Thursday, February 01, 2007

Do they think we are all that stupid?

Abraham Lincoln, a somewhat controversial political leader but, nonetheless, an infinitely greater man than any of our own present-day pygmies (with apologies to the real Pygmies who probably do not want to be compared to David Cameron or Gordon Brown), famously said:
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Alas, there seems to be a conspiracy among the politicians, the media and great and the good to believe that this is not so. You can fool all of the people all of the time, they say, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

Given that politicians need our votes and newspapers need our money, one would think they might try a little harder to understand what Lincoln actually meant. One would be wrong.

On page 1 of the Business section of today's Daily Telegraph, usually the only readable part of the benighted newspaper, is a picture of the Boy-King and his usual half-smirk (as opposed to his usual serious frown with lower lip pushed out) handing over some sort of a prize to a much more presentable young lady. Well, let's face it, most people are more presentable than the Boy-King.

The title of the article? "Anti-business sentiment" attacked by Cameron. Excuse me? This is the David Cameron who at a moment's notice decided not to address the CBI, preferring to get some photo-opportunities in Iraq? The CBI may not be all that one would wish but it is one of the most important business organizations in this country.

Is this the David Cameron who told us in his plummy accent that he was not going to support big business? Is this the David Cameron, whose Shadow Chancellor, Georgy-Porgy Osborne, refuses even to consider cuts in corporate taxation?

I very much fear it is the same David Cameron, who, for some reason, believes that none of us will recall any of this and, therefore, will simply nod our heads as he attacks anti-business sentiments.

He is not alone in his firm belief that everybody in this country, apart from him and his friends in Notting Hill and among ever fewer Toryboys of both sexes, is completely stupid and suffers from permanent amnesia. (You don't believe me? Well, how do you explain him publishing an article, not written by him, natch, that assured us all that he was Thatcher's rightful heir, just a few months after informing us that he saw his task as moving the party away from Thatcher's ideas?)

As one reads further, one finds that the very presentable young lady is receiving the Daily Telegraph/Jaeger-Le Couttre Business Personality of the Year award.

What has this young lady done? As it happens, she suffers from a number of physical handicaps and seems to have overcome them in a highly admirable fashion. But that is not what the award is for.
She was nominated for her work at Somerset county council, where she has spearheaded a programme to improve facilities for disabled staff.
Very admirable, I've no doubt, but how is that a business achievement? Let us see what the Boy-King mouthed on handing out the award:
I think one of the ways we get over that is by building up business heroes and heroines, entrepreneurs who have done great things to show the power of creativity and enterprise in a market economy.
Miss Lucy Wilkins (pictured - on right) has shown no powers of creativity and enterprise in a market economy.

In 2005, our Lucy was on Somerset County Council's Apprenticeship programme. She now works as a clerical assistant in the Council's "Frameworks" team and has completed her Advanced Apprenticeship in Business & Administration. She is the Disability Representative at Somerset County Council.

Worthy though this may be, she is wholly taxpayer-funded, working on various projects that may or may not have been useful. Money wrung out of those who are trying hard to show powers of creativity and enterprise and are thwarted at every turn by high taxes (to pay for local council projects, among other things) and high regulation.

Nor, indeed, is she any stranger to awards ceremonies. Last year, she gained the LSC annual Apprenticeship Award and was feted at the London Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, where her award was announced by the BBC Breakfast's Natasha Kaplinsky and Top Gear's Richard Hammond.

Now, does the Boy-King as well as the Daily Telegraph and Jaeger-Le Couttre think we are all so stupid as not to understand the difference between a business persona and a county council employee, however admirable?

Out of interest, I had a look at the others who had been short-listed. What power of creativity and enterprise have they shown?

Derek Browne has had "a successful career as an investment banker", not necessarily a sign of creativity and enterprise but at least it facilitates business. However, these days he “spends his time helping young people learn about the business world so they don't miss out on the opportunities available to them”. Hmm. Well, all right, it is quite useful, though one assumes that it is more taxpayers’ money being spent. And, of course, we do not actually know how successful he has been in his activity.

Sean Sutcliffe, who clearly never stood a chance of winning the award, is co-owner of Benchmark, "which started as a small design and woodworking company in the 1980s and turned into a company with a multi-million pound turnover". Now that is the sort of person this country needs to honour and encourage.

Julia Felton and Polly Gowers, who have set up a search engine, which seems reasonably efficient and donates fifty per cent of its gross income to charity. Well, fine, that is their business but they actually ask the searcher to nominate a charity of his or her choice. Seems rather a cumbersome way of giving money. If I want to donate to a charity, I do so. Surely, that is the point of giving.

Ram Gidoomaal, a Kenyan-born businessman (business unspecified), who "retired at 40 to dedicate his life to charity and last year became chairman of the Refugee Council". More quangocracy.

Professor Peter Guthrie (what does he profess, I wonder), "a civil engineer, 25 years ago set up RedR (Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief), which supplies trained staff for governments and NGOs around the world".

Terrific. Of the six short-listed candidates only two can be said to be in business. The rest are in the business of spending taxpayers' money.

Do they really think we are all that stupid?


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