Red Teams at the Ready

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Quite a few people over the past three years have admitted to me that the only reason they voted remain in the referendum was that they felt that those in Westminster and Whitehall were too useless to actually be able to carry a leave vote out.

I always felt this was a slightly pessimistic view of life in SW1, but after reading Dominic Cummings’ latest magnum opus of a blog post, you have to wonder if they didn’t have a point.

Dominic’s post is in equal measure inspiring, irritating and downright jaw-dropping (and for varying reasons, as well). His essential argument is that the Civil Service is so far behind the curve in terms of the latest ideas in analysis and prediction, and that the cabinet are so woefully under informed, that they might as well just plunge billions of pounds straight down the plughole and go home.

He goes into enormous, but very interesting detail, about the latest movements in data modelling and analysis and how it can be used well to drive the country forward with top-class decision making. It’s long (his argument for being so open and giving the ‘competition’ too much information is that they wouldn’t possibly read a 10,000 word blog post to find out anyway), but it’s worth a read if you are at all interested in just how poor the government processes are, and how good they could be if anyone there could be bothered.

What’s most fascinating, I find, is that ultimately what Dominic is advocating is looking for ways to map parts, if not all, of the extended order in unique an interesting ways. It would probably be meaningless to try to create a wholistic view of everything, even the summary would be incomprehensibly complex, but if we could focus on certain areas that are still vast (economics, climate change etc.) and try to tame those in a sensible way, we could make some amazing advances.

I’m still not entirely convinced this isn’t a fools errand, but it’s certainly fascinating, and it’s not like we don’t have the computational power to start breaking into these things and making them comprehensible enough to base decisions on. It’s an area that I will be looking into quite closely in the next few weeks and months. Funnily enough, I might know a fair few people who could help Dominic out, but more on that later.

No surprises

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I think most people with a passing interest in politics could have successfully predicted the main headlines in today’s papers. Even the ‘proxy’ referendum re-run appears to have come out around equal again, with both sides trying to spin it their way.

So what next? I’m still not quite sure what to make of the Brexit Party. They came out with a clear and concise message and stole a load of votes from Labour and the Conservatives in an election most people didn’t expect to even happen. But how does that translate into moving on to fight a general election, which seems less likely to be any time soon, given both main parties are on the back foot at the moment.

On the face of it, you’d have to assume Mr Farage, being Mr Farage, would be pro-business, pro-leave, lower taxes? etc. But that’s just the Conservative party. And as much as die-hard Tories like to have a bit of a hissy fit and vote Brexit party to show their erstwhile leaders just what they think of what they’ve done so far, I think very few would really hold out and stick with the Brexit Party long term unless it offered something worth sticking with.

That said, Mr Farage has surprised me in the past in debates when he’s perhaps shown that it’s he’s not so right wing in all his thinking and not averse to taking some ideas from the left. So perhaps he might try to find ways to differentiate the Brexit Party from the Conservatives. I guess we’ll have to wait for their manifesto to appear. Perhaps UBI will be in there…

On the Tory leader front, I took a quick peek at Boris Johnsons’ piece in today’s Telegraph. I do find the whole One-Nation Tory thing a bit nebulous. It’s meant many things down the years, and these days, with a burgeoning middle class, it doesn’t feel like a good story to work with. A bit like Theresa May’s ‘Burning Injustices’. Important, yes, especially things like poverty and modern slavery, but not that meaningful to your average Tory voter.

With Boris’s One-Nation thing, it feels like political game playing to get the likes of Amber Rudd onside. Fair enough if it is, but he needs to find a story for the average conservative voter soon, or there’s a real risk they will be lost to the Brexit Party. Although, if Brexit is the only issue on many people’s minds, the game may be up; I also noticed Boris’s tone on Brexit was somewhat toned down, and not as ‘Right, that’s it we’re leaving!’ as he was at the start of the weekend.