Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Nasty Argument ...

Labour councillor Luke Akehurst on why people who sell fruit and veg by the pound are criminals :

"Most traders have complied with the legislation - so why should a minority who refuse to comply be allowed to get away with it?"
"Everyone else has obeyed us, what's YOUR problem ?"

Mr Akehurst is (by proxy) exhibiting power - letting everyone know who's in charge.

You can see parallels in the business world, too. A new director or chief exec in charge of the Acme Widget company will dream up "The Acme Behaviours" - a set of key values and behaviours which will "define the company and the way it does business" (actually the dreaming up will be by some ambitious young smoothie in marketing, 18 months out of uni).

For the next few years, until the exec gets the chop or it gets quietly forgotten, everyone at Acme presenting a project or new initiative will be required to get sign-off on compliance with the Behaviours. Every document will have its behaviours check-boxes. The staff and lower management will see a blizzard of posters, mugs, training sessions and mousemats. Every ambitious climber - right up to board level - will need to demonstrate how fully bought-in they are.

The actual content of the Behaviours will be a mixture of apple-pie stuff ("we won't rip the customers off") and additional boxes which will need to be ticked. Some of the ideas may be foolish - but these, as we shall see, serve an important function.

There'll be widespread cynicism - especially among the lags who've already seen 13 similar initiatives in 15 years. But it doesn't matter. Indeed, the more ridiculous the ideas, the better. That's why Mr Akehurst's so keen on protecting the people of Hackney from the monsters in their midst, with their Imperial scales and pounds of bananas.

Because the point is not to make the company better, but to publicly demonstrate that you can enforce your will on your inferiors. It's the equivalent of the top dog making all the others roll on their backs submissively, the gangsta making a captured enemy footsoldier lick his shoes, or the Assassin leader Rashid al-Din Sinan impressing a visiting Crusader lord by asking two of his followers to jump to their deaths from the castle tower (they did so at once).

In local government and education, the creepy "Every Child Matters" initiative currently serves the function of the Acme Behaviours. It won't stop kids being beaten to death or left in burning flats, but it lets everyone (i.e. the staff - in this case local government employees and school governors - the poor consumers are only there to have "services" "delivered" to them) know who's boss.

Which brings us nicely back to Mr Akehurst, and his outrageous follow-up comment.

"One of the reasons why Hackney has often been in a mess in the past is the misconception that the rule of law stops east of the A10 and a merry state of anarchy prevails. One of the ways in which you squeeze out major crime, as shown in New York, is by zero tolerance of all the minor law and rule breaking too."
That is absolutely breathtaking. William Bratton's police force were concerned about crimes which increased the perception of lawlessness - graffiti, panhandling, riding the subway with no ticket, littering, drunkenness, abusiveness, pickpocketing, soliciting, petty theft. How many people in Hackney feel less safe when they see someone selling veg from Imperial scales ?

Either he knows the "Broken Windows" comparison is nagombi and he's scrabbling for any justification he can find - in which case he's utterly cynical - or he really believes it - in which case he's idiotic. Either way it does him no credit.

Oh - and this morning it was announced that HMG are calling off the attack dogs. I'm sure Mr Akehurst will regret it, but it looks as if we may no longer read in the news about hardened villains convicted "of selling mackerel at £1.50 a pound".


Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

I think the attitudes of our New Elite is more like that of the Jacobins described by Edmund Burke in "Reflections on the Revolution in France" as:

"… these pretended citizens treat France exactly like a country of conquest … The policy of such barbarous victors [is] … to destroy all vestiges of the ancient country, in religion, in polity, in laws and in manners; to confound all territorial limits, to produce a general poverty; to put up their properties to auction; to crush their princes, nobles and pontiffs; to lay low everything which had lifted its head above the level, or which could serve to combine or rally, in their distresses, the disbanded people, under the standard of old opinion."

JuliaM said...

"..he's utterly cynical - or he really believes it - in which case he's idiotic..."

Given the notoriety this little lickspittle gained over his comments on the 42-day detention, it's hardly surprising even the bloggers at LabourHome can't stand him:

Every time he opens his mouth or sets fingers to keyboard, Labour probably lose another few thousand votes...

dearieme said...

The expression "little Hitler" was coined for the likes of him.

Anonymous said...

I have seen the "Acme behaviours" in most of the private sector businesses I have worked in. They are a tool for codifying the bleedin' obvious, like aiming to get tasks right first time. But you have to apply metrics, and tick boxes, diagrams, and committees. As in "I can't do any work right now, I'm doing this pareto analysis for my Hari Kiri team meeting." Good workers have to go along with it, their prospects are under threat if they don't. It's like voting for Saddam Hussein, it humiliates you, but you have to do it.
Nobody effective and successful, ever did it this way. So obviously, that was never the object in the first place.


Rob said...

Claiming the "broken windows" parallel is, as you say, ridiculous.

To Luke, people who sell in imperial measures are The Enemy, conservatives who oppose Luke and the 'forward march of progress'. It doesn't matter whether metric is clearer than imperial or not - I reckon that if the EU (or the power bloc of your choice) insisted on trading in imperial, not metric, and the traders chose to continue trading in metric, Luke would still hate them.

They are the Enemy. All the rest is just detail, which you can receive via pager from central office.

william said...

Let's be a bit sensible here. Fair commerce requires an agreed-upon system of weights & measures. Growing up with the metric system in New Zealand, I now utterly fail to see the attraction of the essentially random imperial system, except as a symbol of defiance towards Brussels. Fine, defy all you want, but perhaps we could choose something more important to be stubborn about?

Anonymous said...

William - your argument cuts both ways, because its a trivial matter the EUnuchs shouldnt be making such a fuss.

I believe its the case that the UK is the only country in the EU where it is, or was, illegal to use imperial measures.

Thats partly the British death wish at work. The EU suggests a course of action and British bureaucrats and politicians enact a sweeping law that goes further than even the EUnuchs wanted.

For instance; the EU feels that old planes like the DC-3 Dakota should no longer be used for commercial passenger transport but theyve left it up to individual countries to enforce. But as far as I know only one country has actually decided to take action. That will mean the loss of jobs, business and the grounding of perfectly good aircraft. And that country is...

Anonymous said...

While I agree with a good deal of the general tenor of the comments here, specially the quotation from Burke, people need to be more sensible about why trading standards people have pursued people: ever since the 13th century we have had clear legal rules defining a single system of measurement in the Kingdom. In domestic trading no-one ever had the right to choose which measures they wanted to trade in. For that lack of freedom don't blame the EU - blame the Plantagenets!

TDK said...

You comment about Rashid al-Din Sinan reminds me of the scene with the Mare of Steel in the Long Ships - there too a "volunteer" goes to his death.

TDK said...

Fair commerce requires an agreed-upon system of weights & measures.

Yes and no.

Fair commerce requires the agreement on what is being exchanged by the buyer and seller alone. If they both agree to use imperial measures then there is no right for the state to intervene.

Suppose there is a dispute - the buyer expected x pounds of goods. The seller supplied less. The state has several recourses.

First the pound is an established measure with agreed meaning. The trader can't redefine the pound to suit himself.

Second we can convert the pound to kg in the court rather than in the market.

Third, Caveat emptor

Finally let me just say that William has entirely missed the point. For the sake of argument lets agree that metric is better than imperial. That leaves only the behaviour of the state in moving from one system to the other. Should it nudge or should it use the full force of criminal law?

Let's propose a really wild idea - teach us metric and let the wonder called time do its job.

Anonymous said...

Time wont do its job on imperial, and rightly so.
An inch is the average mans middle thumb bone.
A foot is the size of a large mans boot.
A Hand (used to measure horses) is roughly a mans average hand size.
A Yard being an average mans stride.
etc etc, most if not all of these imperial measurements have direct real world relationships and thats why they persist and will continue to do so.
I favour metric btw especially if doing anything complex, but I see no reason at all to attempt to kill of traditional measurements.

Anonymous said...

But again metric vs imperial is not even the issue.

The issue is who fkin voted for our country to be taken over by the EU? no one.
This is a hostile take over, they just arent using tanks and guns, yet.