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Saturday, 15 October 2011

Amateurish isn't the word

Politics is often called show business for the ugly, and in one sense it is easy to understand why. Show business people are quick to grab a TV spot to tell us not just about their latest show, but also how they feel about things (as though we should care), or even going so far as to harangue us about feeding the poor whilst they avoid tax.

Politicians too seem to become more vain and self regarding as soon as they are elected, not really appreciating that all they did was worm their way into a position that had to be filled in any event and most people would choose to not suffer the indignities and hardships that go with becoming an MP.  The consequence is that MPs tend to be singularly witless and untalented bunch. There was a time when a number of talented professionals would grace the back benches, holding down a reasonable professional practice whilst attending parliament and representing a usually compliant constituency.

In these times of economic complexity we need some talented MPs to run the economic side of government.  What do we have?  First off there is Mr Osborne, whose total economic experience was working in the private sector, folding towels at Selfridges.  Then we have Mr Danny Alexander, who did a year of E in his PPE course at Oxford, but has no experience outside politics apart from 2 years of  PR for the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

Ah but, next came Justine Greening who was an accountant!!!  But not much of one compared to the many thousands who qualify every year.  Before parliament she worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, GlaxoSmithKline and Centrica.  At the time that she was supposedly at the last firm, I advised them n several deals including the year long negotiation of 2 UK power stations.  I dealt with the FD, Head of Legal Affairs and his offsider, the Treasurer and his team, the Head of Tax and his team, and never once heard or saw any one called Justine Greening.  Straight from bean counting grunt to #3 in the Treasury team is not a bad move, but it speaks volumes for the competence of the rest of parliament.

But Ms Greening is now off to the Department of Transport (no doubt on the basis of Centrica's ownersip of the AA), and who takes her place?  Step forward the fragrant Chloe Smith, 29 year old alumnus of Deloitte Touche Tomatsu, another accounting firm.

But Ms Smith's career doesn't seem to have amounted to much.  She didn't work on the accounting side, but on the management consulting side where her financial experience will have been next to nothing.  In her 4 years at Deloitte it appears that she reached the giddy heights of "Analyst", and her page on the Treasury website says she used to work for "a leading international firm which advises private business, government departments and public bodies."  Sure they do.  And they also advise on choo-choo trains and doctors and nurses. But in her 4 years there following her degree in English Literature Chloe Smith probably did no more than prepare the spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations and hand round the biscuits in meetings. That is what management consulting analysts do - not that I would want a management consulting partner anywhere near the levers of power.

What is most depressing is that with the western world in a financial mess and probably terminal financial decline, the best that the UK has to offer is a bunch of third rate lightweights.


A K Haart said...

"the best that the UK has to offer is a bunch of third rate lightweights."

And now we seem to have reached a state where anyone with talent and experience doesn't fancy mixing with them.

Demetrius said...

Greening was the surname of Sir Edward Elgar's mum. Perhaps she can sing for her supper.