Systems politics, systems management

Welcome to my new Substack.

The ABOUT page summarises some of what I’ll write about.

A lot of stuff on covid will be free.

Some stuff on my time in No10 will be free, some subscriber-only.

More recondite stuff on the media, Westminster, ‘inside No10’, how did we get Brexit done in 2019, the 2019 election etc will be subscriber only. Subscribers will also get some extra features like community/regular ‘ask me anything’, and a serious dissent section — I’m interested in the best arguments against what I say. Subscribers will find out first about new projects that I make public. Only subscribers can comment.

I will work out the details as I go along.

If you subscribe you will also 1) help me provide free help to those campaigning for an immediate, urgent and open Parliamentary inquiry into what really happened with covid, 2) I can get people to help me.

If you work for the covid victims campaign pushing for an inquiry and are interested in free campaign help, then please get in touch

I will expand here soon on the evidence I gave to MPs and publish evidence to encourage MPs to take responsibility and force such an inquiry to happen as soon as possible. In 2019 MPs used their power to impose their views on No10 to try to overturn the biggest democratic vote in British history: i.e MPs know they have the power to force such a covid inquiry despite No10’s opposition. So far there is little sign that they intend to act and they seem to be happy to wait for years for a public inquiry which will not uncover the truth and will fail to solve the problem of how crucial decisions are made, as usual. The only reasonable conclusion is that a majority of MPs think that getting the truth and learning from the disaster would be politically bad for them and their parties.

The core of the British state collapsed in spring 2020. This collapse killed tens of thousands. Almost all of those who died in the first wave could have lived and much of the physical suffering and economic destruction could have been avoided if the government had operated as the public has a right to expect. This systemic dysfunction continues.

If we do not learn from this, the public is wide open to similar and worse disasters. Having explored issues such as bioterror and nuclear weapons planning, I urge in the strongest terms that the only safe assumption for the public is that core institutions of the British state, including No10/Cabinet Office, have neglected such issues for many years and are unfit to deal with such problems. Many officials agree and pleaded with me to help change priorities. I started a process of reviewing plans/thinking for other terrible scenarios but do not have confidence this is being properly developed. The core problem is that politicians do not think such issues are their priority — their priority is overhwlemingly media nonsense and they are encouraged in this by the PM and the media. Officials who desperately want radical improvements have generally been discouraged, not supported, by MPs.

I wrote about these problems including a few weeks before going to No10 in 2019, see HERE.

If you have the following problems/goals I/my network may be able to help…

1/ You want to win an election.

2/ You want to improve your marketing / communications / digital marketing. E.g A big thing in marketing/campaigning will be ‘causal models’: i.e models based not on normal statistics but on causal models that can answer counterfactuals like ‘did our ad cause the purchase/vote and if we had not run it would the purchase/vote have happened?’. Very few are working on this, almost no normal marketing/political companies have the skills to do it.

3/ You have management problems.

4/ You want to predict something but don’t know how.

5/ You are a government minister/CEO-type figure in an organisation and want to shift from the old world of Powerpoint + Excel to: code + prediction/keeping score + dashboards (and dashboard of dashboards!) + ‘Analytical Private Office’ of the sort I set up in No10 to support the PM: i.e a team with the skills for data-intensive science, reasoning under extreme uncertainty and supporting project management. Few public or private organisations (including No10 before we set up the A.P.O) now do the basics of data right therefore they are not able to deploy advanced tools such as machine learning or causal models.

Example… In January 2020, the PM was presented with ‘evidence’ showing exponential increase in HS2 demand — demand that, if taken seriously, would have meant the entire country either travelling on HS rail or building HS3/HS4/HS5… in ever shorter periods after ~2040. I.e a garbage model/graph was fed to a PM making a >£100 billion decision (which he blew despite us pointing out such absurdities in the ‘evidence’). Officials responsible were also responsible for dealing with exponential covid curves shortly after. E.g the original ‘single peak / herd immunity optimal strategy’ ignored the fact that once hospitals collapsed the jump in deaths would be nonlinear. We escaped total disaster partly because we had started to bring into No10 people who could reason quantitatively and talk technically with the modellers, cutting out the layers of management and powerpoint-creators that had obscured reality. We could then put accurate graphs in front of the PM and improve decisions.

Many organisations have ‘strategies’ built by (ex-)consultants in Powerpoint, slotting in charts from models they don’t understand. Successful CEOs will dispense with this model and, as they migrated to the cloud, they will migrate to a new set of skills and tools over the next decade. Those who don’t will be under huge competitive pressure.

6/ I sometimes do talks — fees depend, free for charities/schools etc.

NB. Contrary to what you read, the overwhelming majority of what I’ve done is management and building teams, not ‘communication’, and most people who think they see ‘a communication problem’ actually see a *management* problem.

‘People, ideas, machines — in that order.’ Colonel Boyd.

Get in touch if you want help, fees slide from zero to lots depending on who you are / your project…


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