Transformational Government

200806121114.jpg I was at GC2008 yesterday, to meet a few people and to catch Sir David Frost’s closing speech, “Behind the hype: how far has the public sector come.” The pitch on their website was:


What we got was 30 glorious minutes of stories about people he’d met, people other people had met and stories that they’d told him, and probably a few stories about people he’d never met with stories that had never happened. He was very, very funny. At the same time, he would get to the end of the story, start to make a summary point and then give up and tell another story. Plainly, at his age, he’s more comfortable with the anecdote than the insight. None of it was anything to do with his brief, but I didn’t mind at all and most in the audience didn’t seem to mind – although a few left at various times (somewhere else go go folks?)

When it got to Q&A someone decided to get him back to the point and asked “What do you think of transformational government?” The questioner had a slight accent – I’m guessing Persian but maybe I’m wrong and, anyway, he was perfectly clear.

The exchange that followed was:

Q: “what do you think of transformational government?”

SDF: “what is my position on government?”

Q: “no, what do you think of transformational government?”

SDF: “positional government?”

Q: “no, transformational government”

SDF: “informational government?”

Q: [louder] “transformational”

SDF: “informational?”

Q: [much louder] “transformational!”

SDF: “informational?”

Before we descended further into a Monty Python-esque script, someone at the front of the audience rescued us by saying “transformational.” His answer was interesting. He felt that:

– There was a need for less spin (he was clear that he didn’t think this was an invention of New Labour, but actually of Sir Bernard Ingham who, I think, was Margaret Thatcher’s Alistair Campbell, or press secretary)

– That Parliament had to matter more

– That people had to want to be engaged

It was interesting that after 50 years of meeting world leaders, inspirational people, sportsmen and women, celebrities and non-celebrities alike, his first thought on transformational government is that Parliament has to matter more.

As a wrap up, asked who he wished he’d interviewed that he hadn’t, he said “Dennis Thatcher”. And then told two very funny stories about him. The first story was:

SDF was at a dinner to honour Margaret Thatcher after she’d received the [Presidential] Medal of Freedom (just after Gulf War I)

George Bush Senior made a speech and then Mrs T made a speech. Barbara Bush stood and and made another speech and, in turn, introduced Dennis Thatcher. Apparently Dennis T had never made a speech in public before, preferring to keep a low profile. He stood and said “As Julius Caesar said on entering Cleopatra’s tent for the first time, ‘I didn’t come here to talk.'” And then he sat down.

21 thoughts on “Transformational Government

  1. David Frost was brilliant in his day, but about five years ago, he interviewed Tony, and basically was walked all over.I\’m afraid, while he\’s a very nice chap, the lights are on, but…I.

  2. Ditto, it was disgraceful the way he would grovel in his interviews with Benazir Bhutto avoiding the obvious questions on state murder, corruption and embezzlement under her rule.What the **** does Frost know any transformation government matters? You may as well have asked him when he took his last Donepezil.

  3. I\’m not sure there is such a thing as e_gov anymore and its day is over. You can hardly propose that Gordon Brown has any form of change agenda that can be tagged e-anything.May David Frost is right and it is all about anecdotes and stories we used to tell about Tony Blair getting excited about e-stuff.Time to move on?

  4. Storm, what storm? Is Dave Frost missing something brewing? Cars, phones, fireworks and Microsoft. Starting to lose the point. Perhaps some blogs on croissants or hygiene wipes are called for now, given we have all run out of anything of substance to say about eGov now. Call it a day?

  5. anons … don\’t believe i\’m forcing you to visit.grateful for link(s) to your own blogs so that i can see what the current leading edge is.

  6. alan, there is no leading edge, admit it. This hype cycle is exhausted. The Prime Minister doesn\’t give a stuff about all this eStorm nonsense.Move on and stop hunting the eGov edge.

  7. I think David is a very nice man, and through the keyhole is good entertainment. So he going a bit senile, most of us will too.

  8. tonycall me a contrarian then. i do a lot of work with foreign governments and there is plenty of appetite, still, to learn the lessons of e-government\’s early days.i agree that the UK\’s current ambition – or at least published ambition – has reduced from that of a few years ago, but i don\’t think it will remain that way.and, all that aside, i like what i i said though, you don\’t have to read it if you don\’t want to

  9. I prefer Graham Norton to Sir David Frost, as he is a lot younger and doesn\’t dribble on camera. I don\’t know what Norton makes of eCabinet business, but perhaps Alan could invite him to the next conference to do another keynote. It may go a long way to getting a younger audience interested in the importance of using browsers etc to do their tax returns and find out what their MPs are doing in parliament.

  10. Watching Davina MacAll I hear that she is out of work when big brother finishes, I was wondering if she could do a series like BBC Click, but perhaps talking about egov and microsoft instead. She is a clearer speaker than David Frost and less of a pain than Graham Norton. Davina probably has drunk a lot of Chateau Palmer. Her agency must be using sharepoint by now and she would be a good ambassador for egov around the world and would give a mean sarky powerpoint presentation if she is anything like on tv.

  11. grateful for such comments. now if only i organised conferences i\’d have such a list of speakers to work from.and there\’s all you extreme commenters to invite as speakers – the audience just wouldn\’t know what to do with itself. or maybe it would.

  12. Oh yes, thanks blood, forgot, just goes to show how people can still be raking up old stories after 5 years at an eGov conference. Perhaps there should be an old story ban about eGov stuff like this of perhaps greater than two years? A year is a long time in eGov, so the Dennis story is really stretching credibility at a conference that people pay good money for. What a rip off.I see Todd Bishop reports that Charles Walling in Seattle recently got \”Windows Vista to work with printer\”, which is a much bigger story in my mind as it is being widely reported.

  13. Personally I don\’t get it, what\’s all this stuff about David Frost, eGov, car hire and other presenters?Topics as serious as this should get back to basics less we confuse third world governments on the importance that all UK citizens must have Microsoft Passport certificates online so we can tax them when the Exchequer is out of cash, like now. Forget Sir David Frost, surely Alistair Maclean Darling and Steve Ballmer (my mate) are where the future of eGov action is? Get MS Passport and dot Net rolled out pronot before that Cloud nonsense confuses us or Burma gets there first!!And don\’t get me started on Vista printing, grrrr …

  14. Jimmy Carr was on tonight talking about Windows 7 and whether or not it would be the new eGov paradigm shift. Thought he had a point when he was saying that Web2.0 wasn\’t doing the business. Apparently Carr was saying that MS7 will deliver Office over the Cloud onto pdas and games consoles.Cloud based software must be good news to save money in the public sector, who need the cash for inflation matching pay rises.Anyway, that was Jimmy Carr – good guy.

  15. I think it is easy to knock E-Gov but given I renewed my car tax online as opposed to queueing up inside a smelly post office with bundles of paper, I am all for the progress already made. The same goes for my annual return at companies house, registering for vat and filing my personal tax return. All so much easier than they were not so many years ago. As I said to my partner last night, it\’s the little things that count and until you lose them, you don\’t realise just how far the\’ve grown.

  16. They are shutting down our Post Office this week after the charade of a consultation exercise. The little things that would count for normal people who don\’t use computers would be a local smelly old post office, whilst you posh tarts stay at home online.The e in eGov by the way stands for elitism over the discarded customers of our dead local PO.

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