« Yes, markets are irrational | Main | Was Thatcherism avoidable? »

September 25, 2007


Mike Woodhouse

Yes indeed. I've been wondering how schools are going to help every child achieve its potential. Every child? Blimey, the potential axe-murderers must be thrilled.

But he doesn't really want to do anything of the kind, does he? What he wants is to maximise his chances of winning the next election and to know when those chances are at their peak sufficiently in advance to get the polling stations open (robbing thousands of children of a day's potential-achieving in the process).

It's a quick feelgood fix, that's all, and it puts Gordo firmly in the same camp as all the other hacks who abandoned principle for the short-term stopgap.

How depressing.

And in corporate land, I just received an email announcing the annual "performance management" (appraisal) process, as part of which I sill, apparently, be discussing with my manager how we will "raise the bar" for me and my team. Why on earth would I want to do that? I'm barely reaching the one I have.


Maybe, Chris, you got this one wrong. There has been far too much dumbing down of late, contributing to the decline of the quality of public administration. About 3 years ago an expat British civil servant now working in Brussels - he left, first to France, 25 years ago - told me that the British civil service is the laughing stock of Europe. It needs to let talent come through. The effect has rippled out into part of the private sector as well, and so there are a lot of frustrated people in both public and private sector. To call for their talent to be recognised is part of the build up to an election... Whether we can in fact encourage and harness talent (in other words, whether Brown's govt can deliver) is a different point, but I do believe that we need to use talent or we will fall (further) behind.

Abdul Rahim

One hundred percent correct. Capitalism offers no hope for the salvation (as in a decent standard of living for all). Browns speech was of course hailed as a sign of his vivacity but it was stupid, and is the best he can offer the electorate is hand held computers for cops and more matrons in hospitals?


There's no direct correlation between human flourishing and making the best use of your talents. It is clearly not necessary to make full use of your talents in order to live a good life, since some things which can make up a good life - successful personal relationships, for example - don't seem to be best described as the realisation of a talent. Neither is it sufficient to say that you have had a good life that you realised your talents. I don't have to enjoy the exercise of talents which might be plausibly connected with flourishing in the abstract, and not all talents - that for torture, for example - are even plausibly connected with human flourishing in the abstract. Your reasons for thinking that the realisation of talent is incompatible with economic success also only address the possibility of realising talent in the workplace, when, clearly, people do not spend their whole life at work.


You are deliberately manipulating Brown's meaning so that you can look clever in deriding him.
The potential lawyer or doctor who fail to unlock their cerebral talents because they focus instead on music or cricket are, like your reverse examples, not the intended target.
As you know perfectly well, Gordon is talking about people who, usually for cultural or psychological reasons, contribute only a small fraction of what they know or sense to be their economic potential.
How dare you label that as "perniciously stupid".
Go and wonder round one of the ubiquitous sink estates of which Britain is so good at creating and maintaining and tell me you don't see wasted talent holding back the economy.
Shredding a mendacious interpretation of words is so much easier than engaging in a discussion of their received meaning. It's a shame you chose to specialise in such an unsavoury practice.

Kevin Carson

Sounds like you folks could use a talented sniper.

Mark Wadsworth

Excellent post, S&M.

Match this up with what Nick Drew said at Cityunslicker and Matthew Parris' comments on Radio 4, and that's that.

Matt Munro

About 3 years ago an expat British civil servant now working in Brussels - he left, first to France, 25 years ago - told me that the British civil service is the laughing stock of Europe. It needs to let talent come through.

Posted by: dreamingspire | September 25, 2007 at 06:14 PM

As a UK civil servant of some 20 years standing and having had some experience of working with our French and German counterparts I can assure you he is talking out of his arse. The French civil service in particular still operate "spanish practices", have an hour for lunch every day, work 30 hours a week if you're lucky and have the whole of August off. No one answers the phone after 4 O'clock. You can have all the talent in the world but if its sipping pernod on the beach it doesn't count for diddly squat.
The problem with the british civil service is that Nu Lab the civil service has been turned into a quasi PLC, so we are expected to acheive private sector performance with public sector resources, the worst of both worlds. The mandarins running the show (oxbridge to a man and with the stretch marks to prove it) are a clueluess joke who expend most of their effort impressing their peers with long, carefully argued and beautifully referenced but totally irrelevent policy document that no one ever reads.


"...oxbridge to a man..." Oxbridge also produces some very skilled people of talent, so how come the civil service got the clueless ones? Rather, having got them perhaps along with some of the better ones as well, how come it promoted the clueless ones (and still does)? I, too, know about the cluelessness, for, as part of my work, I have to read some of their outpourings, and listen to lesser beings who work for them and feel the need to please them. My belief for some time has been that Brown wants to change all that, whereas Blair only said that he wanted to change it.

Matt Munro

I don't believe it's any different elswhere though. Look at merchant banking, industry, the professions or the armed forces - the upper eschelons are 99% public school and oxbridge. Not a problem when we had an empire but fairly useless in a globalised, comeptitive 21sc C economy.
To get back to the civil service, in my personal experince it's full of people who wanted to do something else but didn't quite make it. I myself joined as a "stop gap" in 1988 after screwing up my A levels and am still here.
At the top level the CC has always been something of a job club for dim toffs who couldn't get into the professions, the church or the Army.
When did you ever hear a kid say "When I grow up I want to be a civil servant ?

Hereward Hall

Reminds me of the Dylan Moran routine about not unlocking your potential, and that you should never even begin to explore it. Potential is like your bank balance, you never have as much as you imagine.

chi flat iron

CHI flat iron by Farouk system. Direct from the manufacturer, this genuine Chi ceramic iron comes with valid, one year warranty!

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad