This week’s subject on which everyone can be a resident expert is – <drumroll> – IMMIGRATION !! (Again!!)
Just out of curiosity I’ve been reading some of the comments from the web pages of the Daily Fail about this week’s events in the shining halls of Marsham Street. (In case you missed it, Brodie Clark and a few other senior officers of the UK Border Agency are being allowed time off to do some late autumn pruning.)
It just so happens that I do know quite a lot about immigration and UKBA. But, even knowing as much as I do, I wouldn’t describe myself as an expert. (Incidentally, if you think I’m about to let you in on some naughty secrets you can sod off right now ‘cos that aint never gonna happen. )
There are good and bad civil servants just as there are good and bad in any job or profession.
No, this one is about the “person on the Clapham omnibus”.
It is an interesting fact of life working in the civil service that almost everyone considers themselves qualified to comment on your job. They’ll tell you what you should be doing, how you should be doing it and that, generally, you’re overpaid for doing it badly. Out come the bromides about jobs for life, the gravy train, tea swilling bureaucrats and gold-plated pensions. Suffice to say here that, having worked in the public and private sectors in more or less equal measure, neither one has a monopoly on efficiency and effectiveness. There are good and bad civil servants just as there are good and bad in any job or profession. The majority of the people I now work with are genuine and hard-working, many of them putting their personal safety at risk every day.
So, what is it that makes everyone an expert on my job? It’s the “I pay your wages so, therefore, I’m your boss” syndrome. My stock answer to that is that you don’t and aren’t. It’s a bank manager in Droitwich who pays for me – you pay for a PCSO in Sidcup! And my boss sits over there in the window seat.
I have absolutely no objection to the public commenting on what we do. I just wish it was from a position of knowledge and understanding. More often than not it isn’t. Take, as just one example, the far from uncommon comment I saw this morning which runs something along the lines of “we’re an island, it’s the easiest thing in the world to close our borders”. Oh, is it really? Yes, this is an island, but it has 30 major and 27 minor airports along with more than 400 airfields, aerodromes and heliports. We have more than a hundred operating seaports and hundreds more small harbours, jetties and slipways. We have over 11,000 miles of coastline. To close that little lot to every potential illegal entrant would require a border force very many times the size we have or could afford.[pullquote]Plus ça change[/pullquote]
Sweeping statements made without a proper understanding or, worse, on the basis of “common sense” solve precisely nothing. Unfortunately, our politicians behave no better. Some of the comments passed over the last few days have been simplistic drivel – nothing more than opportunistic point scoring – blame and counter-blame in the never-ending game of party politics.
Oh well, Plus ça change, as they say in Coquelles!