In which I offer advice on how to be a government

Well it’s all been a bit quiet over here in blog world for the last few weeks. This has been for the simple reason that I have been super busy. Some weeks I have had to go to work on more than one day. You can only imagine the level of stress and exhaustion this causes to a silghtly flakey freelancer like myself.

However, it has come to my attention that, in my absence, the whole government has got itself into a terrible mess, which would appear to be pretty much entirely of its own creating. Thankfully I’m back and ready and willing to offer some simple tips on how to give at least the appearance of competence whilst in government. Obviously I’m entirely qualified to do this, based on my years of experience as Queen of Narnia. Running a medium sized country is a totally transferable skill. (Please note: some of the experience relayed in that paragraph may only have occured inside my mind).

1. Don’t draw attention to stupid stuff that no-one cares about

So imagine you ran a country where, for reasons forgotten long ago in the time of dragons and crusading and the like, VAT is paid on some items of takeaway food but not others. Imagine as well that, in the rules governing takeaway VAT, there was a whole lot of guff about ambient temperatures, and what constitutes freshly baked and whether food is to be eaten straight away or at a later point. Clearly these rules are not the best thought out regulation ever designed, but, unless you draw attention to it, no-one cares. No-one is marching on Downing Street demanding reform of the unfair fried chicken VAT rules. No-one is camped on the moors building stockpiles of VAT-free pasties to feed their anarchist army during the long years of civil war ahead.  By drawing attention to this issue you would simply pull yourself into the great big pool of stupid, and that is not the right image for a competent government to project.

2. Never express a (spin doctor pre-approved) “personal” preference on anything that isn’t a direct issue of policy.

Don’t comment on what your favourite biscuit is. Never disclose the contents of your iPod. And definitely, never relay in any sort of detail the precise circumstances of the last pasty you consumed. Primarily this rule is in place because, as an electorate, we simply don’t believe you anyway. Announcing that you’re partial to a jammy dodger doesn’t make voters think, “Well my nan likes jammy dodgers and she’s delightful. Clearly this bloke must be an ok sort.” It makes us think either, “Well, that’s stupid. Jammy dodgers aren’t chocolatey,” or “Hmmm… I wonder how many focus groups it took to identify that the jammy dodger was the biscuit that projected just the right level of empathy with the little people.”

And definitely don’t make up pasties that you “bought”. Because you didn’t. If you’re the Head of Government for a medium-sized nation, you don’t go on trains and get stuck at Leeds Station and realise you’ve missed lunch and end up buying an overpriced pasty because there’s nothing else available that you can confidently identify as food. You travel with an entourage – with security people, political advisers, civil servants, and other minions. In the circumstance of needing sudden sustenance on a journey one of those minion’s minions would be dispatched to cater to the party’s culinary whims. So when you’re asked when you last had a pasty, just point out that that’s an inane question and move on. There are 1001 things that you don’t regularly experience personally that it’s still entirely acceptable for a Prime Minister to have policies about.

3. Remember it’s “Don’t Panic” not “Panic”

In any sort of crisis, shortage or other small impediment to the continuance of the nation’s daily routine, the only real role of government ministers is to appear on television looking reassuring and telling people not to panic. The NOT TO bit is quite important there, and it’s particularly important to remember that panic isn’t really measured on a continuum. One is either panicking or not – it’s intrinsically tricky to occupy a state of moderate panic.

So, if a hypothetical government responded to a planned strike by fuel tanker drivers, by advising the populace to “top-up” their fuel tanks, that would be fairly silly. If everyone tries to top-up on the same day, there’ll be no fuel left. Weirdly, that government would have managed to cause exactly the same effect as, for example, the fuel tanker drivers going on strike, without the tanker drivers having to actually go on strike. You would, in that situation, have become the first government ever to undertake a trade union’s strike action for them. Thinking about it, as a dyed in the wool leftie, I should probably be applauding the effort.

4. If all else fails take a break

Fortunately for the current UK government parliament is about to break up for Easter (I know – parliament breaks up for Easter and Christmas and for a really really long time in summer – it’s just like public school). This does mean that the media are temporarily distracted from your stupid policies. All you, as a politician, have to do now is get through the holiday period without any embarrassing holiday fashion photos cropping up in the Sun. I’m sure they won’t though. I mean you’d have to have really annoyed a major media tycoon for them to bother chasing after those sorts of pictures. Ah….