Could I See the Job Description, Please?

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:

Osborne Meeting Notes

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?


The Future of Office Furniture

Over the past few weeks I have been closely monitoring my bathroom habits at work. On average I do 4.6 wees and half a poo at work every day.

A round trip for a wee takes 107 seconds. A round trip for a poo takes 343 seconds*. This means every day I lose 11m 4s of valuable work time going to the bathroom. I work about 225 days a year but 5 of them, a full work week, is spend going to the bathroom.

The number of people employed in the UK is 28.82m so we are losing around 664,000 years of work time every year by people going to the toilet. Imagine if somehow we could get this time back. Imagine the boost to the economy if overnight we added 664,000 person-years of work to the economy annually.

I have a solution. Office furniture.

Specifically, I have designed a new chair. For the most part it is the same as a standard office chair with variable height, arms and lumbar adjustment. However it has one key, built-in feature not found in the current generation of office chairs – a toilet.

Just take a moment to behold the beauty of this suggestion. Office chairs with built-in toilets.

There are two key benefits:

  • 664,000 person-years of work extra in the economy every year
  • Cheaper office space (since you don’t need to pay for floor-space for bathrooms)

There is one down-side however:

  • Someone in the office might do a smelly poo

I have thought about this problem at length and have solved it by making a small adjustment to the chair design. I would have one of these built into the arm on every chair so any worker could quickly avoid embarrassment with a simple press of the button.

The chairs would not be cheap but given the boost in productivity they would easily pay for themselves in a few months.

Although the office is the most obvious place for such a device there are many more applications. A couple of years ago on a flight to New York, I sank a few mini-bottles of wine and just as my bladder told me it was time to go to the toilet, we hit turbulence and the seat belt light came on. I spent the next hour in agony – unnecessarily in my opinion. The simple installation of toilets into aeroplane seats would have completely removed this problem. It would also mean that airlines could remove bathrooms from the plane and therefore fit in more seats. Again – they pay for themselves.

Our fragile economy needs a boost now more than ever. No party has shown us a policy which comes close to instantly add 664,000 person-years of work to the economy annually. Our nation’s financial ills will not be solved overnight by national insurance hikes or inheritance tax cuts. The solution is far more simple. The solution is office furniture.


* Note I did not count today’s disaster in the time keeping as it would have skewed the figures

P.S. Since writing this article I have trade marked The Stool Stool as the brand name for this product.