The Sketch: You know, I don't think anyone knows if there's anyone in the know?

Share
Related Topics

We're going to look back on this as a golden age for observers. MPs, committees, ministers, the Chancellor in charge of £700bn of taxpayers' money – they're all waaaaay out of their depth. They don't know – but the better ones know they don't know, and the best know they can't ever know.

As these huge structures such as regional development quasi advisory partnerships get dismantled or remodelled, people will be amazed at how they were ever allowed to grow like that.

So, Rachel Reeves, a new Labour member with a financial background, asked Vince Cable how much it will cost to disestab-lish one lot of the arm's-length bodies. Would it be, as suggested, £1.4bn (and no doubt more than is to be saved in the enterprise)? Ms Reeves herself didn't know, and nor did Vince Cable. It was "complex". But he would be "very happy to share details as they emerge". The redundancy payments, the legal actions under the Equality Bill, the employment tribunals' contribution... The data, the facts, the knowledge – they're all so dispersed as to make the comprehensive spending review unknowable. How many times did Vince say "I don't know"? I don't know. But it must be said he has a concise way of relaying the information. "I'll write," or "It's a good question, I'll try to find out the answer."

Gordon Brown used to take 10 minutes to reveal he didn't know, and only by answering a completely different question.

Vince may know he doesn't know. Some new members may not have achieved such enlightenment. But well done Adrian Bailey in the chair who discovered something from his questions. Something about no allocation having been made for the Regional Growth Fund. Whether that is good or bad, useful or not – it is at least knowledge. And it's wonderful how little of that there is. It's all a work in progress. Far from knowing whether it'll turn out well, we don't know what it is.

We need a new set of questions for the future. I don't know what they are. You'd have thought someone did – but they don't.

PS: David Willetts said that the university system felt it was entering "the valley of death". I hope that wasn't a reference to the Light Brigade's charge. There were surprisingly few killed for an event popularly believed to be a wipe-out – as few as 15 per cent of the Brigade died. The tertiary sector should be delighted to suffer so little. You'd think such educated people would find better imagery.

simonsketch@twitter.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Software Solution Technician - Peterborough - up to £21,000

£20000 - £21000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Solutio...

Supply teachers needed- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Supply teachers needed for va...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed Rand...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: eurogloom, Ed in Red and Cameron's Wilsonian U-turn on control orders

John Rentoul
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering