how do we define “public-sector minded”? serving vs self-serving, perhaps!

Yesterday, I suggested that Francis Maude was being disingenuous:

No, Mr Maude.  You’ve got it wrong.  And at the very least (if I’m of a mind to be charitable), really not bang on the button.  For far too long (a notable some of) our defence and police forces have been run about as outside the public-sector ethos as you could possibly get.

There’s nothing public sector-minded about sleeping with environmental demonstrators, collaborating in phone hacking, shutting down investigations into paedophilia or torturing people to little productive end

Today, what looks like a sock-puppet account (no followings at the time of writing – though twenty-two “followers” and three-thousand odd tweets does suggest some kind of organisation) describes in a response to my piece that the above is tosh:

@zebrared What does ‘public sector minded’ mean? Was North Staffs public sector minded? Striking teachers – are they? Tosh!

The point is important.  I’d argue that the yardstick, the marker in the sand if you like, should be as follows: if the action being questioned serves the person or org carrying it out more than the voters, their friends and their families, then it’s not public-sector minded.  I’m sure even my complainant wouldn’t argue that a public good was served by “sleeping with environmental demonstrators, collaborating in phone hacking, shutting down investigations into paedophilia or torturing people to little productive end …”.

Or would he or she?

What about North Staffs?  A difficult situation, but if what was done or not done worked to protect the hospital’s institutional integrity from proper criticism more than serve its patients, in my litmus test as described it’d tend to more self-serving than serving.

Therefore, not of the public-sector mind being questioned.

Striking teachers?  Now you’ve got me; and closer to home.  Imagine a situation where the government decided unqualified teachers should be teaching our children (even as stronger controls over web usage were put in place to defend us from paedophiles and terrorism – undeniable challenges, as I made clear in my original post).  Or that schools and their grounds be sold off for derisory sums to private transnational companies.  It could be argued that such a government was failing (as it did with the sell-off of Royal Mail) to maximise public-sector value for money; that it was serving itself and its business sponsors far more than it was serving the public-sector sphere.

Wouldn’t it be possible to argue that, in such circumstances, where government was failing the “serving vs self-serving” yardstick, striking teachers could – by their striking! – just as easily be passing it?

You’re gonna say it’s quite not so.

There, I fear, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

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