Earlier this week was supposedly the day the media love to describe as Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year. Naturally, I prefer to think of it as a day to celebrate the top-selling 12" single of all time, a quote from which forms the title of today's blog - but you recognised that immediately, right? But with times as choppy as they are right now, another New Order single of similar vintage is perhaps more appropriate...
Confusion? We have it in ample supply, it's fair to say. The world of top-flight stationery is certainly not immune, either, as both buyers and sellers are discovering right now. Anyone trying to wholesale from the UK, or procure individual purchases from abroad, is having a decidedly unpredictable, and often surprisingly expensive, time of it right now. Status report, Number One!
Let me explain; I'm a scientist. Well, a social scientist at least. Or better yet, an escaped civil servant. Would you like an insight into how these things work in practice? Take a seat and prepare for a tale of buccaneering bureaucracy on the mean streets of Whitehall.
You see, the big secret - which isn't that much of a secret in truth - is that the policy-making (and policy implementation) system moves slowly. Really, really slowly. Think of your favourite glacier then, c'mon, tone it down a bit, seriously.
To bring in a change to VAT rates, import/export rules or trading conditions involves internal negotiations between ministerial advisors and permanent policy teams to arrive at a more-or-less workable position, prolonged turf disputes between competing government departments to ascertain who gets the glory of announcing the change and who has to do the digging in the trenches to make it work, endless tennis between owners of communications grids to work out who actually gets to tell parliament and public what's happening (and how much of the detail to include or omit), and significant calendar wiggle room for parliamentary debate and judicial challenge. That usually takes several years, even for a modest change. For a very substantial change to very many overlapping systems, the fraction of a window between Christmas Eve 2020 and New Year's Day 2021 offered not even the slightest chance of finality; 400 days of work simply cannot be done in fifteen hours, however large the workforce notionally available to assist.