From our Brussels Correspondent

Unusually, I did not attend this session of the temporary committee. I looked at the spread of speakers (seven) and concluded that there would be very little that the committee could achieve. To do the Anderson issue justice, they should have devoted at least half the session to him alone. Therefore, all they could have done was pick up a few points, without acquiring any detailed appreciation of what went on.

More importantly, with the greater understanding that has emerged from my researches, I take the view that - to a very great extent - the Anderson (and vaccination) issue is secondary. Anderson, in particular, simply fulfilled a role in the drama which arose from the greater failure to undertake adequate contingency planning and preparation. He is a symptom of, rather than the cause of, the problem.

Equally, the failure to vaccinate - in this epidemic - was the consequence not of the various factions engaged in the debate - but of the failure of the two governments (EU and British) to conclude the debate and establish policy BEFORE the epidemic. In other words, instead of deciding and implementating a policy before the event, they waited until the event was upon them before they then engaged in the process, by which time it was too late and they had to make policy "on the hoof".

What now worries me - and I have referred to this earlier - is that the various players are now engaging in far too superficial an analysis, focusing on the downstream failures rather than the core failures which led to the mess in the first place. Thus, the major system failures at the heart of governance are not being studied effectively (or at all) nor understood.

By failing to do this, we leave those core system weaknesses undetected and unchecked. The result is that we will end up with a new policy which just as flawed - but in a different way - as the original, and no better mechanisms for dealing with the next crisis.


This was answered as follows:

That is how policies are made: dealing with the downstream effects. With a bit of luck they will have some developments further upstream but they rarely did in the past and are unlikely to do now.

No country ever has contingency plans for everything. A far-sighted government - and we have not had one of those for many a long year - might have a contingency plan for 30 per cent of what is going to happen and 25 per cent of that never will. The point is how fast can they deal with emergencies as they arise.

The more locked they are in their own politicking and internal power structuring, the less they are capable of dealing with what turns up.

To give an example: Thatch and cohorts came to power in 1979 fully prepared to fight the unions and having laid plans for that. These worked like a dream with the miners. Murdoch, incidentally, had the same experience with the print unions. In both cases it was the union barons and satraps who were self-satisfied, enmired in petty politicking and incapable of seeing the danger.

But neither she nor anyone around her had foreseen the Falklands. Had it been left to the barons and satraps in the government, the civil service and the Conservative Party nothing would have happened. She and a few others cut across the crap, thus showing remarkable agility in thinking. Of course, that could not be done now because, no matter what, you need the prerequisite of adequate defence forces, which we no longer have. (Never mind, the ERRF will protect us.)

But in the case of FMD the defence forces were there: the vaccines were available, the science was available; it's just that nobody was agile enough in their thinking. Even if by some miracle they go to the source of the problem, they will get so enmired in discussions about who orders and regulates what that they will still not have the necessary agility.