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”
Q: [much louder] “transformational!”
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.