WHITHER the British Civil Service? You shrug and say: “Whae cares, ken?” That is a good point, well made.

But think about it. The Civil Service is an established part of, er, the Establishment, as is the BBC, which is also under attack by the new Tory Government. Like the BBC, it’s a British institution once lauded for its professionalism and objectivity but now suspected of being flaky.

Free market types resent the jobs for life and cushy pensions. As someone in favour of both, and indeed of most things that are at “the taxpayer’s expense”, I’ve defended the Civil Service in the past. But I can do so no longer, partly because I believe the quality of its staff has plummeted and partly because I’m currently filling out my tax return. In sunnier times, before climate change, entrants to the Civil Service would often be classics graduates – my kind of guys; that is to say, useless.

There were sensible exams to sit and straightforward interviews in which to demonstrate one’s charm. Then you were in. Today, graduates in gender studies are invited to sit psychometric tests designed by nutters and passed only by people who should be receiving treatment in benign institutions.

Thus, today’s Civil Service is full of folk whose main skills are speaking jargon and claiming that they’re Napoleon. They’re not even Josephines of all trades, as happened in the past. They are simply masters of nothing.

It is perhaps, then, no surprise that Downing Street is planning “seismic” changes. For example, mandarins will be made to sit periodic exams to ensure that they’re keeping up. They’ll no longer be moved frequently from department to department either, but will have to become quite good in one particular area.

For the awful truth is that our new political masters are insisting on – look away now if you’re of a sensitive dispostion – competence. This is a massive threat to the British way of life.

The impetus for this subversion is said to come from Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s senior adviser, who believes a permanent Civil Service is “an idea for the history books”, and that it promotes people “who focus on being important, not on getting important things done”.

Rachel Wolf, co-author of the Tories’ election manifesto, wrote in The Daily Telegraph this week that the revamped Civil Service will answer to yonder public instead of to “stakeholders” and will run “the most dynamic state in the world”. Whether this includes Scotland is a moot point. Our confused constitutional position is mirrored in the Civil Service here, which is divided into a London-answerable Scotland Office staffed by unionist spies and an Edinburgh-answerable Scottish Government bureaucracy staffed by politically correct, psychometrically tested nutters.

Back in Downing Street, meanwhile, Mr Cummings has advertised for “weirdos” and “misfits” to work for him. They’ll be left-field in a right-wing government. They won’t be “Oxbridge humanities graduates”.

It’s all very unsettling, or invigorating if you will, and would make for an interesting job interview. Readers experienced in these will have learned quickly that honesty is not the best policy. Alas, a slow learner, it took me ages to realise that I was doing myself no favours in telling potential employers truthfully that I was unreliable, didn’t respect authority, and detested working as part of a team almost as much as I hated using my individual initiative.

So, what do you do if you roll up at Number Ten with your Scotvec certificate in Hospitality and Hairdressing under your arm, and Dominic asks: “So, are you a weirdo?” Well, perhaps you could adapt the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby from television’s Yes, Minister: “As far as I can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another, in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, I cannot confirm one way or another at this present juncture that I am, or indeed am not, a nutter.”

On second thoughts, it might be best just to say “Yes, Prime Minister’s senior adviser”, and leave it at that.


STICK your heid in a spool for a minute and I’ll rewind you back to the 1980s. Mind you, the winding and rewinding of cassettes was never an exact science so we may have to make a few stops along the way. That was one of the maddening things about cassettes which made us all convert to CDs in the 1990s.

But, in 2019, the blasted tapes were back, fuelled by our insatiable quest for nostalgia. Indeed, last week, it was reported that auction sales of punk memorabilia were also going through the roof.

It’s not clear whether people are buying cassettes to listen to them or just to look at them while holding a glass of wine and a cigar. And the sales needn’t be over-hyped. According to the British Phonographic Industry (a nostalgic sounding title in itself), 80,404 cassettes were purchased last year. That compares to 83 million in 1989.

But, still, there’s something comforting in keeping old technology alive. It’s kinda steam-punk, I guess, and maybe also two fingers to the clinical, squeaky-clean stuff that streams onto our computers today.

I remain a CD man myself, distrusting the virtual world of the ether, where everything is nothing.


DISAPPOINTING figures about drinking at both the BBC and the House of Commons emerged this week, with observers suggesting the inmates of both institutions weren’t imbibing enough.

In the Commons, a total of £1.2 million was spent on booze between 2017 and 2019, down from £1.7 million in 2015-16. Not only that but more was spent on beer and lager than on wine and champagne, reflecting the trend whereby politicians of all parties are now trying to pretend they’re working class.

No such problem at the bourgeois BBC, HQ of the trendy metropolitan elite, where spending on prosecco and other sparkling wine doubled in the year to March 20219, a trend confirming that the controversial institution is now completely dominated by women.

That said, the total bill for alcohol was only £24,700, which is less than most of us spend on a typical Saturday night out in Glasgow.

It’s frankly disturbing to learn that our annual £154.50 licence fee is not being put to good use by our broadcasters, particularly when it is being squandered on prosecco which, in my experience, has to be drunk by the crate before you even start to cheer up and look for a fight.


THE headline in The Daily Star said it all: “25,000 idiots in London!” You say: “That sounds like a right under-estimate, ken?”

Well, maybe. But it is the number that made stupid, time-wasting 999 calls last year. One woman rang up to complain that her chippie had sent her three saveloy and chips, when she had only ordered one.

Then there was the man who rang up to ask what the time was, and another fellow who complained that the biscuits he’d just bought were past their sell-by date.

Thus our fellow man. According to the Metropolitan Police, many of the 25,000 calls were pranks, which is deplorable when it means serious calls can’t be taken.

I was going to suggest establishing separate dedicated numbers for saveloy (a highly seasoned sausage, my researchers tell me) and biscuit emergencies, but we already have one for the time and that didn’t stop one clot ringing 999.

The number for the time, by the way, remains 123. It’s said that many young people have never heard of it. But they should try giving it a ring. I’ve just done so. It’s very educational, even if the woman never listens to a word you say.

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