Yes, Minister

Gordon Brown today made public a remarkable discovery — that there are more civil servants than we need to run the country. As he has been Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1997 and has been mixing it with the Whitehall mandarins all that time, the only remarkable thing is that he has only just noticed.

Gordy reckons that slashing 80,000 out 550,000 (550,000!) jobs will save five billion pounds that he can invest in frontline services. (Interesting statistic that; it means the average salary plus on costs is £62,500 a year, the civil service being a nice little earner apparently.)

I was listening to the radio discussion prior to the announcement as I drove into work and there were many references to Yes, Minister and the machinations of the Machiavellian Sir Humphrey Appleby to present non-existent job cuts and savings through slight of hand, smoke and mirrors, or spin as we call it today, all dressed up in gobbledegook and bizarre similes.

Blow me, then they wheeled out some bloke called David James who the Conservatives have called in to advise them on how to perform this cull of public servants, without any detriment to the public service they perform. I swear that this is what he said:

“I disagree with what I like to call the salami approach, saving a slice here and a slice there. I want to look at the whole sausage. I want to see if we can save half a sausage. Better yet, the whole sausage.” Pure Sir Humphrey.

Much as I hate to agree with a tory, I have some sympathy with the notion that setting an arbitrary figure of jobs to be slashed is coming at the problem from the wrong end. Surely the question should be: What is it we want civil servants to do? And having done that: How many civil servants do we need to do it? But then logic has never played much of a part in real politik.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

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