business, politics

Rail Strikes

Back in the 1970’s I gave up a west-end job because the trains kept going on strike and have regretted it ever since. Not any more. I’ll simply log on to my computer and get on with my work. So who are the rail unions trying to hold to ransom? Not me. Hardest hit will be the key workers who will lose wages because they can’t get to their jobs.


Weights and Measures Consultation

Don’t be fooled by the pretend outrage over the Government’s June 2022 Consultation ‘Choice on Units of Measurement: Marking and Sales’. No-one is going to be forced to use pounds and ounces. Some heritage shops and markets might choose to use them. We might see the re-appearance of the pint bottle of beer. A 454gm jar of honey might be re-labelled as a pound of honey (which is what it is). Do you have a problem with that? We will still be buying our petrol in litres. We will still be buying our 800gm loaf of bread. So get over it!

Brexit, business

Pounds and Ounces? Woss Wrong With That?

Like medicinal cannabis, the Johnson government is proposing to decriminalise the personal use of imperial measurements.  It means that I won’t any longer risk prosecution if I weigh out a pound of tomatoes using grandma’s old scales. Since the year 2000, pounds and ounces have had no official status within UK law.

To understand how this works, imagine that I walk into my local McDonalds Restaurant and demand a ‘Quarter Pounder’.  I will be served a freshly cooked hamburger with a pre-cooked minimum weight of 113.4 grammes (maybe slightly larger).  What makes the sale ‘legal’ under UK law is the fact that the metric equivalent is prominently displayed.  In effect in the UK, the term ‘Quarter Pounder’, is purely an international McDonalds trademark that is used to advertise a range of products, not its weight.  It is pure coincidence that its equivalent pre-cooked imperial size happens to be approximately 4 ounces.  Long after pounds and ounces have passed into UK history books, customers may still be ordering Quarter Pounders, without giving any thought to the pre-cooked weight, until McDonalds itself decides to change the names of its products.  It is also worth mentioning that in countries that have never used imperial or customary units of measurements, McDonald’s advertises its equivalent product under the name “Royale”, a fact which John Travolta made famous in his 1995 film Pulp fiction. I’ve also got a vested interest in this latest government proposal because for the past few months I’ve been writing a book about imperial measurements.

What?  You’re writing a book about imperial measurements?  That’s madness!  Don’t you know that 96% of the world’s population has already gone metric?

Yes-I know it’s insane.  And I’m not trying to defend my sanity.  But I also know it takes the Earth 365¼ days to go round the sun.  Try metricating that! I also know that the world’s largest economy has barely started to go metric.  And that American Tech has more influence over our lives than the dictates of any national government.

So if you’d like to send me a message, I’ll try to get you a free electronic copy of my forthcoming book as soon as it comes out.  Thank you.

politics, protest

91000 Civil Service Job Cuts

I have a theory. If you want to make a case for outsourcing a public service, the first thing to do is to make the existing in-house service so inefficient that it can barely function. And then blame it on staff-underperformance. Even if you are the minister in charge of running the service.

Photo by Dominika Greguu0161ovu00e1 on

For me the obvious example is the Land Registry which, 20 years ago, provided the gold-standard in public service. Now, any registration application which I make seems to disappear into a bottomless pit. I can’t remember the last time I logged on to the Land Registry Portal, and found that something had been completed. Now we’re hearing it again with the Passport Service and the DVLA. You can cut staff posts, but the work itself still has to be done.

So what are you going to do? Outsource bits to a low-wage economy? Is that going to improve customer-satisfaction. No – you can’t blame it all on covid.

If you want to make an in-house service so inefficient that it can barely function, there are several ways of doing this. Here they are:

  1. Impose a top-heavy management structure. The appointees to these golden posts must not have any operational responsibility. It must be pure management.
  2. Change the ethos of the organisation from one which is customer-focused to something inward-facing, where more time is spent talking about the work instead of actually doing it. Introduce endless reorganisations, where staff spend time re-applying for their own jobs instead of just getting on with it. Invent other distractions such as bonding sessions with flip charts and sticky labels.
  3. Further demoralise permanent staff by appointing some highly-paid consultants to oversee these endless reorganisations. The main qualification for such consultant-appointments should be that they have some personal connection with the minister in charge of the service.
London, peoples vote, politics, protest

For Whom Should I Vote? 2022 Local Election

My postal vote has arrived. My pencil hovers over the ballot paper in front of me. There are a dozen candidates but, apart from the political parties they represent, I do not know anything about any of them. So I might as well be picking a horse. As someone who prefers to back outsiders instead of putting money on the favourite, my horses seldom come in. I have only received one campaign leaflet. The faces of three candidates smile out at me. So maybe I should vote for them. But I’m not impressed by the text. It’s not just the typos. More that it looks cut-and-pasted from something else. Why does it talk about saving me dollars instead of pounds?