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Ministerial post 'dehumanising' for Digby Jones

Nick Robinson | 15:42 UK time, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Digby Jones - the most prominent of the 'goats' (government of all the talents) elevated to the House of Lords and made into ministers by Gordon Brown - has just butted those he once worked with. Lord Jones

The former Trade Minister Lord Jones told the Commons Public Administration Committee that the job of junior minister was "one of the most dehumanising and depersonalising experiences a human being can have".

He described the civil service as honest and stuffed full of decent people who work hard, but he believed there were too many of them:

"Frankly the job could be done with half as many. It could be more productive, more efficient, it could deliver a lot more value for money for the taxpayer. And the levers of change, the ability to affect change are so rare, because of the culture. I was amazed how many people frankly deserved the sack, and yet that was the one threat that they never ever worked under because it doesn't exist as long as they're being not criminal or whatever."


PS: I've had a few comments questioning whether I or the BBC generally overdid the Shriti Vadera story yesterday. When I've a little more time I'll pen a response.


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  • Comment number 1.

    "I've had a few comments questioning whether I or the BBC generally overdid the Shriti Vadera story yesterday."

    From Mandelson and Brown no doubt!

  • Comment number 2.

    Ministerial post 'dehumanising' for Digby Jones.... should not be the head line

    It should read:

    Country could be run by half as many civil servants.

    We need a lot more businessmen in government and a lot fewer lawyers.

  • Comment number 3.

    Of course there are too many civil servants.
    This was part of Gordon's grand plan to keep the unemployment figures down.

    The irony is that they will never be in fear of losing their jobs - unlike the rest of us!

  • Comment number 4.

    I seem to have problems understanding his comments taken as a whole.

    If the Civil Service is "honest and stuffed full of decent people" then how are they working hard if "the job could be done with half as many"?

    If the Civil Service is over-staffed by 100% then the only way the staff can be working hard is if they are done a lot of work that doesn't need doing!

    Perhaps the person who wrote up the article miss-heard and what was actually said that the civil service is "full of decent people who hardly work" :-)

    I do think he has a valid point, that there is a lot of waste in the public sector and a business in the private sector would never be competitive if they employed twice as many people as they needed.

  • Comment number 5.

    Not just too many Civil Servants, but far too many centralised in Greater London and South east England (the same thing has happened in South East Scotland), a situation exacerbated by Nu Labour. At least Wilson and Callaghan understood the need and economic common sense to spread Civil Service jobs around the country.

    This also provides lopsided thinking. After the terrible flooding in Yorkshire 2 years ago there was much talk of protecting coastal defences and improving drainage etc. The Dept of Environment response? London would need a second barrier across the Thames estuary.

  • Comment number 6.

    Digby Jones described the civil service as honest and stuffed full of decent people who work hard, but he believed there were too many of them and then said, "Frankly the job could be done with half as many.”

    Doesn’t this sound like an oxymoron?

  • Comment number 7.

    PS: I've had a few comments questioning whether I or the BBC generally overdid the Shriti Vadera story yesterday. When I've a little more time I'll pen a response.

    It was probably taken a bit far, but then the same was true of the coverage of George Osbourne's sailing trip :)

  • Comment number 8.

    Interesting, because Obama has just said that he went into politics because he wanted to shape his daughters lives,i.e by working to enable them to achieve happiness,get opportunities e.t.c.

    The pusuit of happiness is of course, a false one.
    Just ask people after Xmas/New Year. Did they have a jolly nice time. Yes,yes.

    But ask them if they wanted this all the time, and they say....... no.

  • Comment number 9.

    To be fair he's only saying what's been obvious to most of us for a long while!

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm not surprised a character like Lord Digby-Jones didn't go down well with Gordon Brown

    Too honest with the truth to last long there.

    I'm sure he took the job because he really believed he could really do something for Britain's exporting companies

    Until he realised that this PM isn't interested in business because he knows sweet all about it.

    Must be so frustrating for such a jolly chappie to know what's wrong and needs putting right to come up against such a brick wall like Brown.

    Never mind I hope he finds a better place in a Tory government. He has a lot of experience that shouldn't be wasted.
    We need more of the old school who know what tough times really are.

    By the way I heard Mandelson actually admit on Newsnight that the lady had been rather niaive and she wouldn't be saying 'Green shoots' again

    That's you vindicated then Nick.

  • Comment number 11.

    Certainly if you've worked around them long enough... the word "dynamic" isnt one that tends to spring to mind, particularly at middle management level.

    Mind you, I mustnt grumble. If they were dynamic enough, made management decisions rather than keeping their heads down, if they had the technical depth... I'd arguably be on the scrapheap.

    Theres an old saying about simians and peanuts. Granted there are a few high flyers who are very capable people coming through, but they tend to be young thrusters in their early-mid 30's and dont have real power yet. The power rests at a significantly higher level than them.

    Digby Jones is right. It is a cultural thing, a mentality they have.

    Sorry guys, if you're a civil servant... Just calling it as I've seen it over the last 5 years. I'm not saying the commercial sector have a better mentality; in many ways they dont. Each sector has its own cross to bear.

  • Comment number 12.

    " many people(in the Civil Service) frankly deserved the sack."

    A man after my own heart - I have long advocated sacking Permanent Secretaries when something bad happens on their watch.

    Yet, what usually happens is they get their 'K'! (K= Knighthood, by the way - see the Treasury this new year for example!)

  • Comment number 13.


    Did you ask him if this was the reason why he left his post as a goat?

  • Comment number 14.

    Yes, I remember when I was a civil servant. Once you become Established it is virtually impossible for them to prise you out of your job. Very safe, very secure, all sorts of holidays for inauspicious occasions, Queen's birthday and so on. When I was offered a job at the House of Commons I was told I would have Friday afternoons off, all the parliamentary recesses etc etc. Wow! Anybody's dream job. Fully paid of course.

    I have to say here though that the Local Councils are just as bad. They have six weeks bereavement leave - well ours do - which I find an absolute scandal. When I was in commerce I only had two days discretionary leave when my mother died.

    So much for working out of the public purse, eh?

    Digby has quite rightly highlighted this issue.

    PS Not to worry about the green shoots statement. Gave rise to more debate anyway!

    This flipping runway is going to run and run though......

  • Comment number 15.

    The conservatives must be rubbing their hands at this.
    Now they can point to this as an example of how spending can be cut with out the depressing zanu-labour prerecorded reponce of "of course, the conservatives want to cut teachers, policemen,..."

    Or have I mis-understood? Serious question btw!

  • Comment number 16.


    ..'Come and work for me and I'll give you a knighthood'

    didn't work out too well then ?

    We can see that Brown is trying to build his own Government which excludes the
    'MP's of no Talent'.
    (Moots as opposed to Goats)

    But it looks like even the Brown knighted cadre might be considering Brown to have lost the plot.

    Funny how long it takes for the politico world to catch up with the real world.

  • Comment number 17.

    As a Civil Servant, I agree with the comment about running with half the staff. Most of these could come from the Senior Manager Grades, that are overpaid and underworked.
    However it has not been detrimental to his progression has it?

  • Comment number 18.

    Dear Nick,

    There are meny stories that you could write about (Are you a columnist or journalist?) and all deserve your (Or your source's) veiws.

    Ireland/Iceland and IMF, Mandyson and a big house, GB and his green shoots, Ken Clarke coming home, Heathrow etc etc.

    However, what you choose to write/comment about is really up to you but sometimes we do wonder.

    ps t's not about green shoots but blooming easter eggs that are now on sale....!

  • Comment number 19.

    I know this is one of the stories, but we do have the man who picked up the mace

    Isn't that political enough? whom does it embarrass the most?

  • Comment number 20.

    Hear, hear, Lord Jones.

    Wonder what Gordon thinks of him now?

  • Comment number 21.

    As a former Civil Servant, now retired, I feel I must respond to the "Goats" outburst.

    He is quite correct that the jobs in most departments could be done with considerably less people and much more efficiently. But there is a very big BUT that must be added. A considerable amount of unnecessary work is created by Ministers who are continually bringing out new initiatives, continually re-inventing the wheel because they cannot stand delivering the previous incumbants programmes. What they should do is to encourage the development of existing activities, help to make them work and not keep bringing out new initiatives most of which are ill thought through and often dropped within months !

    He says that there are people who ought to be sacked. Yes there probably are but who created the employment framework that makes it so difficult to sack people. With a process that is so long and cumbersome that many Managers give up or move on themselves. Also, if he felt that, why didn't he do something about it at the time !!

    He says the Civil Service is stuffed full of decent people who work hard .. how right he is on that one. He might like to reflect that if it were not for his Civil Servants he would not be able to deliver anything.

  • Comment number 22.

    StrongholdBarricades wrote:

    Did you ask him if this was the reason why he left his post as a goat?

    Maybe it was because he wasn't a sheep! (sorry!)

  • Comment number 23.

    Can anybody answer the following:

    What is the justification for someone given a working peerage to retain that peerage when they cease working for the Government, i.e. why is he still Lord Digby-Jones? Does he draw a salary for attending the House of Lords as a backbencher (asssuming he does attend the HoL)?

    As regards the bloated civil service, if the government was serious about dealing with the current problems, they would be slashing costs through both compulsory redundancies and wage cuts across the board. Most civil service pay reviews are for a number of years in advance and assume a certain level of inflation. As the expectation now is assumed to be deflation, these awards should be revisited.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    50% more staff than are required in the Civil Service?

    Tell us something we don't already know.

    But of course you have to have twice as many to cover the generous holidays sick leave flexi time and of course meetings.

    Lots and lots of time wasting meetings

    That means 50% more golden index linked final salary pensions.

    All paid for by the taxpayer.

    Point this one out to Gordon and no wonder he was shown the door. By the civil servants.

    Time for more repeats of 'Yes Minister' I think.

  • Comment number 26.

    Looks like Barking Derek has just clocked on

    Any answers on the MP wielding the mace?

    What about the Education figures?

    How about MP expenses?

  • Comment number 27.

    mmmm ... just studied the photo of Lord Digby Jones - looks exactly like the sort of overfed complacent upper middle class male empty suit that we have way way too many of in positions of power and influence - in ALL sectors, not only the civil service

    part of the problem, in other words, old Digby is

  • Comment number 28.

    #6 "Doesn?t this sound like an oxymoron?"

    No, not really.

    Just cause they're all working hard and are good employees doesn't mean we need them all.

    We could employ another 100% of civil servants, equally as good, but we don't. Why not?

    Because there is an optimum level of civil servants to do the job efficiently.

    However, Gordon Brown views the civil service as another way of massaging unemployment statistics. Of course he does not care about the extra salaries and gold-plated pensions that will have to be paid in the future (not on his watch, of course, much like the huge debt burden he is saddling our children with).

    But this is of course not a surprise. Gordon is a spendaholic. When he begins to understand the obvious, namely that it is OUR money he is spending, and we are NOT happy about it, he will understand that he will need a new job from 2010 (I'm assuming he is too chicken to call an election earlier - an election that he would likely do better in than if he leaves it until 2010. Mind you, given the authoritarian leanings of this government, there might not even be an election. A Reichstag-style incident is probably in the offing....)

  • Comment number 29.

    Ummm Derek so why did Brown choose such a dangerous dinosaur to be one of his great and good? This man was a Labour Minister choosen because of his knowledge and understanding of the business world.

    Surely your not saying that Brown was in error!?!

    But I thought that Brown was incapable of making mistakes! You have just shattered my illusions, next you will be telling me the tooth fairy doesn't exist!

  • Comment number 30.

    No Nick, you did not overdo the Shriti Vadera story yesterday! It was a case of an attempted spin that backfired. May we know who has suggested that the story was 'overdone'?

    In contrast, there are some other stories which are perhaps 'underdone'.

    For example, Yatchgate. Why do we still not know what discussions (if any) the former EU Commissioner had with his Russian host about EU tariffs?

    Another puzzling story is the Damian Green affair. Why did the letter from Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick to Jacqui Smith appear to contradict the statement made by the Speaker to the House of Commons? Just to remind everyone, Ast Commissioner Quick wrote that the officers "were satisfied that the Serjeant at Arms understood that police had no power to search in the absence of a warrant ". But the Speaker said: "I have been told that the police did not explain, as they are required to do, that the sergeant was not obliged to consent".

    They can't both be right! So which one is correct?

    I think we should be told....

  • Comment number 31.

    #24 Derek Barker.

    "Digby opposed the national minimum wage."

    I know it's hard for socialists like yourself to fathom Derek. But we live in a GLOBAL economy now, as you keep pointing out , so do the maths:

    * Imposed minimum wage
    * Companies' costs increase
    * Cost of companies' produce increases
    * Companies' lose sales to more competitive companies
    * Companies' go under
    * Minimum wage becomes a P45 and zero wage for employees.

    There is more than one country. Just because we feel that someone working in a particular industry deserves more, doesn't mean that automatically giving them that salary is the answer to the problem.

    Typical short-sighted policies from a jaded party, ripe for being thrown out on its posterior.

  • Comment number 32.

    "PS: I've had a few comments questioning whether I or the BBC generally overdid the Shriti Vadera story yesterday. When I've a little more time I'll pen a response. "

    Cool - could you, when responding, advise:

    1 WHO told you "she was referring to the fact that the bond market had begun to open up for bigger borrowers and also to the good news from retailers like Morrisons and Tesco's who this week promised to create thousands more jobs"; and

    2 Did whoever told you contact YOU directly or did you contact THEM for clarification?

    It would be interesting to see into the world of spin!

  • Comment number 33.

    I agree, Digby Jones contradicts himself. I dislike the man so am pleased he sounds like a buffoon.

    Although he's keen for all these hard-working, intelligent civil servants to be sacked, what about the management consultants, outsource firms (who lose our data) and PR firms? I imagine they probably cost the exchequer rather more per head.

    Oh, silly me, just remembered he's ex-CBI. Of course he must be in favour of businesses ripping-off the country.

  • Comment number 34.

    #2 spot on

    #21 agree on the constant messing and changing of everything - worth a quick history lesson:-

    “We had trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams, we would be reorganised.

    I would learn later in life that we tend to meet any situation by reorganising – and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress whilst spreading confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.”

    Ciaus Pertonius; AD 66

    Gordon & co - if it aint broke, dont fix it....

    But then again, if you did that you couldnt justify your jobs could you....?!

  • Comment number 35.

    #21 RaytEssex wrote:

    "As a former Civil Servant, now retired, I feel I must respond to the "Goats" outburst.

    He is quite correct that the jobs in most departments could be done with considerably less people and much more efficiently. But there is a very big BUT that must be added. A considerable amount of unnecessary work is created by Ministers who are continually bringing out new initiatives, continually re-inventing the wheel because they cannot stand delivering the previous incumbants programmes."

    So it is quite easy to say that the civil service has very hard working people, but - if they are working on stuff that is completely fatuous - still be over-staffed.

    For example:

    "Ministers are looking at requiring public bodies to recognise and tackle inequalities stemming from social background in the same way as they must already do for race, gender and disability.
    Class was still the source of "persistent inequality" in British society, the government said in a white paper on social mobility published on Tuesday."

    How many civil servants will be beavering away, trying to dig out facts (often having to create new statistical elements - hence more cost) to support this initiative?

    And what's the point?

    If someone comes into the JobCentre, will he/she have to provide a family tree to show which "class" they fit into?

    How will "social background - or class" be determined?

    It's obviously not about money. (Plenty of people from all sorts of backgrounds have made big bucks over the last couple of decades. Centuries, actually! And quite a lot of people from "old families" have lost fortunes.)

    So what is the point of this?

    It will keep a lot of civil servants occupied for a long time. Possibly resulting in even more public employees having to go through a bunch of stuff that helps nobody.

    If a bright guy or gal turns up for interview in business, it's the knowledge and potential that someone looks for.

    Time was, the person from a "socially deprived" background would stand out. With a desire to get on.

    Problem has been for a while that children have grown up assuming that they have entitlements. (I passed 4 A levels at A grade, so... I've a degree in whatever, so...)

    Are local councils expected to check on the social background of a householder before deciding on the council tax-band?

    Are they going to place "better" candidates behind ""seems to come from this social background" candidates, when appointing accountants?

    It's the sheer profligacy of government that gets me.

    I've worked in businesses with awful management. With HR departments exercising far too great an influence on people doing stuff they simply don't have a clue about.

    Eventually, these folk get their comeuppance...

    But they don't use tax-payers' money to go through their idiocies...

  • Comment number 36.

    Congratulations John McDonnell for his protest, in parliament, against the undemocratic 3rd runway at Heathrow.

    Have you got anything to say about this Nick Robinson?

    Are you going to rubbish him as you did with David Davis?

  • Comment number 37.

    24. At 5:22pm on 15 Jan 2009, derekbarker wrote


    Why didn't you say any of this a year ago when he was your man's choice of Trade Minister?

  • Comment number 38.

    #24 derekbarker wrote:

    "Baron Jones of Birmingham, former CBI chief from 200- 2006, As a lawyer his law firm made countless expenses from industrial related accidents.

    Digby opposed the national minimum wage.
    A man who thought that one pound an hour was sufficient for some workers? Is it any wonder this leech and extremely wealthy person thinks unemployment is an efficient way to manage the economy?"

    Sorry Derek.

    I was never a great fan of Digby Jones. But quite a good communicator.

    However, perhaps you'd like to remind us who brought in him to a ministerial role in government?

  • Comment number 39.

    #21 RaytEssex

    I commend your post. We shouldn't be criticising public sector workers as individuals, many of whom, like my wife, work hard. However, we should be looking at the structural problem of public sector employment: overstaffed, over-generous pensions (at a time when Gordon has trashed private sector pension funds), a lack of accountability, and perhaps most importantly of all a sense that a significant minority of jobs in the public sector make no worthwhile contribution to the economy or society at all.

    I have tried to write this fairly. The villian of the piece is not the individuals working in the civil service, but rather Gordon Brown's frenzied feeding of the public sector. It is not in the long-term interest of public sector workers for Gordon to set out to destroy the wealth-creating segment of the economy which ultimately funds public sector employment.

    I pointed out on an earlier post that the Irish Government was trying to cut public sector pay.

  • Comment number 40.

    This is what you would expect from a Tory brought into a 'Labour' government.

    Consider what Civil Servants really are. They are not just the people that Digby Jones would have come across, they are people like Job centre staff; outsourced, ut or overstretched, especially in light of the rising unemployment the country faces.

    This is what the likes of Mr.Jones wants, for people to turn on each other (eg the wider public on public servants) rather than blaming the unrestrained business culture that got our country into this mess.

  • Comment number 41.

    In this blog and many previous, I've read unnumerable attacks on so-called 'fat-cat' civil servants and their supposedly grossly inflated lives and pay.

    To be fair, I'll agree that civil servants DO get a good pension scheme and good annual leave, and better job security than most.


    Most civil servants definitely are NOT on the gravy train. For junior and middle-echelon civil servants (the vast majority) the pay is a long way behind the private sector and there is rarely much in terms of genuine investment in people - training budgets are always pared to the very bone and any attempts to improve infrastructure or working environment have to move mountains in order to get approval. Career development and progression are glacially slow.

    And since about 6 or 7 years ago, new entrants DON'T get that wonderful pension - they get only a watered down average salary pension that pays substantially less than the 'classic' scheme.

    The current government has done much to politicise the civil service and many of the 'advisor' posts that it has created in central government are far removed from the rank and file of the civil service. So please, don't tar genuine civil servants with that brush.

  • Comment number 42.

    I love Digby Jones hes one of the few people who can talk about recession and he makes you feel as though everything will be OK in the end.

    I suspect hes far too honest and outspoken for Brown though, I wish he would join the conservatives he reminds me so much of Ken Clarke.

    He really is only saying what everybody knows that because of a strong union base its virtually impossible to get rid of people in the public sector even though we need to. The private sector is taking the big hit at the moment, but cuts in the public sector who ever is in power are inevitable.

    Im one of the only ones, I suppose that does not think you overdid the green shoots story. Strangely enough I think the public will pick up the message that Labour secretly think the economy is getting better and remember it, and when the economy does not pick up, the comment will come to mind. They will think that Labour was completely out of touch even at the height of recession. But I guess you are being leant on by Mandelson.

    I see that Labour are now pinching the Conservatives high speed rail link idea when they said it was rubbish before. Thats 3 policies this week they have stolen from the Conservatives. I wish the Conservatives would become the do nothing party, Labour would have no policies then.

    Another thing I was interested in I have not seen the full story, but that we are using tax payers money to shore up credit companies in order for people to purchase cars. More Government debt I suppose.

    John McDonnell was wonderful I like people who have that kind of conviction.

  • Comment number 43.

    #24, #27 (quote, just studied the photo of Lord Digby Jones, etc)

    All sorts of personal insults against Digby-Jones. Interesting that Labour-supporting bloggers play the man rather than the ball. Don't address the serious issues, they're too uncomfortable. Kick the man instead.

  • Comment number 44.

    #21 RaytEssex

    For a while there, it did seem that there was a missing disc or file every week that was going missing from government departments.

    Then Hey! presto! it all stops. Hmmmm

    Stranger than fiction?

  • Comment number 45.

    I think he is in a catch 22 - having supported business and industry for so many years he can see a recession comming and lots of ministerial rhetoric washing about in an attempt to talk up our flagging economy.

    A def move out of government just before we headed towards recession meant he can now speak his mind and thus he has.

    Time for a Prime Minister that is elected rather than one given the job as a long service award me thinks....

  • Comment number 46.

    It was a little odd that Nick chose to go with the question of whether there are too many people doing unnecessary things in government, rather than the Heathrow decision. (Or maybe the "good day to hide bad news" dislosure on MPs expenses...)

    The French built Charles de Gaulle airport because Orly was too enclosed to grow.

    40+ years ago, discussions took place about finding a new site for a London-serving replacement for Heathrow.

    All pushed aside.

    Heathrow suffers from a significant threat. Access to three terminals is via a tunnel under the north runway. Not a good idea.

    As the winds are more often westerly, this means a lot of aircraft have to fly directly over central London to land. That's a threat, as well...

    (Actually, if you followed some of the daft interpretations of Health and Safety rules, Heathrow should be closed down tomorrow. If, for example, a local council doesn't allow hanging flower baskets as they could fall on the heads of passers-by, how on earth could you permit aircraft to fly over 8 million people?)

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.

    "Yes, I remember when I was a civil servant. Once you become Established it is virtually impossible for them to prise you out of your job."

    I think that a political party has the nous to explain to the public WHY this is the case, and proposes measures to combat this unfairness, they will have the next election in the bag.

    Salaries of civil servants are widely seen as inflated as tv and radio stars in this country. The party that curbs these either by law or taxation will gain votes.

  • Comment number 49.

    sagamix @ 27

    That is a truly unpleasant posting, and thoroughly unworthy of this forum. You successfully combine sexism, outdated and discredited class envy and the kind of remark that in any playground would be considered bullying.

  • Comment number 50.

    Government is too complex and has become increasingly complex with the Golem in government. Why have something simple when you can have something complex. If it's complex it needs more people to handle it and since they get it wrong, even more people to sort the mess out.
    The Golem's job creation scheme, I guess.

  • Comment number 51.

    27. At 5:42pm on 15 Jan 2009, sagamix wrote:
    mmmm ... just studied the photo of Lord Digby Jones - looks exactly like the sort of overfed complacent upper middle class male empty suit that we have way way too many of in positions of power and influence - in ALL sectors, not only the civil service

    part of the problem, in other words, old Digby is


    And John Prescott was what, exactly?

  • Comment number 52.

    Some-people made a very healthy living out of Industrial related accident and diseases.

    Wow! some people even thought that Industrial related diseases like say! "ASBESTOSES" was a condition payed for in the wage packet.

    Many miners were effected by a condition called "ANTHRACOSIS" some people questioned whether such a disease existed?

  • Comment number 53.

    I am truly astonished to hear such open public honesty.


    IF we are to get the economy back on track then we really need more of these jobs not fewer. It’s a great way for the government to filter the freshly printed notes into the economy far better than giving to a bunch of real wasters on the dole.

    I for one would jump at the chance.

    Where and when do I sign up?

    We will never EVER see a reduction in the number of civil servants council workers or government hangers on NEVER.!

    So such wonderful public honesty will equal NOTHING!

    Do you think Nurses will get the money of those lazy ones?
    I’ve just seen a flock of pigs.

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    Been saying it for ages, the public sector is HUGE and needs to be viciously pruned.

    The massive tax burden in this country can't be a helpful factor in our current crisis.

  • Comment number 56.

    Gosh, could we really do with half as many civil servants?

    And in other news, we can reveal that the Pope's religion is Catholic.

    I assume that the reason why no-one has done anything about it is that the "Yes Minister" stereotype is all too true, ie ministers cannot do anything if the civil servants don't want them to. Let's face it, why would civil servants go along with a plan that would put them out of a job? They may be inefficient, but they're not stupid.

  • Comment number 57.

    I heard Sir DJ's comments during my commute home with a feeling of savage vindication. I have twenty years experience of working in contact with the Civil Service and I feel such views are more than justified and long overdue. My father was a senior Civil Servant and his comments on the Civil Service were of a similar nature.
    What I want to know is what is going to be done about it and when.
    It really is like "Yes, Minister". The problem is, this is no joke as it's our taxes paying for it.
    Talk about "a good time to bury bad news", I can't believe Gordon Brown will sanction staff cuts in this economic climate. Oh Well...

  • Comment number 58.

    Sounds about spot on and yes I have worked in the public sector.

    If you set up scrutiny committees and have lots meetings with no actions and no individual responsibility you can soon fill your time working hard, whilst engaging in various flawed, naive and mis-guided social engineering schemes.

    Working hard to maintain the bureaucracy or working hard to deliver improvements for everybody. The two things are quite different.

  • Comment number 59.

    #6 - thecuckoosnest

    Most of your post I understand. Where did 'oxy' come from?

  • Comment number 60.

    Not just too many civil servants; too many people being paid by the taxpayer. Politicians, civil servants, titled and double barrelled named heads of quangos ,council chief execs., heads of finance, planning, etc. all duplicated on six figure salaries and very few giving value for money. It's doubtful if a single council in Britain operates within budget ,yet these people continue to fill posts because there is no mechanism for the taxpayer to remove them from post. Even the elected councillors do not have this power and are ridden over roughshod by what is technically their employees at any attempt to curb the power of the unelected. All of the quangos, now appear to have more power than parliament when it comes to making decisions that affect the public.

  • Comment number 61.


    Do correct me if Im wrong, but:

    Remember the clampdown on MPs expenses which was promised after it emerged Derek Conway was paying his sons to work for him? Full transparency and an end to the John Lewis list? Well a year later, and on a busy newsday, Harriet Harman has announced the watering down almost all the restrictions.

    According to a document unveiled with no fanfare on the same day as the Heathrow announcement, the House is preparing to block the publication of all receipts for MPs expenses, which had been ordered by an Information Tribunal

    Can this be true, have you not heard about it?

  • Comment number 62.

    Ahh here it is

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 63.

    Hey! while we are on the subjedt of CV's
    lets take a look at the "PROFUMO AFFAIR" In 1961 the secretary of the state for war,
    John Profumo, had an affair with a show girl, namingly "CHRISTINE KEELER", Profumo denied the affair in the house of commons and used the parliamentary privilege code to silence the affair, however in 1962 the affair was released by the press which led Profumo to admit he miss led parliament but Hey! not until 1963, the whole affair had put real pressure on the conservative PM Harold MacMillan, who would resign only months later citing bad health. I should also point out that Ms Keeler was also having an affair with a certain Russian spy called Yevgeny Ivanov.

    Good people from good back grounds Eh?

  • Comment number 64.

    The evidence for this at all levels of government has been screaming at us for years.

    In education the last Treasury spending report indicated each secondary school pupil costs the nation about £5,600. Ask any headmaster what they see of it and you will rarely get much above £2,600 per pupil to actually deliver the classroom experience. Why not just give the money to the headmasters and if all the LEA and DOE staff are doing such an added value job for the education of our children I'm sure the heads will be rushing to hire them rather than extra teachers etc ....... ?

    But if all civil servants are doing such great jobs why is almost every significant government project I can find is billions over budget, years late and often not up to standard? Try running projects to that standard in the private sector and see what your carrer prospects look like.

    Of course Gordons "money go round" systems just add to the problem. Employ civil servants to raise taxes and employ even more people to devise and staff ways to give the money back again in the most complex ways possible, minus of course the administrative overhead. This is not only costly in terms of Civil servant wages, offices, pensions, paper and yet more paper etc but is hugely costly to the "customers" in terms of the time and effort that needs to be put in to try and understand and comply with all this Byzantian regulation. This really is a vast waste of total resource in our society which is little more than employng one group of people to dig holes and another to fill them in again. It is primarily of benefit to those employed in administering it rather than any of its recipients.

  • Comment number 65.

    #27 sagamix wrote:

    "mmmm ... just studied the photo of Lord Digby Jones - looks exactly like the sort of overfed complacent upper middle class male empty suit that we have way way too many of in positions of power and influence - in ALL sectors, not only the civil service."

    Oh, come on, Saga.

    Take a look at photos of John Prescott.

    How the dickens could you distinguish between him and Digby Jones in "class" terms?

    Overfed? Well, we paid for one, but the private sector paid for Jones.

    If you want to look at peculiar things, why don't you wonder why the UK Navy has more Admirals than ships?

    Is that because recent governments like to keep people being promoted (getting getter salaries at tax-payer cost), or because recent governments have shrunk the number of vessels available?

    (And have decided to streeeetch out the delivery timetable for new aircraft-carriers.)

    So much for injecting funds into high-tech projects.

  • Comment number 66.

    Hi Nick,

    Digby Jones was appointed to the Upper House by GB. So was Baroness Vadera and Mervyn Davies. They both report to Lord Mandy. None of these were voted into ministerial office by the public.

    Come to think of it, they all report to Gordon Broon, and no one voted for him as Prime Minister.

    If you want to trim fat, start there.

    BWT: You did NOT over-report the Vadera green-shoots story yesterday. What we have here is a central pillar or GB's economic team that claimed to see what no other economic expert can. That tells me that she should not remain in post.

    To make matters worse, she actually apologised for people misunderstanding her. How this became MY fault, I do not quite understand.

    See you in the pub.

  • Comment number 67.


    And it was made in early 2007

  • Comment number 68.

    all jobs are dehumanising

    a career path, training and annual raise should be standard practice for company loyalty

    retraining and alternative or part-time employment should be offered instead of unemployment (unless people want voluntarily redundancy)

  • Comment number 69.

    "Did you ask him if this was the reason why he left his post as a goat?"

    "Maybe it was because he wasn't a sheep!"

    Ewe must be kidding!


  • Comment number 70.

    #54 derekbarker wrote:

    "David, the man was brought into government as a business mind to create new emplyment and wealth.

    Not to eradicate employment?

    Some people hold themselves in high reguard, they even get titles but Hey! when it comes to delivering the goods, they simply offer an alternative political view, rather than raise their game to the challenge.

    GB didn't employ Digby to criticise government, he was employed to deliver more wealth.

    Why do you turn every thing on GB , christ, look up Digbys CV quite impressive but Hey!
    at the end of the day, its just words on paper."

    Derek, the business mind has to focus on delivering a product or service that is wanted by and affordable for the end-user / customer.

    Seems to me that should be the objective of governments.

    After all, businesses have to find someone - or a company - willing to buy their products or services. So revenue (income) is only sustained if what you offer is still wanted. Woolworths just died because they didn't adjust their business model to maintain adequate income.

    Governments know that they can always tax the citizens. But they should have a similar thought process. That is to take as much or little as you need to deliver things that can be of proven use to the people paying for it.

    If you want to include more and more people into government or the public service, the only way forward is total state control.

    I can remember when the UK state owned electricity, gas, steel production, coal-mining, car manufacturing, telephony, etc. It wasn't very efficient.

    I can remember working for a time in New York, years and years ago, when I moved into a place and wanted a phone. And just amazed that someone said "will you be at home this afternoon, so we can fix it?".

    Derek, I have always admired the work of genuinely motivated, state-employed people. But I do not believe that I and my children should pay for totally unnecessary roles.

    I've seen quite a few private companies with far too many people chasing about and being "busy", doing nothing of any real worth.

    Difference is that the private companies absolutely depend on someone out there deciding to use a company's product or services. But, governments don't worry about "gaining a market". They just impose taxes.

    Then the responsible ministers wash their hands and walk away from any financial problems.

    Often crawling into private comanies, who should know better than to hire people who failed to deliver to their "customers" - us, you and me - the tax-payers.

    I'm quite happy to accept that Brown, Blair, Clegg, Cameron, Attlee, Bevin, Churchill, Thatcher, Wilson, Foot, Heath etc had a good vision. And probably a genuine concern for their families.

    But, I EXPECT governments do use my tax take (and yours) sensibly.

    I just don't get it that Gordon Brown snatched away the 10p tax band.

    Do you understand why he did it?

  • Comment number 71.

    I have no time for this man. It was obvious that he would not stay in this position long enough to have a greater understanding of how the civil service works in this time. It was quite clear to all around him(GB), that Lord Jones would be a backstabber. The only person not to see this was GB himself...Bless!!
    It has been widely known for years that the civil service was overstaffed, with some 'managers' overpaid, and sadly so badly politicized that it can no longer function the way it is suppose to.
    Maybe if the opposition actually had ideas or policies regarding the future direction of the civil service, then Lord Jones' word could be taken with less than a pinch of salt.
    As for the business minister's gaffe, is that really the sum of reporting these days?
    Less of that rubbish please, more on what real politics are about like the protest by the labour Mp in the house today, eh?

  • Comment number 72.

    derekbarker 63

    I'm not sure what point you were trying to make about John Profumo, but it might be fairer to complete the story.

    From a short time after his resignation through to his death, Profumo worked as a volunteer at Toynbee Hall (a charity working against deprivation in the East End). He actually started there cleaning the toilets, and required a lot of persuasion to take on a more prominant role. Most reasonable people consider he salvaged his reputation through his charitable work.

    In the circumstances, you might like to review your last paragraph, which seems rather unworthy as it stands.

  • Comment number 73.

    #63 derekbarker wrote:

    "Hey! while we are on the subjedt of CV's
    lets take a look at the "PROFUMO AFFAIR" In 1961 the secretary of the state for war,
    John Profumo, had an affair with a show girl, namingly "CHRISTINE KEELER", Profumo denied the affair in the house of commons and used the parliamentary privilege code to silence the affair, however in 1962 the affair was released by the press which led Profumo to admit he miss led parliament but Hey! not until 1963, the whole affair had put real pressure on the conservative PM Harold MacMillan, who would resign only months later citing bad health. I should also point out that Ms Keeler was also having an affair with a certain Russian spy called Yevgeny Ivanov.

    Good people from good back grounds Eh?


    Well, Derek, if you really want to go back to the 60s... You may like to recall that Profumo accepted the fact that he had misled parliament and resigned. He spent the great part of the rest of his life doing very good charitable social work.

    Did that excuse his lies in Parliament? No.

    Did it prove that he was a BAD person? Maybe not. Or that he was BAD because he was a Tory? Well, absolutely not. Just get a quick phone call in to John Prescott...

    I have no idea what your point is.

    Background is irrelevant. If it were, you would certainly have voted for David Davies as PM, since he came from a difficult background and made his own way.

    Let's see, when was the last leader of the Labour party someone from a working class environment? Blair? Brown? Smith? Foot?

    Look back at Tory leaders. Cameron had a gilded background. First for a long tme.

    Goodness. You don't have to be BORN into a way of thinking. That would make it purely Darwinian.

    Inheritence can affect height, weight, musculature, bone-mass, eye-colour, possibly the way the brain works (although that seems very unlikely).

    As far as I know, nobody has ever been born with any genetic imperative to be a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or whatever.

    Or a Labour, Tory, Liberal, Democrat, Communist, or whatever.

    Perfumo did wrong in his personal life. Does that mean that any cause he subscribed to was wrong?

    If so, Labour should be killed off because Prescott did wrong in his personal life?

    There are good people, weak people and downright bad people who join with a political idea.

    If the idea makes sense, it can survive.

    I liked the ideal of a socially-sensitive, commercially viable state.

    Still do.

    But if the "commercially-viable" bit gets lost, all the rest falls to pieces.

    Just like a family.

  • Comment number 74.

    There should be a continual re-examination of what is appropriate to be done by the State, private or 'third' (charity) sectors.

    For example, somebody on this thread mentioned Government run Job Centres.

    A couple of recent letters in The Times pointed to a horrifying lack of professionalism by Job Centre staff but these staff do not have any particular driver or motivation and apparently are not easy to dispose of and as public servants, presumably have decent pensions awaiting.

    Whereas a close relative who works for a private sector recruitment company frankly works long hours like a slave, has to meet targets, which if not met will result in a miserable wage, has no pension and is quite likely to be fired in the current climate even if he achieves everything asked.

    Given this, it seems that the best approach here would be to close down the Government run Job Centres and let the truly motivated private sector perform this function.

    Other areas, especially regarding oversight of regulations are probably best served by some Governmental organisation.

    The key is not to let political dogma be the driver as to who does what.

    I think that many English people have a deep distrust of 'authority' in general and therefore Government would be best served if it ticked away silently in the background, just concentrating on doing a few key things really well and leave the rest to us, the English people.

  • Comment number 75.

    63/ Barking

    Yes, things move on - we don't have people climbing on rooves without scaffolding now c/o Health and Safety.

    The Profumo affair was a pimple on a pumpkin compared with people's morals now, in and out of parliament.

    Learn the lessons and move on. Totally inappropriate to bring THAT up in today's very different world.

    You really are digging up the dregs now.

  • Comment number 76.

    Why doesn't the government appoint a quango to review the number of civil servants employed in the various branches of government.

    To make sure it works we'll second senior civil servants, their private secretaries, their sub-private secretaries to the quango - and of course we will have to employ other civil servants to replace them at their original departments.

    To make it fair we should also appoint some businessmen - Sainsbury for one to discuss matters.

    Now let them meet once a month and I'm sure they'll be able to claim expenses and eventually sort matters.

    Then again . . . maybe not.

  • Comment number 77.


    Really well put.

    (63#) He's done you good and proper this time Derek.

    Get out of that. ;=)

    (payback for abandoning me to the Braveheart Republican Chapter, 2 blogs back).

  • Comment number 78.

    Some one once said all moments in history are defining and over the course of the years there have been many.

    Jonathan Aitken or lord Archer may also fall into the category of moments in political history where self thought out-strips their actual purpose.

    Of course is far to easy for some-one like Jones just to walk. when the going gets tough, those who can afford it simply smile and say goodbye.What use is that in a productive sense.

    I hope we never go down the road of designer babies and A.I., I ALSO HOPE WE NEVER RETURN TO A SITUATION WHERE ONLY THE PRIVILEGED GET TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.

  • Comment number 79.

    Hold on a minute. This guy's got elevated to to house of lords, swanned around whitehall for a few months and then given up the ghost (or is that goat?). What has he achieved while in government? Then again he did get out before the green shoots of recovery started sprouting.

  • Comment number 80.

    Just as in the physical world there is a 'court of public' opinion, then likewise here ... a 'court of bloggers' opinion, if you wish.

    One wrong step in these blogs and ones reputation, such as it is, could be shredded forever.

    I've sailed close to the wind a few times myself so I guess the moral is, be careful what you type because you could be metaphorically 'toast' in an instant.

  • Comment number 81.


    If it was coherent I might have responded differently.

    As it goes! scaffolding on rooves?

  • Comment number 82.

    Try not too hard into kidding yourselves that what the former Trade Minister Lord Jones said about the dehumanising clicking culture of "if you are my can do....." and the so called irresponsible and corrupt and so called "networking" trends and more recently the working in "Partnerships" initiatives and the "me, me, look at me or blowing your own trumpet" ethics of work AND lets not forget Academia, are no so true and painfully close to the mark.
    It simply is!
    It's happening right now!
    Across any governmental orientated organisation, including the NHS.
    Why is this occurring? Again simply because too much tax payers money is being thrown around to "unlimited" fat cat budget holders who in the majority of cases stiffle any degree of correct reason and proper action and functioning of any division.
    There is no accountability, rule of law or code of ethics.
    It stays with the who is my friend and who will tow the line and who will not say anything.
    And they do not say anything,
    BECAUSE financially is better being part of the dehumanisation machine ....controlling everything .....because it pays the good lunches, the good old expense accounts, ....etc.
    Sounds familiar......
    Yes, you know is TRUE......
    But heck ....who cares?????
    Zimbawe, Burma here we come we are pretty fast catching up with you! ... not long just wait a little longer for us ..... I love corruption! Great Stuff.....

  • Comment number 83.

    #71 spdgodofcheese

    Brown may have made a bad call by inviting Digby Jones into a ministerial position.

    But, surely, if you want to expand the thinking methods, you have to take a chance?

    I was brought up to believe that people in civil service (tax-payer funded) roles did a good job. Don't doubt that. Never did.

    But if governments hire people to do really useless things, you have to wonder. Not about the civil service - just about the idiots who need to hire people to examine completely hypotheses...

    I bet that any decent commercial management (that obviosuly excludes most bankers) would question why we - the tax-payers - have to pay for all those advisors around ministers.

    Brown is now talking in billions. A billion here, plus a billion there, and it soon amounts to a reason income...

    I bet that you could take GBP20Million out of ministerial advisors and make no difference to effective government.

  • Comment number 84.


    Clearly the points made above regarding your Profumo post are too subtle for you.

    Just to be clear therefore, you should withdraw what you wrote at 63, and an apology wouldn't go amiss as well.

  • Comment number 85.

    jrperry, If your unhappy with the post then refer it? Look, what he did after the deed is of a latter reference.

  • Comment number 86.

    #63, 78 derekbarker

    Mandelson (Twice, third pending)
    Blunkett (Twice)

  • Comment number 87.

    6. thecuckoosnest

    Some more Oymorons for you:

    Public sectors workers

    Ministerial accountability

    PrimeMinsters question time

    Labour Party mainifesto

    Peter Mandlesons disclosure

    Gordon Browns Prudence

    Ohh Im off to bed.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    85 derekbarker

    You wrote an historically inaccurate, pejorative post about a man who earnt back the respect that he had earlier shed by his own actions. You did so in order to make a cheap political point. A point which was therefore incompetent.

    There isn't any point in referring it - it doesn't actually break any of the forum rules. For example, it isn't libel, since the man is now dead.

    I think your thoroughly rotten post 63, the subsequent reasonable criticism of it, and now your disgraceful inability to apologise for it, serve as a suitable monument for the final shattering of the last vestiges of your reputation as a blogger.

  • Comment number 90.

    I agree with Digby all the way. I've worked in the both private and public sector and I have to tell the commentators on here that the pay is most not less than the private sector.

    There are a significant number of low paid roles but the pay is no different from equivalent roles I saw in the private sector. This endless bleating about public sector being paid less is frankly a complete myth the began in the distant past but certainly doesn't apply now. For their overall package public sector workers are compensated well enough with the real public sector fat cats only existing really at the civil service top. At that high level the civil service employee really has their piggy face in the trough.

    That said, the fact remains there is gross overstaffing and real privilages in particular the inflated pension that those in the private sector can only dream about. There will come a time when that resentment of public sector employee benefits boils over forcing the government to change the benefit structure.

  • Comment number 91.

    I worked in the Border and Immigration Agency for a year, and I agree with Sir Digby. It's the worst atosphere I've ever worked in, but the plave is staffed with great people.

    But managers seem to favour radical motivational fads (all of which cost a fortune) over traditional management methods and thus have little connection with the staff who process all of the work applications from real people.

    This leads to a worse service. People stop trying, instead working to hit the bare minimum targets and filling the day according to their pay- which is set to a very basic 12-14k. Not exactly inspiring.

    Yet good people do their jobs every day, trying to make something better. I couldn't take being treated like an idiot by the top level management, so I left. Being back in the private sector was like a breath of fresh air: I was welcomed to the real world again.

  • Comment number 92.

    87. At 11:12pm on 15 Jan 2009, CarrotsneedaQUANGO2 wrote:
    6. thecuckoosnest

    Shame! I was on the other thread and missed this lovely oxymoron game:

    Civil servant

    Nu Labour socialist

    Lord (sic) Mandelson

  • Comment number 93.

    the civil service are to productivity what Stalin was to democracy.

    More proof of Nulabours 11years of taking from the productive and giving to the unproductive.

  • Comment number 94.

    Nick ,
    I notice on your blog there have been quite a few comments on here about you overdoing the bias towards Labour, I wonder if you have a spare moment you could pen your comments.

    PS any updates on Mandelson and his mortgage or even his friendship with certain russians?

  • Comment number 95.

    Well done! Digby Jones,
    You have exposed some of the wasted unnecessary expenditure of taxpayer's money of non-performing parts of overblown departments of government on non-essential part of the economy, this has to be paid for by "hard working' non-governmental (workers in the productive part of the country). Someone who has the guts to say what many of the ordinary over-taxed non-guaranteed pensioned workers in the private think, has my admiration.

  • Comment number 96.

    89. , jrperry

    I'm sorry, but you are maligning derekbarker, who is in my opinion an acurate reporter of this sordid tale. I remember the case well, and there is no point in shooting the messenger. Even if Profumo was not dead, there could be no cause for crying 'libel' since only truth is stated.
    You write, in an earlier posting .....

    From a short time after his resignation through to his death, Profumo worked as a volunteer at Toynbee Hall (a charity working against deprivation in the East End). He actually started there cleaning the toilets, and required a lot of persuasion to take on a more prominant role. Most reasonable people consider he salvaged his reputation through his charitable work.

    Perhaps you will not find me reasonable, for I see something very disturbed in his anxiety to clean toilets. I have studied psychiatry, but here is not the place to expand on this. In certain conditions, the scourge can render the sinner a clean conscience, and the lavatory scourer obviously served this purpose.

  • Comment number 97.

    63 Derek

    Im glad you mentioned sleaze Derek, heres a list of your heros to chew over:

    night night

  • Comment number 98.

    |Concerning Derek and an apology for the Profumo comment.
    True to Nulabour they do not do apologies only blame.

  • Comment number 99.

    Dear Nick (All)

    Please do not go and start complaining about the openness of MP's over their expense claims.

    Nothing will change and there is nothing us tax payers can do about it, and they know that.

    This bunch of 'Honourable Members' have snouts well and truly plastered in our money and will keep on going until the end.

    Next election, DO NOT VOTE for anyone!

  • Comment number 100.


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