It’s going to be a hellish bad day (again) for many colleagues in all sorts of organisations. So this is for you as you contemplate the untruths that will be said about you and wonder what any of you ever did to upset the Cabinet Office.
Desiderata for public servants with notes on its practical application
(With apologies to Max Ehrmann)
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Lock yourself in the office, draw the blinds and don’t answer the phone. It’s highly likely that ministers will simply forget you’re there and you can go on serving the public. Defintely don’t surrender this lot look like they shoot their prisoners anyway.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
Speaking the truth quietly doesn’t actually work in a non evidence-based public policy environment so SHOUT AT THE TOP OF YOUR VOICE ‘THIS MAKES NO SENSE AND WILL END UP COSTING THE COUNTRY MILLIONS OF POUNDS’. Probably won’t work but you may feel better. Sadly avoiding the ‘loud and aggressive’ rules out any further engagement with SPADs, the Taxpayers Alliance, most tabloids but this will help greatly with the going placidly bit. The dull and the ignorant obviously applies to MPs generally and to the government in particular.
If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Don’t forget that the persons greater than yourself includes sterling public servants like investment bankers, hedge fund managers and retail entrepreneurs who undoubtedly deserve their remuneration packages. And their tax efficient ways of getting at them. So definitely don’t be bitter. Go on give them a mental hug. Unlike us public servants they’re not uniformly greedy and incompetent.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Try to get over the fact that your office syndicate didn’t win the Euromillions jackpot. There’s always next time. Make sure that CV is up to date and get your email alerts for jobs sorted. Don’t forget the Office for Budget Responsibility are forecasting that public sector job losses will be made up by exciting new opportunities in lots of places … almost certainly … not sure when … er, maybe.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Tell the kids Christmas is cancelled and do your bit – by cutting your spending – to ensure that the double-dip arrives smack on time. Don’t ever work on the premise that a pre-election pledge, even one that is signed, will survive the exigencies of becoming important and acctually getting to be in government. Remember that other ancient maxim: ‘greater love hath no public servant than they lay down their careers so ministers could look good.’
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Clutching your redundancy notice feel free not to laugh at the boorish jokes of the ministerial team or other assorted ‘change agents’ who suddenly appear to measure you up for your professional wooden overcoat. Special note: gracefully surrendering the things of youth does not mean giving the Chancellor anything he asks for.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Current public service is almost certainly likely to exceed your dark imaginings so go with them you’ll worry less.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
‘Wholesome discipline’ doesn’t mean any of the images immediately conjured up when you mentally associated the phrase with the words ‘Conservative MP’. Don’t forget that the coalition has a plan – even if (like the NHS bits in it) it was only kidding when it wrote it – so all the terrible impacts of their actions on you, your families and the public you serve have all been planned for, risk managed and their impacts mitigated. Through Prince 2 principles. No they have. Truly. Haven’t they?
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all it’s sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world.
‘Sham, drudgery and broken dreams’ applies in the following way in the modern public service. Ministerial concern for the public servants being booted out of their jobs: sham. Making colleagues redundant, closing down valued and valuable programmes and not publicly drawing attention to the many idiocies being perpetrated through ignorance and stupidity: drudgery. The vision of a prosperous and happy nation united in a common endeavour to secure the greatest possible happiness for the largest number of our citizens (the real Big Society): broken dreams.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Good luck with this bit.