You know it ain’t gonna work when people can’t express themselves clearly.

I’ve had a go more than once about the inability of senior people in the civil service to express themselves in plain English (for example, in the civil service competency framework).

Now another example comes from the very heart of how the government communicates – the government communication network.

They’re changing how they work. To a layman like me it looks like reorganisation and centralisation, no doubt to good purpose.

But the announcement of the change, in the name of civil service head Sir Bob Kerslake, continues the tradition in government of management gobbledygook, ironically this time since this is about and for people whose job is to communicate.

In a short statement of no more than 370 words, Sir Bob or whoever writes on his behalf perpetrates a number of verbal infelicities

  • new core competencies for government communicators
  • talent management
  • better integration of digital into everything we do
  • a beacon of best practice and innovation, focused on raising the quality of everything we do
  • a new governance structure, and our old friend
  • clear career paths.

So everything’s going to be better now.

This thankfully short missive ends with the message from the main man that

I am determined that we get this right and will be following developments closely.

No ‘Good luck,’ no ‘I know you’ll all do well.’ Just ‘I’ll be watching closely.’ That couldn’t possibly be read as a threat, could it?

Doubtless the annual performance review of Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communication will be covering the issue.


As a long-time conference survivor I’ve had more than one blast on this blog at these sometimes meaningless events, including my feelings about political keynote speakers – often sold as the main reason for your ‘essential’ (humph) attendance.

My e-mail this morning brings me an update from a young person just embarking on a public service career and attending their first big conference:

The Minister of XYZ was speaking. It was quite funny seeing everyone flapping about before he arrived then him turning up with a 10 strong entourage straight into the VIP room. Then ushered into the hall to give a 10 minute speech and then straight to his car and away. No looking at posters or speaking to delegates. It actually seems a bit pointless him coming because he doesn’t gain any insight about what’s happening at the conference.

Well, well…plus ça change etc. The politico concerned can tick off another point of engagement with the troops, the civil servants can hustle him off self-importantly to his next engagement, I can settle down to the latest episode of The Thick of It. After all fiction is more entertaining than real life, isn’t it?


 

There’s an old song lyric

It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it

 

On that basis I guess you’d have to concede that Barack Obama is up there with the best.

Take a look (not the whole 1 hour and 5 minutes unless you’re a real enthusiast) at his 2012 State of the Union Address to Congress.

I guess most people in the UK saw the tiniest clip from his speech on the TV news last month.  What that wouldn’t have shown is his mastery of public communication – the words, the pace, the body language, the eye contact, the back-up facts on the related presentation, the ordinary Americans up there in the gallery as Michelle Obama’s guests – the works.

Of course it’s all geared towards this year’s presidential election.  But based on this performance, how could any sane citizen not rush to re-elect the man later this year?

Well, I guess the answer lies in who the Republicans eventually select to put up against him, not to mention how the US economy does over the next nine months or so.

But they say incumbent politicians lose elections, opponents don’t win them.  And on this performance you’d have to admit Obama’s got a damned good chance of serving a second term.

In none of this, you’ll notice, do I comment on the many facts favourable to Obama in his speech and the related presentation.  But hey, what do you expect, there’ll be plenty who do that and after all this is politics.