Could I See the Job Description, Please?
14/05/2010 4 Comments
For the last two years, George Osborne must have been odds on favourite to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer and this week it finally happened. Strangely he doesn’t come across as having been particularly prepared for this event, and has spent much of this week wandering Downing Street with a look of utter bewilderment plastered across his eminently slappable face.
On Twitter, I recently parodied Osborne’s meeting notes from the first cabinet meeting:
However, joking aside there is surely a big concern here. The UK’s economy is in a bad way – The Office for National Statistics’ figures showed, as of the end of 2009, that the UK national debt stood at £950.4bn – equivalent to 68.1% of GDP. In such dire times, what skills and qualifications should the person in charge of the economy have?
Let’s do a a little quiz and compare the appointment with what would happen in the private sector when a bank is interviewing to appoint their most senior economist:
We have two candidates – let’s call them Gideon and Vince.
- Gideon studied Modern History at university. He got a 2:1, so we can safely say he is quite good at Modern History.
- Vince studied Natural Sciences and Economics as an undergrad before completing a PhD in Economics. Vince has also lectured in Economics at LSE and been Chief Economist for Shell – one of the largest companies in the world.
Q: You are on the board of the bank. What is your response?
Those of you who answered “Give Vince the job!” are in fact wrong. The correct answer is, “How the fuck did a history grad, with no experience of economics, get this far in our selection process?”
You may think this a harsh assessment, but I stress again the financial mire in which we find ourselves and ask you to bear in mind the importance of the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer in addressing this. My cynical side can’t help thinking the selection process was more along the lines of: “He may know fuck all about numbers, but he is my mate.”
Now you may think I’m singling out George Osborne unfairly. “After all”, you may say, “Teresa May knows fuck all about anything useful at all, and she’s in the cabinet.” This is entirely correct and I do not want to single Osborne out – more to use him as an extreme case of a general concern I have. Cabinet posts, while hugely important, rarely seem to be filled with the best person for the job. Should we not insist that our Education Secretaries have extensive experience of working in schools? That our Health Secretaries have extensive experience of working in the NHS, and that our Chancellors have extensive experience of finance and economics?
We will never know exactly what the decision making process was and perhaps there was a lot more to it than this but can anyone, hand on heart, say that George Osborne is the best possible person to take on such a crucial role at such a crucial time?