Saturday, 8 October 2011

Government 'advice' from the thick and the dead

I had to laugh at I know by now you’ve read this in what passes for a local press, but I feel obliged to quote from the original, as presented to the press to regurgitate whole. Because, unlike certain public notices (see (Oh ‘L’) someone in the Chief Sickbag’s office WILL check closely, and if ‘independent’ reports are cut, so future government advertising may be.
This kind offer, on the surface at least, invites mere plebs to become public representatives on advisory bodies. Except, as anyone who’s ever encountered either the drawn-out, secretive and (frankly) dishonest application procedure or the kind of freaks who end up on these committees can tell you, it does not.
The thing is, the Chief Sickbag’s office draws up a list of ‘suitable’ candidates (generally over-the-hill figures from the ‘special interest’ groups who civil servants have accepted ‘free lunches’ from over the years) and the current one was agreed with the last Council of Ministers. This is only vaguely hinted at in any COMIN minutes, because the Chief Sickbag writes them.
Procedure requires that there is then a’public invitation’, unwelcome responses to which inevitably get ‘lost’ before the Chief Sickbag presents the names of those appointed to a future COMIN meeting to rubberstamp. In the case of the public bodies in theory considered later, the process is even more opaque. Frankly, if you can count to ten, haven’t subsidised a ski holiday for a senior government figure and/or aren’t gaga already, don’t waste a stamp or rack up a phone bill.
For example, I remember talking to one MNH member with enough self-respect to step down before his short term memory was completely shot (unlike, for example, an old biddy on another cultural advisory body who was marked present at meetings for around two years even as staff in her nursing home tied her into her chair to prevent her wandering off). He swore that, at one point, some members were so sedated and the need to rush new policy through so urgent that their silence was recorded as votes for the motion. I even wonder if, like Jeremy Bentham, the stuffed bodies of deceased members are wheeled in to make up a quorum, though I doubt if they’d be marked “present but not voting” as Bentham famously is at UCL meetings marking major anniversaries.
There was also the day that a senior figure in the heritage racket was rescued in Strand Street by a concerned bypasser, having not set foot there since the first mid-80’s redevelopment. Even as he was escorted onto the nearest bus back to Arcadia, he was still muttering ‘I’m sure you just turn left at the Dog’s Home…..’
(For those not old enough to remember, the Dog’s Home was a legendary 1980’s pub - one of the few where individualists of all ages could feel secure and rednecks never came to drink. It was the key building in a block of small businesses which was knocked down under a secretive planning deal involving compulsory purchase, eventually providing the site for the current Marks & Sparks. Few, if any, of the owners got enough compensation to continue elsewhere.)

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