Sack 'Em, Radio 4, Monday<br/>What Went Wrong with the Olympics? Radio 4, Wednesday

It's hard to get the chop, even for an axeman
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The Independent Culture

Heard the one about the convicted axeman who won his case for unfair dismissal?

There's no punchline because it's true, as Winifred Robinson found out in Sack 'Em, an investigation into the rights and wrongs of the big push.

It wasn't a litany of let-go sob stories. The law favours the sacked rather than the sackers, and Robinson asked: is it too difficult to get rid of people, and do we do enough of it? She recalled the case a few years ago in which an environmental health inspector was jailed for an axe attack in a Preston curry house. It turned out he was also out on licence for murder, and the council terminated his employment. A tribunal decided proper procedures had not been followed, and awarded him two weeks' wages in compensation.

There's a lot of dead wood in the public sector, it seems. Gary Walker, a former CEO of a healthcare trust (sacked himself, as it happens, for daring to suggest that excessive emphasis on targets was endangering patient safety), said he had one hospital in his erstwhile empire which was basically a dustbin for all the rubbish employees no one else would tolerate. We're in couldn't-make-it-up territory here. "I think the public should be concerned about who's running their services," he warned.

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, co-writers of What Went Wrong with the Olympics?, could have done with more real-life couldn't-make-it-up stuff to fuel their satire set in 2014 which looks back on the catastrophe that was the 2013 (geddit?) London Games. I say satire, but it's just comedy, strictly speaking: satire demands a certain accuracy underpinning the laughs, but this was crucially undermined by the fact that, in the real world, 2012 preparations are bang on schedule and bang on budget.

There were some good laughs (I liked the sports minister questioning the legacy value of the Coliseum, since it was no longer used for sea battles), but for the show to succeed, the organisers of the bona fide Olympics need to be making a mess of things. So far, they're not. You definitely couldn't make that up.

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