Friday, November 24, 2006

Spoiling A Good Joke

Timms in action - a shame nobody laughed

For waste obsessive types like Tyler, the highlight of Gordo's March Budget speech was when the entire House of Commons erupted in derisive laughter as he announced his latest Gershon "savings". Because as we've blogged many times, the Gershon programme owes more to the Marx Brothers than to anything remotely resembling the Real World.

So we'd been looking forward eagerly to his next announcement scheduled for December's Pre-Budget speech. We were even going to prepare a short preparatory briefing so everyone could share the joke.

But the swine has wimped out. He's forced his assistant- Chief Secretary Stephen Timms- to release the joke early so he doesn't have to do it.

Thus it was that a nervous Timms yesterday took the mike at a little known Whitehall comedy club and told his small invited audience of Guardian journos:

"A total of £13.3 billion in efficiency gains have been reported, more than doubling the annual savings recorded in the 2006 Budget. These savings include a gross reduction of 54,963 civil service posts and 10,574 posts relocated out of London and the South East. The figures show that the Government remains on target to meet its 2008 Gershon Efficiency Target of £21.5 billion in annual efficiency gains with a gross reduction of 84,000 civil service posts."

Stoney silence. Even when Timms threw in a risque ad lib about getting more "bang for the taxpayers' buck", all the Gruaniad hacks could think about was the "devastating impact on services already suffering after job cuts and privatisation".

Come on guys - lighten up. This is STAND-UP COMEDY... none of it is meant to be... like, real.

Take those "job cuts"- according to the Office for National Statistics, the Civil Service hasn't actually shed 55,000 posts. No, not at all. Since 2004 Q1 when the Gershon clock started ticking, the ONS says Civil Service employment has fallen by only 11,000 - only one-fifth of what Timms said (see here). As for the supposed money savings, Timms just says the first thing that comes into his head, because there's absolutely no independent evidence they add up to a row of beans (see previous blogs).

That's the joke you see. Geddit?

Gawd- you guys should get out more.

The problem is that Timms is just not a natural comedian like Gordo. It's like giving Groucho's best one-liners to that one who couldn't speak.

Can't they get anything right?

PS As I may have said before, long ago in a previous life I met Stephen Timms regularly. Although we are from different bits of the political spectrum, he always struck me as very bright and a very decent man. His views were always worth listening to. So I'm wondering if he can possibly believe any of this stuff. It would be very interesting to find out what he really thinks.

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