Simon Carr: Digby’s verbal mudslide takes care of business

The Sketch: Lord, the man can talk. It’s like standing under that Italian road sign that warns “Caduta massi”. Falling rubble
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The Independent Online

Digby Jones: Genial, energetic, saloon bar peer. One of the business people Gordon Brown brought in to show he was a broadminded, free-thinking, Big Tent consensualist. He’s called Lord Digby Jones now which is some recompense; people overseas like a title.

He was asked whether DBERR was a good acronym for his department. He was very heavy-going by this stage and I fell to doodling. The department had almost been called PENIS in a rebranding exercise, as I remember. Or was it KNOB? Some smart young civil servant had seen the name as it was being put up on the door (was it IVOR BIGUN?) and blown the whistle. The name was changed and the civil servant got two years. It was a lesson in the ways of government.

Lord Jones thought it was good that the word “business” was in there, and “enterprise” too. “I put my hand up,” he said modestly. Meaning that these words had been his own recommendation. No small contribution. But he’s said to be interested in his own brand so what about the Department of Industry, Growth, Business and … Yelping? I can’t think of a plausible Y. Maybe put Enterprise at the end and he could change his name to Lord Digbie.

Lord, the man can talk. It’s like standing under that Italian road sign that warns “Caduta massi”. Falling rubble. The whole hillside starts moving. “We are going to get through this recession. Head down. Batten down the hatches. Work hard. Do everything we can to get companies trading globally.” In the margins beside this, a note: “Idiot.”

Was that fair? There was to be 10 full minutes of this caduta massi so someone must be blamed. Peter Luff, the chairman? He was swept away. On and on Lord Digbie went, boosterism, business promotion, Jones-promotion. Heavy, relentless enthusiasm cascading down on us. We’re going to trade our way out of the recession. We’re going to lend our way out of the recession. We’re going to invest our way out of the recession. We’re going to manufacture our way out of the recession. What a lot of rubbish it was.

So just belt up for a minute, mush. What difference did he make at the DIGBIE in the 16 months he was there? “An uplift in morale.” But in what way was that an achievement? He showed them “how to strut their stuff with a little more arrogance, like the people from the Foreign Office”. FO! Now that’s an acronym.

But he is quoted as saying he wanted to sack half of them. “I didn’t say that.” No, he said the job could be done with half as many people and it was amazing how few people you could sack.

If he was taken seriously this would be quite wounding. But the only casualties, limping away, were us lot suffering from rubble wounds.

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