13 February 2013

Thinking Paper #224: Page 3 girls: crumpet or dump it?


Roped in by a bit of skirt? I'll have you know that the IIPBA doesn't deal in breast. Never will. Nay, I wish to talk to you today about Civil Service reform. There's been rather a lot of chat about it recently: telegrams from California courtesy of Hilton the Foot; select committee appearances by Sir Jeremy "no these are not 1940s Japanese military issue spectacles" Heywood; television debuts for Franny Maude. Eceteros.

So what's going on Golightly?

Thanks for asking. Each new government tries to reform the civil service to make it more "streamlined", "dovetailing" it with private sector "efficiency"; erm, etc. Like a girl they wish to defile, they shower the civil service with praise and tell them how pretty and efficient their eyes are. Remember Dave? (www.number10.gov.uk/news/pms-speech-at-civil-service-live/)? And then the relationship turns sour. DVD box sets of an evening don't quite cut it. Someone puts on weight. They turn on the one they once loved and admired. They say the bowler hatted ones aren't quick enough. The bowler hats not as round as they used to be. Or dynamic for that matter. How dare you Francis Maude? They accuse them of impartiality. Of not knowing their semi-colons from their interjections. Of drinking too much tea. Spending the day reading the remainder of the internet. Of keeping that chap Guido Fawkes in 'hits-per-day'. They get angry when no one picks up the phone after 5 o'clock. The list goes on dear reader. The humble civil servant is slandered and duly tried, judged and executed by Daily Mail led mob justice. But what is the truth? Need they be reformed, those naughty bunch. Or is it a hopeless cause?

What would a cynic say?

A struggling government tends to blame the officials responsible for delivering policy (what policy?) and then they issue a reforming bill that doesn't really mean anything tangible. Maggie tried it, Major didn't (wise chap), Blair dipped his toe in and realised he couldn't give enough of a shit, and Brown didn't have time between his paranoid rages. Truth is, the service might need a little tinkering: professionalise this, social media that etc. But let's not avoid the great big bald patch in the room (have you seen Dave's recently?), namely that no one gets a Cabinet promotion or a prime ministerial legacy for reforming the civil service. Reform isn't hampered by a proliferation of tea bags or a lack of HMG Twitter accounts. No... read on.

Concluding comments

A rival think-tank, Reform, recently published a paper on Whitehall reform. Buried within the list of quotes from interviews was this little gem from a coalition minister. This IIPBA co-director knew that he need not read further, the anonymous Minister had nailed it.

"The efficient running of a government department has no bearing on career prospects. The Minister is interested in the media, how they do in Parliament, the next reshuffle (read: promotion). The stuff around making a department run properly is long term, there's no political upside".

This reporter is off to make a cup of tea.

P.s. page 3 is outdated. As a boy, the young RFG, accompanied by other local raggermuffins, would try and get his hands on The Sun newspaper from the local paper bank so as to catch a glimpse of a nipple. One of his smaller friends happened to be able to squeeze through the gap into said bank and pass out said papers to his larger friends. The modern day raggamuffin has mobile internet with 7000GB of data per month. Nuff said.

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