Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Wilderness blogging

Honestly, sometimes I wonder why I bother!

The latest attempts to account for the passport check fiasco - 'the wrong kind of rain' being the best one to date - raise a number of awkward questions, not least among which should surely be who authorised the purchase and installation of an assortment of automatic scanners which are, frankly, not doing the job.
'The difficulties were exacerbated by a series of technology glitches including the failure of a finger print machine, used to check passengers who require a visa to enter Britain.
On other occasions both the iris recognition and new automatic passport scanning gates failed, adding to the frustration of new arrivals.'
It's clear that this new technology isn't up to the task - and that the travelling public has not been given sufficient time and incentive to adopt the new system. Last month, I watched a mere handful of people successfully negotiate the vast array of gates in a local airport while everyone else queued up for half an hour.
Meanwhile, the shortage of UKBA personnel is surely due to shrinkage, in the expectation that all of the estimated 50% of Britons with biometric passports (issued or renewed in the last 5 years) would use the automatic gates - the sort of misconception that has 'statistician' stamped all over it.

It has all the hallmarks of a rushed job; a lack of clear information, malfunctioning equipment and an apparent failure to consider the possibility that travellers are unwilling - or unable - to separate from companions who do not qualify to use the machines.

The Olympics, of course, provided the catalyst; like one of those home makeover programmes, the installation was completed against the clock and doubtless looks great in some company's publicity material - never mind that the tin-foil is already peeling off the pelmets and the curtains are coming unstitched.

And yet, amid the outcry, there has been almost no reference to either technology or staffing policies. Instead, we have blame heaped on incomplete flight manifests, late and early arrivals and now the British weather.

This suggests two things to me; firstly, someone has made a great deal of public money out of supplying this machinery, possibly someone important and powerful enough to discourage any suggestion that it is at least a contributory factor.

And secondly, no-one* is paying the slightest notice to what I have to say.

*Apart from JuliaM, that is, who sums the matter up in admirably laconic fashion.


  1. "the sort of misconception that has 'statistician' stamped all over it."

    More likely a manager in my experience, bulling up the case for buying the machines by wildly exaggerating the likely savings and efficiency gains.

    Managers in the public sector rarely understand just how reliable new kit must be if it is to deliver.

    They also don't realise how much depends on their staff who often don't want the new kit to work properly because it might affect their job.

  2. Good point; I was thinking only about seeing each passenger as a discrete unit, but unsubstantiated figures in the hands of a public sector manager with a 'pet' project to implement make for a horribly familiar scenario.

  3. I'm just astounded how authorities can get nothing right, nothing at all.

  4. We have a family joke, about things that turn into huge blunders coming from The Department Of Bright Ideas.

  5. Demetrius, a department like that surely requires a truly excellent acronym and, in these medis-savvy times, a suitable mission statement - something like "We cock it up so you won't have to".

  6. On further thought how about:

    Section for Holistic Innovative Thinking


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