31 May 2011

Thinking Paper # 11: Should bureaucrats decide which events bureaucrats get free tickets to?

By Tim Massingberd-James


Government Ministers recently revealed that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has asked to purchase 9,000 tickets to the Olympic Games, including 3,000 for Departmental staff who have worked on the Olympics.

In this paper, we shall examine whether Government bureaucrats should be allowed to decide policy on what events they get free tickets to, and whether the purchasing of 3,000 tickets to a major sporting event would have been agreed – or suggested – by (i) those Civil Servants who will get to have some nice days out at the Olympics or (ii) someone else.

Should bureaucrats decide which events bureaucrats get free tickets to?

Most people like getting free tickets to things, even if they are things that they don't particularly want to go to. In a study of 40,000 people, the IIPBA found that 67% would accept free tickets to the Inter-Consortium Morris Dancing Championships, with 8% saying it actually sounds like bloody good fun, and the other 59% asking whether there will be a bar, and how long it actually goes on for.

The Olympics are no different, and some people have hyped the event up to the stage that they actually think they might be bearable, for a short while. Like most of us bureaucrats generally live a fairly tedious existence, with some possibly having been to a Toploader gig in the late 1990s and thought it was pretty ruddy good, and 1 in 40 actually knowing a little bit about superclubs, having heard a documentary about them on Radio 4. For bureaucrats and the squeezed middle, the idea of having a jolly nice day off work getting leathered in Stratford sounds positively fun, even if it isn't the Shakespeare Stratford, but the other one with the poor people in.

However, whilst most people have agreed to sell everything they own in order to afford the 'prize' of an hour at the women's weightlifting quarter finals, the Civil Servants at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have hit upon a cunning ruse. Because they work in jobs vaguely related to the Olympics, one of the more cunning ones (probably a temp who used to do something important, like driving a van) buried a piece of paper in in a box of other papers he gave to a Minister, and asked the Minister later in the day if he agreed all the things on the pieces of paper.

The Minister had a flight to Tuscany booked later in the afternoon and just nodded without saying much, and signed in all the boxes without reading anything. One of the pieces of paper agreed that the cunning Civil Servant and 2,999 of his friends could go to see the Olympics. The Civil Servant was very popular, and got to kiss the nice girl from the photocopying room at 'work drinks' on the Thursday night, but now six months have passed and they are having a baby and he feels anxious about it.

Whether or not the tickets purchasing should have been approved is irrelevant. And the baby is now coming, so the life of the young bureaucrat who got it agreed is already ruined. We should, at least, be thankful for that as he will not be allowed to go by his then wife, who will be too tired, but should this decision have been allowed to have been made by a bureaucrat?


Unfortunately, the decision wasn't made by a bureaucrat it was made by the Minister. The problem was the flight to Tuscany was later that day. We should perhaps consider a post-flights-to-Tuscany age.

However, in a post-bureaucratic age, there would be no bureaucrats to buy tickets for. That would be much cheaper. That is the solution.


  1. Dear Tim and others at the IIPBA, I found this thinking paper to be most thought provoking. I currently work for Phillip Blonds think tank Respublica and I'm keen to get out. I like your no nonsense, lots of nonsense style. Do you have any vacancies coming up?

  2. Ron Ford Golightly2 June 2011 at 10:03

    Anonymous, thank you for your kind comments. I've heard terrible things on the Westminster grapevine about that particular think tank - is the Otter story true? As it goes we have just had a vacancy come up in our core writing team. Do you think that you could have a first draft at thinking paper number 12 or 13 this week?

  3. Tim Massigberd-James2 June 2011 at 10:34

    Ron, you aren't supposed to mention the otter story and I would like to state categorically that it is completely untrue.

    All readers please note, there is no otter story and you definitely shouldn't keep relentlessly asking Phillip Blond about it.


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