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Monday, 2 February 2015

Excellence in execution

Na├»ve, childish, ill-informed, unproductive, futile, pointless, illogical... these adjectives and others like them might equally describe the arguments we hear about the privatisation of the NHS, or the idiots propounding them, who are unable to distinguish between the qualities inherent of a process and those of its execution. To put it more simply, privatise the NHS in a good way and good will result; privatise in a bad way and bad will result.

So too the arguments that are pointlessly made for and against the return to public ownership of the British railways. I have no doubt that a promptness and reliability to make Mussolini beam could be achieved were our railways in the hands of intelligent, well-motivated, capable, experienced, diligent civil servants. Equally we could have a chimps tea-party on rails if the idiots at my local council were put in charge.

Take the example I overhead on the radio this morning- an argument over the Macadamisation of schools. There are some, it seems, who assert that academic standards would assuredly be raised if all schools were to become Macadamised. Utter nonsense, of course, as a general and unqualified assertion. Certainly if it were well done- if the playground was tarmacked to an exacting standard, with perfectly undeviating planes, a tightly compacted and impervious surface, subtle and artistic falls, consistent radii at corner details, and so on- then the aesthetically disciplined neatness of it all might be expected to instil a more-potent esprit de corps among the pupils, leading to a more-stoic and purposeful attitude to study. But a quick tar-spray and chip by the cash-in-hand gang that did the head's driveway last Friday is likely to have the converse effect. The shabbily uneven surface, the wobbly and crumbling edges, the overall effect of slapdash and lethargic workmanship, will inevitably erode the morale of the student body, and lead to falling standards not rising ones.

The lesson is that whether something is good or bad depends not on what it is but on whether it is well or badly done. Take this very post. At heart a trivial pun on the resemblance between academisation and Macadamisation, inherently worthless. And yet, faceted and burnished by a master of literary comedy it becomes an exquisite jewel of humour at which you, my reader, may only stare with breathless reverence.

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