The Sketch: Speaking in Double Dutch can't cover up the skills deficit

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The Independent Online

In a sensational innovation, Gordon Brown delivered his pre-Budget report entirely in Dutch. I think it was Dutch. No, that's a joke. It was Double Dutch.

In a sensational innovation, Gordon Brown delivered his pre-Budget report entirely in Dutch. I think it was Dutch. No, that's a joke. It was Double Dutch.

The language of the political class is framed to conceal their failure, their inabilities, their arrogance and incompetence, and it does so pretty well.

Gordon Brown says he wants to establish "a progressive national consensus" that will allow us to cope with the economic impact of China and India in the next 50 years. From the long gabble and babble of the Chancellor's report it's clear the opposite will be the case. Did you know the "UK-India Financial Dialogue" is to be "broadened to include private business"?

For three quarters of an hour, Mr Brown's dementia drifted in and out of focus. "Detailed guidance is being issued", he said, oblivious to the fact that it is detailed guidance that has got us where we are. He is also "maximising efforts to develop an infrastructure for co-ordinating research". That's the kind of sharp thinking that'll give us the edge on 500 million Asian science graduates (average monthly salary: $100).

And what about the moment when he declared the necessity of "employees recognising their responsibilities to take up the opportunities" for further training. How about that? Did you realise you had a responsibility to take up training opportunities if they were offered? A responsibility? This stricture applies to "every adult employee".

In addition, every adult "without skills" is to get a "skills check-up". "Yes, sir, we've checked you thoroughly. Your suspicions were correct. You are without skills." And this goes throughout society. The "continuous upgrading of skills by all" - all, do you hear! - is to be part of the "shared national purpose".

I'll have to get an NVQ Level Three in Sketch Writing ... or what? Face deregistration? Have my licence to sketch revoked? Have the Sketch out-sourced to Poona?

But, or so, Mr Brown enjoyed the admiration of his acolytes splashing money about with seasonal greetings. Those on incapacity benefit are to get a £2,000 bonus if they go back to work. Babies will get £250 each for their contribution to gross domestic product; their mothers will have nine months pay and their grandmothers an extra £50 "winter fuel allowance".

Councils, first-time home buyers, Liverpool, fathers, Professor Martin Cave and families with a joint income of £59,000 will also benefit from the Chancellor's generosity. Oh, and Newcastle, Manchester and York are to be designated "Science Cities".

The only surprising moment in the whole report came when he acknowledged that 30 per cent of the British workforce had "low to no skills". As they're so busy faking the school statistics they haven't time to fix the school system, so this is likely to continue.

If Gordon Brown could take his eyes off the sunlit uplands, if he could stop hammering out a national consensus, he might apply himself to explaining why people leave school unable to read or write.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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