowsley Housing Trust do not have a duty of referral when a family is at risk of homelessness. However, the letter makes no reference to the justification for that referral, namely that it is a step taken to ensure that children and families receive the most appropriate support from the local authority during a difficult family time. I believe it is a reasonable to expect a professional body to have given consideration to this.
Of course, I understand that it would be a matter for the court to decide the extent to which the letter is “calculated” to cause alarm or distress, but at this stage I would contend that a) there is sufficient evidence to suggest to the Crown Prosecution Service that a prosecution under the Administration of Justice Act 1970 might successfully be brought b) that it is in the public interest to consider prosecution, given the fact that the letter comes from a professional body of whom the public might reasonably expect high standards of conduct