As Boris Johnson well knows, there's nothing like a classical quotation for giving orotundity the spurious impression of great learning, so here's my attempt to tell Gordon Brown where he went wrong
'The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must learn to work instead of living on public assistance'.
Cicero said that in 55 B.C. At least I was told he did, but how many of us can be bothered to check our references?
I used to like quoting Petronius (c. 50 A.D.) whenever the subject of NHS Reforms cropped up:
'We trained hard … but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization'.
It now appears that this quotation is not from Petronius (according to some hero who claims to have read his entire works) and it is now thought that it originated among disgruntled British soldiers occupying post-1945 Germany (Petronian Society Newsletter, May 1981). The true author is unknown. Never mind, the sentiment is true.
As one of the dwindling band of doctors who practiced in the NHS before Margaret Thatcher started the fashion for Reforming the NHS every 5 years or so, I can testify to the fact that more managers have not produced more efficient health care. So far as I am concerned the definition of a manager as 'a person who ages men' is spot on. The 3 greatest lies of all time are
1. 'I'll be working late at the office tonight darling, so don't wait up'
2. 'The cheque is in the post'.
3. 'I am your new manager and I am here to help you'
If I can't rely on Petronius, I shall just have to re-tell the story of the boat race between the NHS team and a team of novice rowers from Oxford. The NHS team were experienced rowers who trained hard and tried their best, but they lost by 10 lengths. They were discouraged and morale sagged, so a working party was set up to investigate the failure. It seems that the Oxford team had 8 people rowing and 1 steering, but the NHS team had 4 people rowing and 5 people steering. A team of management consultants was therefore asked to investigate this further and several million pounds and many months later they concluded that there were too many people steering. Accordingly they recommended that there should be only 3 people steering and 3 rowing, but there would be a director of steering services to ensure they were all steering in the same direction, a performance manager to appraise and audit the work of the rowers, and a chief executive officer to provide motivation and ensure that targets were met.
Another race was arranged and this time the NHS team lost by 20 lengths.The chief executive took immediate firm and decisive action. He suspended one rower whose work-rate was slightly below the average of the other two, sold his oar and spent the money on a 'blue-skies' think-tank.