It is often observed that dogs resemble their owners which, if true, would make me a handsome black chap, friendly to everyone he meets, always thinking the best of everyone and eager to please, absolutely none of which is true of me (nor, indeed, and perhaps fortunately, do I pee on every bush and rest my head on visitors’ knees under the table). Have you noticed, though, that public servants somehow acquire the characteristics which suit their jobs? Or perhaps people who look like that gravitate to jobs which suit them.
I first observed this when, for reasons now lost to me, I was standing one day near the doors of DEFRA as the working day began. As I watched the little civil servants scurrying in for their day’s paper-shuffling, I was strongly reminded of being taken to Barnstable Market as a child, where we would watch the sheep being herded into pens or onto a lorry – that nervous look as they scuttled round the corner was just the same, and I half expected them to make silly baa-ing noises as they came along the street. In a moment or two they would be at their desks, chewing contentedly amongst their in-trays, safe from the exigencies of real life for a few hours, devising forms and drafting petty regulations to keep them in work until pension-time. Chewing grass and turning it into sheep-shit appears positively useful by comparison.
One expects photographs of Home Office civil servants to have a prison number printed under them. This stems, I think, from their immersion in unlawful activities – fiddling crime statistics, for example, or lying about reconviction rates. It must get to you after a while, this constant evasiveness, living a lie all your life.
Over at Education, they are like Primary School kids – a constant stream of new ideas and shiny initiatives, but no notion of following things through, of learning from mistakes or of doing better tomorrow. Every day is a new opportunity to do something different, and there is that child-like lack of responsibility or blame – if this experiment doesn’t work, we can do another one tomorrow.
The Treasury makes you think of treasure and thence of pirates – not the cuddly Hollywood variety, but the cruel, callous ones of reality. Let’s close this hospital and deny people that treatment. We could make the shares in Network Rail or Northern Rock valueless and simply steal the assets – who cares if a few grannies lose their blouses? If we tax pension funds then a lot of people will suffer reduced pensions but they will get used to it. Our own pensions are secure.
Of all the images of illness or disease which might characterise the civil servants at the Department of Health, the one which comes to mind is obesity. Bloated with public money, they stagger along, unable to move quickly, to change direction, or to control themselves.
As for the people at the Department of Transport, they are as thick as bitumen as it pours onto the road, as slow as a train taking commuters to work, as dim as an unmended street light, as welcome as a hole in the road.
And so it goes on, public money pouring into services manned by people who would be unemployable in the private sector. The outputs from my dog are more valuable than the contribution made by most of these people.