Dehumanising? Glad you’re not prone to melodrama, M’Lord

I WAS invited on to Radio 5 Live earlier today to respond or comment on Digby Jones’s statement that being a junior minister is “one of the most dehumanising and depersonalising experiences” anyone could have.

I was asked my own perspective which, you will be unsurprised to know, is rather different from Digby’s.

The key thing for any junior minister (or Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, as it’s formally known) to understand is his or her place in the scheme of things which is, by definition, at the bottom of the ministerial chain of command in any department. Is it perhaps conceivable that Lord Jones’s disappointment with his former role stems from an inability to accept that he was the “new boy” at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform? Maybe he felt the job was beneath him.

His comments about there being too many civil servants and that they are overpaid are entirely predictable and hardly worth commenting upon, but they did make me wonder if DG has been posting on this site under a pseudonym…

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26 Comments

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26 responses to “Dehumanising? Glad you’re not prone to melodrama, M’Lord

  1. MMS

    Digby was a Minister of State. Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State were beneath him.

  2. richard

    I can’t imagine who your last comment was aimed at…

    Personally, I don’t think he ever reconciled himself with the fact that he’d been brought on purely to try to make the Conservatives look bad rather than for his experience as a business leader.

  3. John

    “Digby Jones’s statement that being a junior minister is “one of the most dehumanising and depersonalising experiences” anyone could have.”

    Just how out of touch with reality can someone be? If being a Junior Minister is the most “dehumanising and depersonalising experiences” that Digby Jones has had then he should count himself bloody lucky.

    Whenever I see something like this, it reminds me of one of the closing statements to the Jury of Barrister Mervyn Griffith-Jones, who acted for the Government in pursuing Penguin books under the “Obscene Publications Act” because it published “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.

    He said, “Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”

    Quite unsurprising that he and in turn the Government lost then eh? 😀

  4. wrinkled weasel

    It is important to understand his perspective. He is unusually academic and business wise. Others have recognised his abilities and elected him to some pretty impressive positions. Possibly there were some good reasons why he was chosen, because he came to the job with credentials.

    Unfortunately for Labour, he not only knows his own mind but speaks it.

    That’s not what you want right now, is it?

    His place “in the scheme of things” as you see it, was to rubber stamp the appalling “initiatives” and spin, making it look as though people with credibility went along with it.

    It was supposed to be a part of Brown’s inclusive government, the “government of all the talents”

    Unfortunately for him, the only talent you need in this government is to know who to suck up to.

  5. Robert

    The fact is he can always leave, I like the bit about sacking civil servants, more then likely Labour will now do as he says and sack him.

    God what the hell made Labour bring him in.

  6. Auntie Flo'

    Agree with you about Digby, he has never struck me as the saying much of any importance or usefulness.

    As for his former role speaking for British businesses, he never spoke for my SME, nor for most of the businesses that really matter in this country: over 4 million SMEs that are 99.9% of UK businesses and the backbone of the UK’s economy.

  7. Andy

    Tom, why is it that you believe that Digby Jones is wrong when he says that we could cut in half the number of civil servants? Is it that you believe that he exaggerated, or is it because you believe that the Civil Service runs as efficiently as it possibly could?

    In fact, do we need more civil servants or less?

  8. richard

    Labour ministers have never met public sector jobs they didn’t like.

    Ironically, that’s why the first thing that incoming Conservative governments are forced to do is to shelve thousands of these “non-jobs”.

  9. Auntie Flo'

    Admittedly, Digby was right about the civil service cuts needed. But that’s the first time I recall him saying anything sensible.

  10. Simon

    Civil Servants are all well and good when you can afford to keep people off the dole. What happens when you run out of money and no one will lend you any more to pay them? I know what Digby Jones means though, two people employed to do a job that could comfortably be done by one person. Or does that never happen?

  11. “hardly worth commenting upon”

    Actually, I think having someone with huge private sector and business experience tell the government that the civil service is a bloated, bureaucratic waste of space is certainly worth commenting on.

    The divide between the drive for efficiency and effectiveness in the private sector versus the wasteful and lethargic public sector couldn’t be clearer.

  12. Talwin

    ‘Dehumanising and depersonalising’. Sheesh! Just another cross to be borne as some sort of compensation for those (soon to be secret) perks and expenses.

  13. richard

    Digby’s “private sector and business experience” is something of a myth. He used to run a small lobbying firm that represented large businesses to government (know as the CBI) but that’s clearly not the same as actually running a large business.

    It’s still better than 95% of the cabinet though, most of whom have never run a business of any sort.

  14. ani

    Seems to me that those who choose to work in the private sector do so expecting/obtaining better pay, prospects, beneficial tax allowances and other perks.
    Now the balance has tilted a bit? Tough. Work harder like the public sector are ‘encouraged’ to do, and read Johan Hari’s interesting article about nepotism and business highlighted in yesterday’s LabourList.

    I don’t recall much sympathy from the private sector when teachers, nurses and ambulance workers were financially well behind the curve in the old Tory days – remember when most of the country hated Ken Clarke? – except Tory posters here no doubt.
    As for Digby. When he was goating I thought he was most often reasonable, and generally optimistic, although WW can’t seem to decide whether Digby is speaking out or rubber stamping.

    And when Geoffrey Robinson ‘did’ the NHS it was senior consultants and ilk that were most heavily criticized for their outside private work and not pulling their weight. They were the drag in their hospitals, not the regular staff.

    Richard – back on your hobby horse again?
    I don’t recall any past headline before any GE stating Tories were cutting thousands of jobs; usually they are desperately scrabbling about denying it, but I’m looking forward to seeing those announcements in the run up to the next one.

  15. Can you clarify the following, Tom:

    “His comments about there being too many civil servants and that they are overpaid are entirely predictable and hardly worth commenting upon,”

    This could mean that it is entirely correct and not worth trying to gainsay. Do you agree with Sir Digby (the biggest GOAT in the herd) or not?

  16. Johnny Norfolk

    Jones is part of Labours problem. All talk and no action. Just like Brown saving the banks he said he had but he has not, as we are about to find out.

    Just when will Labour get a grip and face up to the truth of what they need top do. STOP SPENDING.

  17. Simon

    You’re more likely to get a straight answer at PMQs, than an admission here that the civil service is over-staffed and over-paid.

  18. richard

    @ Ani – There’s very few votes in saying that you’re going to axe thousands of public sector jobs.

    That’s why successive Conservative governments didn’t actually say they were going to do it before they did it.

  19. Madasafish

    Whether we have too many civil servants is debatable and irrelevant. We can’t afford those we have nor their salaries. No doubt we’ll go down the Ireland route – eventually.

  20. ani

    Tom. Are there any figures available proving that Tories in Govt. have slashed thousands of civil service jobs?
    Or are they all gab and do nothing? ;0)

  21. Simon

    Ani, of course the Tories will slash public sector jobs. It’s just not a great vote winner declaring it so close to an election.

    However, if you’re over-weight and unhealthy, you don’t keep eating. You have to go through the pain of a diet to get back to full fitness.

  22. richard

    Check out the 1979 figures. Chop, chop, chop goes the woodsman’s axe.

    http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/about/statistics/archive/index.asp

  23. bupendra bhakta

    His comments about there being too many civil servants and that they are overpaid are entirely predictable and hardly worth commenting upon

    I think Digby’s comments are well worth commenting on, although as you are part of the same apparatus Digby is criticising I can see why you would rather not talk about.

    Shall we just continue to pretend that the trillion pounds or so of public sector pension liability doesn’t exist?

  24. bupendra bhakta

    ani
    January 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Seems to me that those who choose to work in the private sector do so expecting/obtaining better pay, prospects, beneficial tax allowances and other perks. Now the balance has tilted a bit? Tough. Work harder like the public sector are ‘encouraged’ to do, and read Johan Hari’s interesting article about nepotism and business highlighted in yesterday’s LabourList.

    Oh dear, that wouldn’t be the Johan (sic) Hari eulogising about poor, hard-done-by Somali pirates (http://tinyurl.com/7l9dn7) shortly before they stole $3 million and started machine-gunning eachother. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I let him do my thinking for me.

    You make the same mistake vis-a-vis the public sector that Scargill made with the coal mines. The coal mines were not there to provide jobs for miners, they were there to provide energy for the country. The public sector is not there to provide jobs for public sector workers, it is there to provide administration for the country.

    It’s not about what’s fair or unfair – the fact is that we cannot afford the public sector at the size it is now.

  25. ani

    I’m sure we’ll all agree that this is a very fair proposal from the Fabian Conference:

    “Tax avoidance costs ten times as much as benfit fraud. Proposal is to remove half of the funds used on fighting benefit fraud and use it to fight tax avoidance”

  26. ani

    While I’m at it – bb – doh! there’d be no energy for the country without the miners to mine the coal for it, and there’d be no administration for the country without civil servants to explain it all – v e r y c a r e f u l l y a n d s l o w l y – to dummies like you – and Richard!

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