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Excellent piece Bagehot and I agree that the reality is why would anyone go into politics nowadays when the rewards are few and the dangers so many. What can be done to improve the situation?
Personally I think that the national value of politicians and civil servants has reached a point where only a national crisis can stimulate better people to come into politics and Whitehall. By 'better' I do not necessarily mean more intelligent or charismatic - there is no shortage of brains in Parliament or Whitehall, although some may not agree!
By better I mean a group of leaders - politicians and civil servants who are not primarily driven by party politics or administrative agendas but who are driven by the national good.
Brexit has become a pig's ear - whether you were a leaver or remainer - Oh for some people who will set aside their own agendas and pursue the future economic security of the UK. Will Brexit provide the stimulus for such a move? Things will probably have to get worse first and the way the negotiations are going that seems likely.
Rocket woman Teresa May has to explain why she bombed Syria based on false claims. The target wasn't chemical factory neither. She has a lot to explain. She better to resign.
It would seem that there is a loss of sight in this cabinet
It may be that they cannot see the lay of the ground, and therefore have lost the vision to see where the upper moral ground is.
This seemed to me excellent and informative analysis, with one exception. This is that it seems to me that, on this account, the conduct of officials in the Home Office was terrible, but appropriate blame was not directed at them.
First of all, one clearly cannot expect a minister to be on top of a sea of paper; and in the Windrush/immigration case, one would surely expect the senior people concerned with policy matters to spell out exactly what the tensions were, so that the Minister takes a decision knowing what they are doing. It is not clear, from what has been said to date, that this was the case. If it was, then it is perfectly reasonable that the politicians should be accountable for the problems suffered by the Windrush people. But if it was not done, or not done adequately, then the civil servants have a lot to answer for.
Second, it seems extremely strange that the Minister was allowed to say that there were no targets, without their being immediately advised by a senior official that there were, so that they could make an immediate clarification and apology. If this was not done, we can surely ask: why? (I.e. while a Minister cannot necessarily be expected to be on top of key aspects of policy, we can surely expect the senior officials to be, and to offer immediate guidance to a Minister if they get things wrong.)
Third, the piece refers to leaks against the Minister from officials. This seems to put the cherry on the top of the cake: not only - if what I have suggested before is correct - have officials not been properly doing their job, but they have been acting actively against their Minister.
I am clearly open to correction on all this, but it seems to me that there is a case for an enquiry into what has been going on. If what I have conjectured has taken place is correct, this should lead to the sacking of some of those involved, and a radical re-shaping of procedures in the Home Office to make sure that officials behave in such a way that we can have meaningful Ministerial responsibility. After all, unless Ministers are competently informed what is going on, it seems crazy to hold them responsible for what the Home Office - or any other Ministry - is doing.
I am reminded of that brillaint BBC series " Yes Minister" .
Except that even Sir Humphrey wouldn't have allowed Jim Hacker to go before a House of Commons committee with an outright falsehood in his briefing pack- far too dangerous! At the very least he'd have made sure the archives were suitably weeded to make sure the minister couldn't be proven to have lied.
As a former civil servant (admittedly not in the Home Office) I can only agree with Wamboin. It's inconceivable that Ms Rudd didn't have copious briefing on what questions she was likely to be asked and surely the one which tripped her up was entirely predictable. If it didn't occur to the officials providing the briefing, then surely her private office staff ought to have raised it- if the minister didn't do so herself. The fact that she was so positive in her answer suggests that either she had gone completely "off brief" (it happens- an officials' nightmare!) or that the briefing was misleading. If the former, a correction should have been shot out within a matter of hours (probably working through the clerk of the committee); if the latter it was massive incompetence or malice (and either way worrying).
Mind you, TE is again guilty of burying its own past positions (a bagehot speciality). Back when EU enlargement came on stream it was wide eyed in its enthusiasm for unlimited immigration to the UK from the EU-10 (later 12) and very inclined to suggest that the nation was much improved with lots of nice polite East Europeans in service jobs to leaven the surly English lump. Admittedly one can't accuse it of blanking the issue (unlike the BBC) but it simply waved away any thought that large scale immigration, often into areas with little recent experience of it, might cause genuine social strains
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The Economist is correct in noting that today's clickbait journalism, driven by the perpetual need to grab eyeballs in order to sustain ad revenues, is entirely antithetical to the pursuit of coherent and rational public policy. Yet we need to consider why such journalism is successful. The harsh reality is that the vast majority of citizens take no real interest in policy; nor do they educate themselves in areas of national importance. Instead, the vast majority of citizens are content to be entertained superficially by the media and aren't fussy about what form that entertainment takes.
The unstated argument inherent in the article is that if only "sensible" politicians were left alone they could craft and execute more adequate policies. Yet this notion is at best rather charmingly naïve. The reality is that politicians are rarely better suited to the development of coherent and rational policy than the citizens upon whose prejudices they rely for votes. Anyone can stand for election; we have no minimum requirements criteria that must be met. All that is required for electoral success is an appeal to the ignorant prejudices of a majority of voters. That is hardly going to produce a system of governance that is fit for purpose, regardless of whether or not the press is slavering at the gates.
So the fact is the Rudd resignation is merely one more symptom of a much deeper problem. We really do need to face the fact that so-called representative democracy is falling apart. We are in the closing stages, and all the surface events are merely the sliding of the deck-chairs as the great ship of state heels over in the gelid sea. What we truly need is a debate on what should come after representative democracy has failed. We know that going backward will not suffice: no one can make a plausible argument for the superiority of tyranny or the divine right of kings. So how can we construct a system of government that is more fit for purpose? What system can (a) be structured so as to mitigate the most baleful aspects of human nature, and (b) permit continuous improvement over time so that faults can be corrected?
In fact it is quite striking that whereas we expect continuous improvement in almost all aspects of our lives, we magically excerpt governance and pretend that so-called representative democracy is so wonderful that is cannot possibly be improved. Yet Trump, Brexit, Le Pen, Orban, Erdogan and in fact almost all so-called democratic governments are symptoms of abject failure. In almost all countries in which representative democracy has been applied, it has failed spectacularly (just consider most of Africa, most of Asia, most of South America...). So we really do need to stop being so myopic and begin to think carefully about the next 200 years. Because if we continue to close our eyes to the failure of our present system of government we are merely welcoming back the tyrants.
Sadly, this is however the most likely outcome as there seem to be very few signs that the commentariate has recognized the enormous and fundamental issue facing us today. Perhaps the historians of centuries hence will look back, shake their heads, and be quite perplexed at our persistent blindness in the face of the astonishingly obvious. One can only hope that we wake up in time.
At the Hay Festival 2 years ago, Paul Mason told us about "Post Capitalism: A Guide to our Future" [https://www.hayfestival.com/p-11066-paul-mason.aspx]. As I recall, his observations were similar to your remarks, but instead were with regards to the world's primary system of economics. It's gonna be different. Fun and Not-Fun for all future generations to come.
Interesting counter to your point about government. You feel that this present system of democracy is a failure.
I need to counter that with two points
(1) as the racist Winston Churchill once said ' democracy is not all that great, but it is the best system of government we have'
(2) The Nazis were a showcase of the alternative. A proper democratic system may well have prevented them taking the helm
Such things as Brexit are a failure due to bad education
This crises ought to serve as a reminder to elected representatives that part of their job is to be rational and not simply let the majority goad them into extremism.
It's a very scary prospect to see how far the politicians were willing to drag policy which was clearly destroying innocent people in its wake jut because they believed this is what the people wanted.
All the members of Parliament are complicit in this. It's been going on for nearly a decade, and yet every year they vote through the bill raising visa fees even further with nary a thought.