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DIARY - TOULMIN SMITH

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It is a curious and lamentable fact of political life that ministers tend to undergo something of a Pauline convers...
It is a curious and lamentable fact of political life that ministers tend to undergo something of a Pauline conversion on being stripped of the ministerial limo.

The latest exponent is that former giant of what was briefly the DTLR, Stephen Byers.

On a particularly slow bank holiday, The Guardian turned over its front page to musings from Mr Byers about the need for limits on private sector involvement in public services.

The tone seemed to echo that of chancellor Gordon Brown's turgid speech in the Autumn about how certain activities must be off-limits to the City suits. But what odds Mr Byers uttering such thoughts if he had not been surgically detached from his red boxes?

It is one of the traditions of a British Spring that every May the BBC gathers together a galaxy of intellectuals and political commentators to lament the decline in turnout at local elections. But is the BBC itself already preparing the way for yet more beard-stroking from its collection of chatterers?

The corporation is running an otherwise entirely commendable campaign to inform listeners and viewers that they can catch up with BBC favourites they have missed by logging on to its website. As part of the campaign there is a blurb featuring a councillor calling on a resident to discuss disruptive background noise. She arrives just as an episode of The Archers (above) reaches an unusually fevered pitch. As the hapless councillor witters on about background noise, the poor citizen misses the climax of the show. If local government loses the Radio Four audience then all hope in terms of turnout is lost. Can the Local Government Association really stand by and do nothing?

According to Lewisham LBC head of personnel Andreas Ghosh the image of your average council worker is poor.

Research into the public's perceptions show the average male council officer is 46, wears cheap white socks and an old suit, and has bushy eyebrows.

Employers' Organisation assistant director Mick James is quick to prove his sock s are not white, and adds: 'I am not wearing an old suit and I am 45-years old and three months.'

On Tuesday morning it seemed some staff at Manchester City Council were struggling to get back into work mode after a particularly bohemian weekend.

The city should have been glowing with self-pride after a new economic health index gave it top-billing as the UK's centre for new bohemianism.

Seeking comment on this good-news story, I first battled a receptionist who insisted the press office did not exist, only to find after many polite enquiries that Manchester press officers were unaware the story existed. A toast to the death of shameless self-promotion.

If you wish to disseminate any gossip, please email me on

joshua.toulminsmith@lgc.emap.com

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