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[OT veering into noise] Re: uk general election

On Wed, Apr 13, 2005 at 07:36:20PM +0100, Alan Chandler wrote:
> On Wednesday 13 April 2005 09:37, geoffthur@ntlworld.com wrote:
> > Dear Debs
> >
> >
> > I'm hoping to stand in the uk general election, although I've left it a
> > bit late and it might all fall through.
> >
> > Obviously, standing as an Independent I would have little chance of
> > winning. I need policies, preferably stuff that nobody else is saying,
> > but will strike people as making sense, and I need to believe in them.
> The fact that you _need_ policies rather than you are passionate about 
> something will mean that you have no chance of winning.

Uhm. You might not agree with any or all of the following statements,
but which of this pair would you prefer to hear a politician say?:

[A] I have a great passion for the organic food movement, and will work
tirelessly to further its ends. As for school food; our children deserve
the very best food we can provide, this has always been my firm belief.
I will not be distracted from this aim.
[B] Within seven years of this election all school dinners will be 100%
free at the counter and 75% organic in any particular month, with the
remaining 25% coming from sources in the final year of conversion to
becoming organic. To achieve this, rather than paying farmers to produce
nothing we shall move those same farmers towards organic production
wherever possible. Grants of £xxxxxx will be paid to any farmer agreeing
to convert from so-called conventional food production.

Or this pair:

[A] Our thoughts should be with those suffering from MRSA, and their
families. This is not a time for politics. But I make this pledge: all
my efforts, and those of the health secretary and indeed the whole
cabinet, will be put behind a concerted effort to drive MRSA down to
more acceptable levels, and in time perhaps eliminate it altogether. We
have made some progress already, but we must not be complacent. There is
still much to do, but we are getting there.
[B] Contracts with outside hospital cleaners will be terminated
forthwith. Contracted-out cleaning would not be accepted by our
supermarkets; it is a national disgrace that it was foisted on our
hospitals. We shall never know how many have died or had their lives
ruined as a result. From now on ward sisters will have direct
responsibility for cleanliness, and the ability to fire cleaning staff.
Every member of staff, from the highest consultant to the most junior
nurse or porter, will face random hand-tests, with graded disciplinary
action depending on how dirty their hands are found to be, and how
often. Visitors will not be allowed into wards until they have brushed
their clothes and cleaned their hands with wipes. As an experiment,
some wards will be run with significantly reduced bed numbers, to see
if there is a drop in MRSA sufficient to more than offset the loss of
beds. And more detailed MRSA statistics will be gathered, in an attempt
to establish best practice.

As you will have guessed, I prefer [B] both times; indeed, any time.
Even where you disagree with the policies, at least you know what it is
you are arguing about. [A] is the touchy-feely gasping emotion of New
Labour, and of much of modern politics. It tells you nothing. It gives
you Blair's face straining for the right word during a speech, when that
word is actually written on his papers and indeed also on an autocue.

It gives you politicians who can retort 'I totally refute that
suggestion', without troubling themselves to attempt a refutation. It
also gives you a trade secretary, no less, who can go on television to
announce that a major manufacturer has gone into receivership when they
had, at that stage, only gone into administration. I don't want to be
told they feel my pain, I want to know what they are going to do to
stop it hurting. Apart from go away.

In similar vein, then, how about these?:

[A] I dream of a day when our children can use the internet without
our having constantly to worry about them, when viruses and worms are a
thing of the past, and when organised cyber-crime does not thrive. And
we can get there. Together, we can make the virtual virtuous.
[B] Microsoft needs to be taken to task over their lax coding practices.
They are in effect a landlord who allows crime to be carried out from
his premises. Accordingly, we shall give them notice that if they are
still producing systems with insecure defaults in four years' time, then
we shall ban their products from the uk and encourage other countries to
do likewise. In addition, all schools and colleges running computer
courses will by law have to provide some linux training alongside the
windows training.

[B] is sort-of what I was in need of when I posted originally. The
problem is, I have very little knowledge to back this up. I've not
used a Microsoft product since Win 98. I don't bother to keep track of
what they are doing. I don't know for certain that their defaults are
still insecure - although presumably they are. I don't imagine it is
possible to require by law that an operating system not have security
bugs. If it was, nothing would be released. My computer knowledge is not
great, and I was hoping to nail down specific policies that could be
adopted by a country to bring internet standards up. I could google -
there's lots of stuff out there - but the problem is, there's *lots* of
stuff out there.

In the end, though, if I wasn't passionate about something, I wouldn't
go to the trouble of even considering putting up £500 plus campaign
expenditure with almost nil chance of achieving anything worthwhile. I
just don't want to pant all over you like a mongrel puppy.  

> That doesn't mean that you can't use the platfom of the election to argue 
> strongly about something you care about and to get the message across even if 
> you don't end up being an MP
> >
> > One thing that matters to me is the state of the internet - spam,
> > cracking, organised crime and the like. Another is the way we allocate
> > contracts for large computer projects here. Let me tell you about one
> > such.
> >
> > The Child Support Agency was set up a while back to deal with absentee
> > fathers. In theory, it collects money from them and gives it to the
> > mother and child. In practice, this agency has added to the distress of
> > single mothers by coming up with apparently randomly-generated support
> > plans, some of which are way wide of the mark. Even when the money is
> > taken from the father, it sometimes seems to end up in limbo, rather
> > than getting to the mother. I believe this agency has cost something
> > like five hundred million pounds to set up (I heard this figure quoted,
> > but have not had time to check its accuracy yet), most of this on
> > computer systems that are still ineffective. Apparently staff began
> > entering wrong information just to get claims processed. Some files were
> > deleted erroneously.
> I think you need to be very careful here. The situation you report is one 
> widely reported in the press a few days ago, and the way that was reported 
> was clearly one related to staff morale and lack of leadership in the whole 
> organisation - not all of it related to the computer system (other than 
> potential misuse by the employees).  The press reports talked about procecess 
> failures in terms of phones deliberately forwarded to numbers that would not 
> be answered and cases that were dropped because information was not 
> available, without reviewing if someone else would ever pick it up again.

Yes. First of all, thank you for not taking my post as some form of
troll behaviour - it was crass of me not to realise how provocative I
was being posting these opinions on this sort of list. And I agree that
there was more to the CSA problems than just the computers - I see that
from these two sources.



It seems that calls were indeed forwarded to any telephone on the entire
system spread across different sites so long as that telephone was not
engaged. Whether that telephone was staffed by somebody able to deal
with the query, or anybody at all perhaps, appears to have been left to
fate. It is worth working your way down the second link a few sections -
some of it reads like a 'Yes, Minister' script. And for some reason, I
really laughed at this bit:

'We ask repeatedly, "When?" and the answer is always, "When it is

Much of the morale problem is likely to have come from the systems not
working properly, though. And perhaps the telephone system would have
seemed less appalling had the person on the end of the phone been able
to get the case details up on their screen. Assuming there *was*
somebody on the end of the phone. But okay, there is more to it than
simply the computer system. 

> >
> > This is just one of a string of failures in computer system provision in
> > the uk. The free market approach is a failure here. I believe we should
> > have an Agency for Computer System Provision, or some such thing, paid
> > by the taxpayer. A smallish group of highly-skilled and well-paid
> > programmers without businessmen creaming off much of the cash.
> Don't be niaive.  There already is a small group in the government overseeing 
> procurement.  But you couldn't get a small group implementing these massive 
> programmes on their own.  The solutions aren't purely technical either, but 
> complicated projects mixing the technical issues with the massive people 
> issues that implementing a complex systems of this nature entail.

Okay. I accept this now, having read those links. 60 million lines of
code in the latest CSA software, apparently. I know from my own little
projects that even simple programs grow rapidly, but 60 million lines of
code actually makes me think the system was badly designed. Maybe that's
just my ignorance. And yes, I've underestimated the task; but I still
hold my initial belief that it all needs taking in-house. It worked in
Australia, apparently, if only on this one project.

> I am pretty convinced is that a very large part of the problem is the issue of 
> changing requirements - not a technical issue at all, but a combination of 
> feature creep by staff not familiar with IT development and polititians 
> changing the rules that these systems have to implement.

Again, the links support you here. I wonder what EDS said about
flexibility when they wanted the contract, though? And any IT provider
expects this problem, surely? 

> If there were easy solutions they would have been found by now.

Not when you have one Tory party arguing with another Tory party. I'm
quite surprised to even see a Labour MP (Andrew Dismore) arguing for
what I want. He seems to vote with the Govt. on most things, as well.


> Lastly, shouldn't part of the role of government be to encourage its own IT 
> industry.  Much of the way of doing that is to let government contracts to 
> British companies.  

What are your views on Longbridge? Shouldn't part of the role of
Government be to support our industry? You cannot argue that
£450 million paid to private IT companies is patriotic while
letting a uk car manufacturer go under. Mind you, you aren't saying
that. And for all I know, you'd save MG Rover.

Okay, how about this?: imagine a nationalised industry that had burned
through 12 billion pounds of taxpayers' money, that usually delivered
late, and rarely delivered a fully satisfactory product. It would get
torn to pieces. We would be told it wasn't working, that it was a waste
of taxpayers' money, that it would work better in the private sector,
and it would be sold off. It doesn't seem to work the other way round,
for some reason.

And hang on, isn't EDS American, not British? How much of all this
taxpayers' money is pouring abroad?

> [Disclaimer, I work for LogicaCMG, a British IT company.  A fair proportion of 
> our UK business comes for government contracts and I would not like to see 
> all our jobs (not just those working on government projects) in jeopardy 
> because the government stopped  spending in this area]

Thanks for the disclaimer. Perhaps I should mention that my brother
works in car manufacturing: not at Longbridge, although he has (or had,
now, it looks like) friends there.

 < Lots of stuff snipped - but appreciated, especially the link to the
 Peruvian Congressman's letter. > 

> Good luck - but I still don't really understand why you are standing.

I was standing because my views are unrepresented.

Sadly I no longer am. I've pulled out because I found even
getting nominations difficult. The real clincher was when I
discovered that my leaflet would drop onto doormats several
days after the 9000 or so (and still rising?) postal ballot papers.
That's nearly a quarter of the people who actually voted here last
time. So I was going to get even fewer votes.

All of which means that I've managed to start a thread that was OT
without being so marked, had a hint of spam and an unfortunate air of
the troll, and which turns out to be noise. All I need now is for you to
take this as a flame and I'd pretty much have the set. I won't
apologise, because I've learnt something from, and am grateful for,
every reply, but now I reckon I'll just respond to the other replies and
then try to keep quiet for a while and hope everybody forgets my name.

Cheers, and with thanks for the helpful and informative reply,


> -- 
> Alan Chandler
> http://www.chandlerfamily.org.uk
> -- 
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