Fear and Loathing in the Public Sector – Or Why I despise Oliver Letwin


Oliver Letwin, United Kingdom Conservative Par...

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Yesterday I read this article about Oliver Letwin, who, according to the Guardian article

..warned that it was only through “some real discipline and some fear” of job losses that excellence would be achieved in the public sector.

Letwin added that some of those running schools and hospitals would not survive the process and that it was an “inevitable and intended” consequence of government policy.

A little background about Oliver Letwin. I’m always a little wary of using Wikipedia as a source but a few choice verifiable ‘quotes’  jump out.

He is the ‘architect of modern Conservative party policy’.

He would rather ‘beg than send his children to an inner city school’

Oh and earlier this year he said did not ‘want more families from Sheffield taking cheap foreign holidays’.

So do we have a picture of the man? The Eton-educated man who would not know the real effects of true fear in the workplace? That encompassing, sleep depriving fear of not knowing if you can afford your next mortgage payment or if your job will be there next week, next month or next year.

Does fear drive excellence?

Let me tell Mr Letwin exactly what it means in the working environment that I am based in.

I work in a Community Mental Health Team – our team has been decimated – actually to use that word literally, it is far worse than decimation – over the past two years. No, I don’t restrict the blame to the current government but include changes under the previous government in my criticism.

We have piles of unallocated ‘virtual’ files while we are pushed to the limits by increasing expectations regarding recording and inputting data which is supposed to ‘prove’ our efficiency.

We have had wards closed at the local hospital such that people who need emergency hospital admissions to psychiatric hospitals are placed away from their communities or on ‘inappropriate’ wards. I have police unable to provide assistance because their services have been cut.

Fear drives efficiency, he says? In our service we have been told there will be job cuts including possibilities of compulsory redundancies. Yes, I’m fearful.

The ‘consultation’ about what will actually be proposed for our jobs will probably be announced soon but we’ve known it has been coming for months. We’ve heard rumours. We’ve heard gossip. We’ve heard absolutely zero from our managers though. Nice. Way to generate lots of fear. All boxes ticked.

So what has this fear done for our efficiency? We are beyond demoralised. We have more people leaving and taking jobs elsewhere and  people are  taking longer periods of sick leave.

I know that Letwin wasn’t referring to the ‘front line’ staff in the public sector – oh no, he meant the managers because he is of a class and a mindset that probably finds it hard to hold a conversation on a human level with anyone who earns under £100,000 per year.

The distinction between ‘frontline’ and ‘backroom’ is a false one though as it is impossible that can operate without the other.

Hospital wards are closing. Cuts are being pushed through. We feel your ‘pressure’ Letwin. We feel your fear. But I could not possibly despise  you any more than I do for your ignorance and self-serving words that for me, epitomise what the Conservative Party and their ideology-driven cuts want to do to this country.

I would like to ask Letwin if he is happy to condone a country of Castlebecks. Well, you see, coming from someone who would ‘rather beg than send his child to an inner city school’ – he would never be in a position to actually know or understand the real concerns of people who are dependent on public services because he can always choose the private course for himself and his family.

I know he wants to ‘make a name for himself’. He likes to garner attention and oh, how clever he is to want to drive ‘fear’ into the public sector but that, to me, sounds close to cruelty.

Efficiency? I think we can do with  fewer MPs who feel the need to make claims for repairs to their tennis courts and to have their Agas serviced.

What kind of society have we become when we feel it is appropriate for a Government ‘Policy Minister’ to drive a disdain and almost bullying approach to a public sector that provides services he will never need?

Oh and the speech he made these remarks in?

It took place

at the London headquarters of KPMG, one of the biggest recipients of government cash, which won the first contract for NHS commissioning following the decision to scrap primary care trusts and further open the health service to private companies.

Nice work, Letwin. Roll on, executive consultancy. You are all in each others’ pockets.

Meanwhile I have work tomorrow.

You enjoy your private tennis court today.

12 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing in the Public Sector – Or Why I despise Oliver Letwin

  1. Pingback: Letwin calls for public sector workers to suffer “fear and discipline” « Political Action News

  2. This is an excellent post, thank you for writing it and articulating so much of what I was feeling after reading Letwin’s stupid piece in the Guardian.

    I wish you (and your colleagues) the very best of luck.

  3. The man, Letwin is beyond disgust, and is the true face of the current Tory/lib-dem government. Agree the Labour Party was complicit as well, one reason Id never vote Labour again.

    Think many in the public sector live in a permanantly fearful/unhappy state already. One manager who took the offered early redundancy recently said she was aware those left would think her a rat leaving a sinking ship. No, she wasnt she was lucky to be over 50 and not under, as are/were many others who are leaving a few years earlier than they planned, but just able financially to go. For a while people were coming to work with smiles on their faces, knowing they were soon leaving, how sad is that?
    So, briefly, its good to be old, but just up to that time when you need NHS care though, and then the nightmare begins again..

    At least I can say I tried to fight back, I hope everyone else here can say the same, and if not, do it now before its too late. The NHS will be dismantled within a year, if the bill isnt stopped. The BMA want it dropped, they voted last week. Support them !

  4. Does anyone else think the Tories are getting a ridiculously easy ride from the press at present? All sorts of inadvertent statements of authentic intention (what the papers call gaffes if made the spokesperson of any other party) are made and make it possible to see the rather unappetising proposals that didn’t make it into the manifesto.

    Comments like the ones Letwin has made appear in the national press and if there is a reaction from the commentariat it’s generally to nod sagely and agree that he’s a wise man saying what must be said.

    Good for you CB nailing the man as an arrogant and swaggering bully who’s rich enough to ever have to condescend to using public services and therefore thinks that those services are convenient sticks for prodding the proles about rather than part of a national covenant between goverment and governed.

    I think that the fact that the cabinet is stuffed with millionaires is something that cannot be said often enough because the mainstream media don’t seem to think it worthy of comment at all. The explicit threat to workers and the implicit threat to the users of service surely count as class war rhetoric – something the press are usually happy to lampoon when coming from the left but not apparently, when coming from the government?

  5. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to comment and contribute. I admit I was in a bit of a ‘rant mode’ when I wrote this but it was very cathartic actually writing it. I think it is a precise plan to divide and rule and is nothing close to a ‘gaffe’ – the govt want to place different sections of the country against each other – working v unemployed, public sector v private sector because it diverts criticism away from the millionaires cabinet. All in this together? Ha.

  6. One of my colleagues (public sector, not social work though) was told explicitly to ‘expect to be interviewed next year’ as none of the job cuts could come at anything but OUR level. Also that they want to regrade us all down (just my grade, of course).

    And that’s by a friendly manager.. my manager has said nothing of the sort! So now a bit more scared than I was yesterday.

  7. Agree Guilsfield and CB.
    Recent article think it was Guardian/Sue Marsh though may be wrong here that people with disabilitieis are rightly angry with ATOS, but gov. wont mind that and will want it as it takes attention away from them.
    I do wish as well that the “disability” charities would all get together rather than having seperate campaigns to fight for “their” disability.

    Am a bit love/hate with George Monibot but agree with his comment, “the world is run by those who turn up” so, please turn up. Next time you see a demo/march join in dont just wish the participants good luck.

  8. Love the post – you are totally spot on. I cannot bear these millionaire Torys who have absolutely no idea how the other 99% of the country live. They make me sick. They are truly disgusting.

    • Thanks arbitrary, Mary, Lisa and David for taking the time to contribute. Mary, I am inclined to agree. This government wants to divide and rule. We have to come together regardless as that is the best way to defeat their narrative of ‘us and them’.

  9. Pingback: Oliver Letwin: Fear doesn’t come cheap « We Love Local Government

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