I am doing some advisory work for a business that is being taken over, although my work is nothing to do with the takeover and I will be long gone before it completes, but I get to see some of what is going on. The acquiring company has a method of communicating with the acquiree's staff which is either incredibly incompetent or a masterstroke in subterfuge.
The "timetable" for what the two parties call "transition" (a polite word for shafting half of the staff) is presented at staff meetings as an incredibly compact and unreadable slide which is accompanied by the words "I won't go into all the details here, but you can download electronic copies later", which of course the staff rarely do, and most of those that do never look down at the bottom right hand corner of the chart which tells them when they find out if they still have a means to pay their mortgage.
I am still trying to work out whether this was deliberate or just plain incompetence.
But I was struck by the same thought today when I heard Bob Ainsworth mention the likely date of the next General Election on the Andrew Marr Show. With a slight hesitation in his voice (as though he was struggling to remember his lines), Ainsworth said that voters might regret voting Conservative if they did so on May 6th.
OK, first thought is that this is just bumbling fool Ainsworth who can't be trusted to keep a secret. But the second thought is, well that is probably what Mandelson and Brown want you to think, so they got Ainsworth to say it.
But that means Mandelson and Brown want you to think that the the current government would be more competent than the alternative, so that, for example, we can trust the Secretary of State for Defence with military secrets.
Which of course we can't if it turns out that the election will be on May 6th. But if the election is on another day, Ainsworth will have done his job brilliantly.