Thursday, September 27, 2007

The worse time of year for civil servants

Whilst all attention is focused on Labour's pre-election rally in Bournemouth this week spare a thought to the faceless masses left behind in Whitehall.

Whilst their political masters enjoy a week drinking and carousing by the seaside they huddle around their workstations, trying to get their News24 feed to work so they can watch, quaking with fear, Gordon make his big conference speech. What bright ideas have Number 10 dreamed up this year? whose carefully constructed budget is about to be blown apart by the latest ham-fisted attempt to shoot a Tory fox (MOD's it seems).

Although the PM's speech is the most nervy moment, nobody can sleep soundly until Friday. Even the most house-trained minister can go off-piste when left unsupervised for a week. They talk to backbench MPs, councillors, and even members of the public. After three glasses of warm white wine they assure them that they will look into their pet gripe as a matter of urgency, or that they are sure they can root around the back of the Treasury sofa and find a couple of million to pay for Mrs Miggins' new roof. Weeks later officials are forced to come up with ever more novel ways to placate the now irate backbencher who wants to know why nothing has been done about the copper pipe regulations of 1977. Without, of course, being seen to imply that the minister was pissed and just wanted to get rid of them so he could retire to his room to shag his researcher clear his red box.

Of course this year there has been added fun of election speculation. Will they, or won't they?

Bill teams who have spent a year working night and day, 7 days a week, to steer the vital Spatchcock Uprating (amendment) Bill past the Lords Spiritualand Temporal (House of Commons you say? well who gives a damn about that rabble, they can just do what they are told) contemplate it falling weeks away from royal assent. The goblins deep within the bowels of CLG mutter dark words about the sky falling if an election gets in the way of publishing the Local Government Finance settlement on time. And the gnomes in Treasury wonder if they will ever get to publish the Comprehensive Spending Review.

All in all about as much fun as being on the end of a negative NAO report.


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