Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fahrenheit 451

The Rt Hon John Prescott has never been a scholar; there was no need for that and no one should hold that against him.
However, before the Office of Deputy Prime Minister was created, in the period between 1997 and 2001, as Secretary of State for Transport and Regions, he decided to transform the DETR and its executive agencies (e.g. the MCA[1]), through the hands of his newly appointed managers and disciples, and in accordance with his vision.
Installed in 1998, the new management of the MCA, promptly declared war on elitism – oh, that very notion the mere utterance of which would make John Prescott and his comrades go dizzy in the head – and set out to rejuvenate the Agency.
It was then when the MCA was purged of many of the ‘old-fashioned’ elements, which, in Mr Prescott’s worldview, were not ‘business-friendly’ enough or sufficiently attached to the New Labour cultural ideals. Old-guard civil servants, ex-RN officers and veteran technical staff within the MCA were systematically replaced with loyal and enthusiastic ‘new blood’.
It was also in following with John Prescott precepts, that, in 2002, the MCA had its technical Library destroyed.
Tomes of standards, both new and old, rare editions of technical books, ship construction plans and other hard to get shipping safety publications were declared useless and were committed to flames, skipped or otherwise disposed of. (It was no use explaining that these unique books showed how ships had been built; that the library stock contained invaluable technical references, historic records and other useful and irreplaceable information[2]. The official response was that all these materials, although never electronically published, should be easily picked up from the Internet.)

At the time of the devastation, worried MCA civil servants and technical staff could be seen running around, shirt-tails out of trousers, arms full of volumes, trying to rescue some of the valuable stock from destruction.

The little that is left today of that large deposit of maritime knowledge now probably resides only in the attics of a few MCA staff.
Legacy of the Prescott era, the room where the library once stood has since been sterilized and converted into trendy new offices, cheerful and without a past.
That was also the era, I am sad to mention, when the fate of the Gaul investigation was sealed.
[1] UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency
[2] Not to mention the fact that they were also a resource, which underpinned the development of contemporary maritime law.
“Janitorial work, essentially. Everything in its proper place. Quick with the kerosene! Who’s got a match!” Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“We must all be alike…everyone made equal…A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind” Idem


Anonymous said...

Very disturbing.

Anonymous said...

The man should be keel-hauled.

Bob Couttie
Maritime Accident Casebook