Pickled TonguesWay back at the start of this blog, before we even unleashed it on the wider world, I wrote about the word ‘bi-partisan’ and the amount of air coverage it had acquired during Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign. As I type, Americans are queueing at polling stations in the mid-term elections that will probably overturn the Democrat Party’s majorities in at least one House of Congress. ‘Bi-partisan’ has turned out to be something that we haven’t seen much of, although it was perhaps always going to prove to be a word flagged more in hope than in anything else. Bi-partisan behaviour takes two consenting parties, and we all know how that’s played out. I’m just glad I didn’t type anything along the lines of ‘This isn’t going to be a tea party …’. But, if there was a lesson to be learned about leaders picking abstract concepts as watchwords, it seems our own leaders weren’t paying attention. We seem to be having a bit of trouble with ‘fairness’, don’t we?

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Now that it is clear that job losses in the public sector over the next 4 – 5 years will be measured in the hundreds of thousands, the economic gamble is – as many have commented – that the private sector can provide the new job opportunities to make up the difference. Its ability to grow at that rate given the circumstances shouldn’t be the only concern, although it is a perfectly valid one. And neither should we overlook the need to not just ‘take up the slack’ but to grow beyond that to accommodate those who will enter the job market for the first time and who will find few openings in publicly-funded arenas. The rise in state retirement age may also have an impact, as the queue for “dead people’s shoes” consequently grows a little longer.

The private sector will, sensibly, recruit those it deems most suitable to the opportunities it seeks to fill. The Equality Bill may, like the CSR, be upon us, but to expect companies to prefer (say) 50 year old former Council employees over (say) 23 year old MBA graduates is to expect law to have greater impact on preconceptions and behaviours than may turn out to be the case. But the impact of the private sector’s perceptions of the public sector is likely to prove more important in determining the latter’s former employees’ chances.

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