In the Court of King Crimson

It must be the change in the weather. I can't think of another reason why so many people are putting their foot in their mouths.

The latest is Cardinal Walter Kasper, who in an interview with a German paper said that "when you land at Heathrow you think at times you have landed in a Third World country". And this a day before his Holiness' visit to these sceptred isles. The gobby Cardinal now claims he was referring to the nation's  multi-culturalism - I think not. Anyway, his comments have cost him a trip to tacky Britain - he's found himself suffering from gout and has had to cancel.

We also learnt that Tony McGuik, Merseyside's  fire chief, addressing a seminar in June stated that he'd reduced his fire services' manpower by 40% and ended up with a more efficient service. He also thought that  sick leave was endemic. His comments were circulating round this week's Trades Union Congress conference and drew the expected responses. Now Mr McGuik has contextualised what he's reported to have said.

"Much of what I said about public services explained how on Merseyside we had managed to deliver a better service despite extensive government budget cuts and less staff, and this was a model that other parts of public service could follow.

"Many other public organisations are already claiming they cannot make similar reductions, and my concern that these services may be treated as special cases, led me to use inappropriate language.

"I am passionate in defending our service and in hindsight I used language which I now regret."

Total and utter bollocks.  

Then there's Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary for Tax at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. He it was who said, boldly and without qualification, that he saw no reason why his department should apologise for getting the tax coding of 8 million tax payers wrong.

Apparently, according to Big Dave, it's normal for tax authorities, not only here but throughout the civilised world, to regularly get lots of people's tax wrong.  

Big Dave, whose "Executive Committee portfolio includes Central Policy and Knowledge, Analysis and Intelligence" !!!!! made this unequivocal pronouncement in a recorded interview on Saturday. Nine hours later he was abjectly apologising. Now he really felt the pain, hurt...whatever... of the many miffed taxpayers who found tax demands for an average of £2000 thumping on their door mats.

These vignettes are a small part of a much larger drama. Can anyone forget BP's Tony Hayward's "crie de coeur" - I would like my life back" - after 11 oil rig workers had died in the Gulf conflagration.

The press will pounce on any "misspeak". So would I, except I hope I might hold back from eviscerating the poor bastards. However, it seems to me that the press are a bit like the owners of Rome's Colosseum; putting on shows that we, the plebs, crave for.

We just love to see our lords and masters brought low. In the past it might have been kings and princes, now we've democratised our contempt - middling managers and bureaucrats come in for some stick.

OK, I have little sympathy for the crassness of Dave Hartnett, but I can understand Tony Hayward's moment of truth. As for Butch Tony; well he's was trying to show that he was hard wasn't he - the manager who wrings  efficiencies out of a dead useless organisation. Wanker!

And the Cardinal? Would you believe that he won an award in 2004 for his lifetime's work on improving relations between Jews and Catholics?

It's the weather...or the media has woken up from its long summer sleep. Choppy seas ahead!


Anonymous said…
A friend works in Revenue and Customs. They are screwed if and when these staff-cuts happen. Screwed. They are already understaffed as it is.

Very same government who's trying to blame our economic woes on scapegoats - benefit scroungers and fraudsters - will give a great boon to those very people by making them near-impossible to detect. There just aren't the man-hours for the job of looking that closely at claims.

My opinion, they want to break the back of public services in order to have an excuse to privatise them later.

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