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Ten Election Promises to Sharpen Your Truth-Sense on

Every manager can use the general election to hone their general management skills. One of the core skills of a manager is to develop a highly tuned bulls**t detector: self preservation requires that you recognise nonsense when you see it. So the general election represents a wonderful opportunity to develop your bulls**t detector, because there is going to be a lot of it about. Here are ten claims you are likely to hear over the next month:
  1. We will halve the deficit in four years. Sounds tough. But with a little statistical magic, it is 100 per cent cut free and pain free. If you project 3.5 per cent growth a year with a 46 per cent tax take, then the deficit halves in four years of its own accord. And UK plc will still be losing money: what company would get away with a forecast like that?
  2. The other parties will cut vital public services which will lead to the collapse of the economy and the nation. Cuts in this sense often mean: we once imagined a 100 per cent increase in the budget, but now we will only increase it 50 per cent therefore there is a vicious 50 per cent decrease in the (planned but wholly fictitious and imaginary) budget. What company would survive with budget discipline like that?
  3. We will make prudent savings (unlike the vicious cuts of the other lot). Savings only appear when politicians want to spend more. Repeated efficiency reviews (such as the Gershon Report) have led to increased spending: any more politicians savings programmes will bankrupt us. And aren't all businesses meant to make savings anyway?
  4. We will cut out waste. So why is there so much waste to start with.
  5. We will protect front line services. What, precisely, is a front line service? And what does protection mean? Are teaching assistants and school janitors front line? Is that a commitment to keep index linked pensions and early retirement for civil servants? What would you say to a manager who based a budget on the vague promise of "protecting front line services"?
  6. We will invest for the future. We invest, the other parties indulge in uncontrolled spending sprees. We will invest in particular in the health and skills and social fabric of the nation: so investment is in reality current spending on the NHS, education and welfare benefits. A good trick for any manager to master: convince top management that your spending and losses are in reality investment for the future.
  7. We will not cut NHS, education, international aid or anything else which lobbyists make enough noise about. Which is great, except that if you want a 10 per cent reduction in government spending and you protect 50 per cent of your budget, then you have to find a 20 per cent reduction in all other budgets. And that really is difficult.
  8. We will spend or save or invest £2.5 billion on our great idea. Other parties will then claim that will wreck or save the economy. The economy is over £1,000 billion: £2.5 billion is the same as 25p out of £100. Rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.
  9. We pledge, are committed to and our priority is--. Promises, promises, promises backed up by no sanctions and no real measures. Managerial nonsense.
  10. The sound of silence. all good managers learn to listen to what is not said. No politician is spelling out precisely what they will cut or how. All the bad news is being left to after the election. What they are saying is "trust me--..I'm a politician" and then they wonder why they hear laughter echoing round them.
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