The Blunders of Our Governments by Anthony King
  • Title: The Blunders of Our Governments
  • Subtitle: None
  • Author(s): Anthony King, Ivor Crewe
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster
  • Year: 2014-09-04
  • ISBN-10: 1780746180
  • ISBN-13: 9781780746180


The Blunders of Our Governments: " by Anthony King is a thought-provoking and meticulously researched book that delves into the numerous mistakes made by governments in the United Kingdom over the past decades. King, a renowned political scientist, alongside his co-author Ivor Crewe, presents a compelling analysis on the persistent failures of public policies.

The book examines a wide range of blunders, from catastrophic IT failures in the NHS to the mismanagement of major infrastructure projects, such as the Millennium Dome and the Wembley Stadium. Through detailed case studies, King demonstrates how these failures often arise from a combination of flawed decision-making, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and inadequate accountability mechanisms.

One of the book’s key strengths is its ability to expose the root causes of these blunders. King argues that politicians often prioritize short-term political gains over long-term planning, leading to hasty and ill-informed policy decisions. Moreover, the authors highlight the lack of communication and coordination between different government departments, resulting in a fragmented approach to governing.

Despite the serious subject matter, “The Blunders of Our Governments” is engaging and remarkably readable. King’s insightful analysis is supported by extensive research and interviews with key government officials, providing a valuable insider’s perspective. The book serves as a warning to both policymakers and citizens, underlining the urgent need for better governance structures and more robust accountability mechanisms.

In conclusion, “The Blunders of Our Governments” is an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the shortcomings of public administration and the impact it has on citizens. With its comprehensive examination of various blunders, the book offers valuable insights into the recurring mistakes made by governments and provides important lessons for future policymakers. King’s expertise and compelling narrative make this book a must-read for those interested in political science, policy-making, and public administration.


Book Review

Revealing Governmental Shortcomings: A Critical Review of "The Blunders of Our Governments" by Anthony King

The Blunders of Our Governments” by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe is a deeply insightful and meticulously researched book that scrutinizes the numerous failings of the United Kingdom government. Through a comprehensive analysis of case studies, King and Crewe offer a thought-provoking exploration of the frequent blunders made by political leaders and the detrimental consequences they entail. This review will delve into the book’s key arguments, its compelling examples of government blunders, and the authors’ suggestions for enhancing government performance.

King and Crewe argue that a significant reason behind governmental blunders is the prioritization of short-term politics over long-term planning. One stark example highlighted in the book is the chaotic rollout of the National Health Service’s IT system, an over-ambitious project initiated by the Blair government in 2002. The authors meticulously unravel the wrongheaded decision-making processes involved, including the imposition of unrealistic schedules and disregarding the expertise of IT professionals. Consequently, the project encountered numerous setbacks, leading to billions of pounds wasted and compromising patient care.

Another pervasive issue is the lack of communication and coordination between government departments. The construction of the Millennium Dome, a grand exhibition space built in Greenwich, London, is a prime illustration of this problem. King and Crewe narrate the story of how multiple departments, each driven by their own agendas, failed to work together effectively. The initial vision of the Dome transformed into a bloated project that exceeded costs and failed to meet visitor expectations. This case emphasizes the importance of interdepartmental collaboration and the dire consequences when it is neglected.

What sets “The Blunders of Our Governments” apart is King and Crewe’s extensive research and their ability to provide comprehensive explanations for these governmental blunders. The authors conducted interviews with key government officials, delving into internal decision-making processes and capturing crucial insights. This insider perspective enhances the credibility of their analysis and contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the factors driving government ineptitude.

Furthermore, the book’s constructive criticism offers a way forward. King and Crewe suggest that the accountability mechanisms in place need to be strengthened. A notable recommendation is the establishment of stronger regulatory bodies with the power to intervene early to prevent blunders from escalating. Such an approach would enable more effective scrutiny, ensure appropriate risk management, and enhance long-term planning.

The Blunders of Our Governments” also highlights the need for better project management practices within the public sector. The authors advocate for promoting a culture of evidence-based decision-making, where policies are grounded in solid analysis and clear objectives. By drawing from successful examples, such as the London 2012 Olympics, King and Crewe demonstrate how meticulous planning, effective governance, and strong leadership can lead to successful outcomes.

In conclusion, “The Blunders of Our Governments” is an engaging and thought-provoking account of the persistent mistakes made by the United Kingdom government. King and Crewe’s insightful analysis, supported by extensive research and interviews, provides a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of governmental blunders. The examples highlighted in the book, including the NHS IT project and the Millennium Dome, vividly portray the consequences of flawed decision-making, inadequate coordination, and a lack of accountability.

While critical of past failures, the book also offers valuable suggestions for improving government performance. By emphasizing the importance of long-term planning, interdepartmental collaboration, and strong accountability mechanisms, King and Crewe provide a roadmap for better governance. “The Blunders of Our Governments” is a must-read for policymakers, scholars, and citizens interested in understanding the shortcomings of public administration and working towards a more efficient and effective government.

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The record of British government since the 1950s, and especially since the 1970s, is not encouraging. Government failure has been deeply ingrained and seemingly impervious to fundamental reform. Yet, despite many well-intentioned interventions aimed at improvement, government failures have repeatedly occurred, often in quite similar ways and with similar consequences. Many crucial government policies and administrative initiatives have proven deeply disappointing, even disastrous. They have too often failed to achieve their objectives, come in hugely over budget, or caused other substantial detriments. Government failure is widespread and systemic, rather than a series of isolated and unconnected blunders.

Key Ideas

In “The Blunders of Our Governments,” Anthony King and Ivor Crewe present several key ideas that shed light on the recurring mistakes made by government institutions. These ideas encompass a range of factors contributing to governmental blunders, as well as proposed solutions for improving government performance. The key ideas include:

  1. Short-term politics over long-term planning One central idea explored in the book is the tendency of politicians to prioritize short-term gains and political expediency over long-term planning. King and Crewe argue that this results in rushed decision-making, inadequate consideration of potential risks, and failure to address underlying issues. This leads to blunders such as the ill-fated NHS IT project, where ambitious goals were set without proper feasibility studies, resulting in costly failures.

  2. Lack of coordination between government departments The authors highlight the frequent lack of effective communication and coordination between different government departments as a major cause of blunders. Their analysis reveals how conflicting agendas and a silo mentality within departments can hamper policy implementation and result in disjointed decision-making processes. The case study of the Millennium Dome exemplifies the consequences of insufficient interdepartmental collaboration, wherein the project ballooned in cost and fell short of expectations.

  3. Inadequate accountability mechanisms Another key idea highlighted is the need for stronger accountability mechanisms within government institutions. King and Crewe assert that accountability structures often fail to hold individuals and departments responsible for their actions and decisions. They argue for the establishment of more robust regulatory bodies that can provide timely interventions to prevent blunders from escalating. This includes rigorous scrutiny of projects at the planning phase to identify potential risks and improve governance.

  4. Promoting evidence-based decision-making The book emphasizes the importance of evidence-based decision-making to avoid blunders. King and Crewe argue that policies need to be grounded in solid analysis and clear objectives, rather than being driven purely by political considerations. Drawing on successful examples like the London 2012 Olympics, they showcase the benefits of meticulous planning, effective project management, and strong leadership in achieving successful outcomes.

Overall, “The Blunders of Our Governments” offers a comprehensive analysis of the key ideas underpinning government failures. By examining numerous case studies and conducting interviews with key government officials, King and Crewe provide insightful and evidence-based insights into the root causes of blunders. Their book serves as a wake-up call for policymakers, highlighting the need for improved long-term planning, interdepartmental cooperation, accountability, and evidence-based decision-making to promote effective governance and prevent future blunders.


Target Audience

The book “The Blunders of Our Governments: " by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe is targeted at a diverse audience interested in understanding the shortcomings of government institutions and the impact it has on public services and policies. The book is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Policymakers and Government Officials As a comprehensive analysis of government blunders, this book provides valuable insights for those working in government roles. It highlights the pitfalls to avoid, promotes evidence-based decision-making, and calls for stronger accountability mechanisms. Policymakers can learn from the mistakes of the past to improve future governance and enhance service delivery.

  • Political Science and Public Administration Scholars The book offers a rich resource for scholars and students interested in political science and public administration. With its rigorous research, in-depth case studies, and analysis of government failures, it serves as a foundation for understanding the challenges governments face and the need for effective governance structures.

  • Citizens and Taxpayers The impact of government blunders affects citizens and taxpayers directly. Understanding the factors behind these blunders empowers individuals to hold their governments accountable and demand better governance. The book provides valuable insight into the consequences of poor decision-making, helping citizens become informed participants in the political process.

  • Management Practitioners and Consultants The lessons derived from the blunders highlighted in the book resonate with management professionals across sectors. The issues of short-term thinking, poor coordination, and inadequate accountability are not unique to the public sector. Business leaders can draw parallels and learn from the failures in government to improve their own decision-making and governance practices.

In conclusion, “The Blunders of Our Governments” is recommended reading for a wide range of audiences, including policymakers, scholars, citizens, and management practitioners. The book offers valuable insights into the challenges faced by governments, identifies the root causes of blunders, and proposes constructive solutions. By understanding the failures of the past, individuals can contribute to a more responsible, accountable, and effective government in the future.

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