The Second Herculean Task: The Nine-Headed Hydra of National Procurement Schemes

by Lorne Mitchell on 12/07/2010

On looking at the challenges the UK faces on reducing spending, I am reminded of the second Labour of Hercules:

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There was a beast living in the swamps of Lerna that ravaged the countryside devouring cattle. It was known as the Hydra. For his second labour, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to rid the world of this predatory monster.  Taking his nephew, Iolaus (who was a surviving son of Hercules’ brother Iphicles), as his charioteer, Hercules set out to destroy the famed monster – which had nine heads, one of which was immortal.

Of course Hercules couldn’t simply shoot an arrow at the beast or club him to death.   There had to be something special about the beast that made normal mortals unable to control it.  If ever one of the mortal heads were cut, from the stump would immediately spring forth two new heads!  Wrestling with the beast proved difficult because while trying to attack one head, another would use its fangs to bite Hercules’ leg.

Ignoring the nipping at his heels and calling upon Iolaus for help, Hercules arranged to have Iolaus burn the neck as soon as Hercules had chopped a head off.  In this way the stump could not regenerate.  When all eight mortal necks were headless and cauterised, Hercules sliced off the immortal head and buried it underground with a stone on top to hold it down.  Having dispatched with the head, Hercules dipped his arrows in the gall of the beast, and in this way, as he would soon learn, he made his arrows lethal.

Upon returning to the outskirts of Tiryns, Eurystheus denied Hercules credit for the labor because Iolaus had helped out.

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As I see it, the coalition government has a Herculean task of slaying the nine-headed monster of Government Procurement.  What is required is that all existing  mega-procurement national contracts are isolated and cauterised before two new heads can grow.  Savings are seldom made through encouraging this kind of national monster to feed on the fragile local economies that keep the country serviced.   The more contracts that can be given to local businesses the better.  It will take a lot of courage to ignore the heel-biting that will appear as this particular Hydra is systematically de-capitated and destroyed.

With the abolition of the RDAs and with a solid plan coming out of DCLG last week, along with other cuts in other national spending programmes, the signs so far are promising that the government has a systematic plan, like Hercules, to slay the monster.

It will considerable time to kill the other heads of the Nine-Headed Hydra of National Procurement – as well as some courage not to allow new heads to emerge in the before the monster is dead.  I already see new heads in BIG BUSINESS emerging under other guises wanting to keep the monster alive for as long as it can.

In the end, even if, as in Hercules’ case, David Cameron and his team do not get all the credit because they have been helped by the Lib-Dems, then the battle will have been worth it just to have slayed the monster.  Even so, some would say there are still ten Herculean tasks to go before we get the country back on track!

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1 Christopher Titcombe November 18, 2010 at 15:41

Nice analogy! They do seem to have a plan. Hopefully, they will be able to execute accordingly.

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