A New Direction

Drivers Wanted

Why is it that we choose our politicians based on the values and principles that they espouse, rather than on the experience and abilities that they can demonstrate? You wouldn't trust a surgeon to remove your spleen because they really believed that they could do it, even though they'd never held a scalpel. You wouldn't trust an airline pilot who fervently, passionately believed that they could get you to your destination without flying into the side of a mountain, even though they had never sat in a cockpit. What would happen if we hired people to do every job using the same criteria that we use to select the people who govern us?

We find ourselves in a beige meeting room where Mr Wheeler, the depot manager, and Mr Tapper, from HR, are interviewing candidates for the position of train driver. Already this morning they've sat through fifteen carefully rehearsed recitations about having to act under pressure, and an equal number of monologues dealing with what the applicants felt were their greatest weaknesses. Still, Mr Tapper remains upbeat and irritatingly perky. Mr Wheeler, on the other hand, couldn't be any glummer.

Thankfully the final candidate is about to enter. This is him now, knocking at the door. It is Sir Malcolm Buffer, formerly the MP for Bassett South, and one time Minister for Transport.

Tapper:
Please come in and take a seat. Let me see now... it's Malcolm, isn't it? Sorry, Sir Malcolm.

Sir Malcolm:
Yes, yes, that's correct.

Tapper:
Well thank you for coming to see us today. My name is Mr Tapper, I'm head of HR. This gentleman is Mr Wheeler. If you are successful today, Mr Wheeler will be your line manager. This is just an informal chat so that we can get to know you. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Sir Malcolm:
Certainly, yes. Well, as far as my education goes, I attended Eton, then Cambridge where I studied political science. Worked for my uncle in the city - investments, naturally - but always felt the need to serve my country in some way. Was elected to Parliament, where I served this constituency for twelve years, six of them as a member of the cabinet.

Tapper:
This is really most impressive. I have your CV here and your list of achievements is remarkable, wouldn't you agree, Mr Wheeler?

Mr Wheeler is silent, looking glum and unimpressed.

Tapper:
Well, Sir Malcolm, I expect you want to know a little more about the job. There are a number of aspects to the role, but primarily what we are looking for is someone to drive the mainline commuter express, Monday to Friday including a reduced service on Bank Holidays. So tell me, what first attracted you to the role of train driver?

Sir Malcolm:
Oh, I have always been very interested in trains. In fact, I think I went on one once, when I was younger. Trains are the long ones that run on rails, yes? Yes, thought so. Always loved trains, so when I left politics earlier this year, a career as a train driver seemed to be a natural choice.

Tapper:
Excellent, really excellent.

Tapper smiles at Wheeler. Wheeler scowls and leans forward to ask a question.

Wheeler:
Right. So, can you give us some idea of what experience you have had driving locomotives?

Sir Malcolm:
That is an excellent question. Really excellent. I do believe that experience is essential, and that is something I always tried to stress during my time in government. However, it's important to realise that it's not the only consideration. There is no substitute for passion and enthusiasm. These are the qualities that I brought to my parliamentary career, and I am now very keen to put these same qualities at your disposal.

Tapper:
That's marvellous to hear, Sir Malcolm. Really marvellous.

Wheeler:
Yes. But, returning to my question, what experience of train driving do you have?

Sir Malcolm:
I think the real question here is do I really believe in trains?

Wheeler:
No it isn't. It's what experience of train driving do you have?

Sir Malcolm:
And the answer is yes, I really do passionately believe in trains. Not only are they an important factor is this country's history, but they will be a vital and, dare I say it, exciting part of its future.

Tapper:
I have to say, Sir Malcom, it is refreshing to hear someone speaking like this in this day and age.

Wheeler:
Sir Malcolm, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you've never driven a train. Would I be right in that assumption?

Sir Malcolm:
Well, of course, you're free to draw whatever inference you see fit, and I respect your opinion. However, what I will say is this: sometimes we need to break away from tradition and adopt a new approach. It's all very well hiring a train driver to drive a train, but there are times when we need to cast the net a little wider. There is always a place for fresh blood and new ideas. I believe this is what I represent. I believe - I strongly believe - that in order to ensure that the railway industry thrives, we need to take trains in a new direction.

Wheeler:
As opposed to the direction determined by the track?

Tapper:
Well, Sir Malcolm, you've certainly given us a great deal to think about. Thank you very much for coming; we'll be in touch in due course.

Sir Malcolm leaves and Tapper shuffles through the application forms in front of him.

Tapper:
Well, I don't think there's any doubt about who is the best candidate for the job.

Wheeler:
Absolutely.

Tapper:
Oh yes, Sir Malcolm is our man, all right.

Wheeler:
What?

Tapper:
You don't agree? I think he has all the qualities we are looking for.

Wheeler:
He's never driven a train. He probably doesn't even know which end is which. Now, that bloke we saw second, what was his name? Here we go, Harry Ballast - he's been a train driver for thirty years. Incredibly experienced, blemish-free work record, excellent references.

Tapper:
But no passion. The man had no enthusiasm. Yes, I dare say he could drive a train but he doesn't inspire confidence. Sir Malcolm, on the other hand, really believes in trains. I trust him. I think he's good for trains and I'm happy for the future of our trains to be in his hands.

Wheeler:
I disagree. I've worked in this industry all my life. I started out as a train driver, I've managed train drivers and I'm responsible for every train that goes out of my depot, and in my experience - which is considerable - I think the best person for the job of a train driver is someone who knows how to drive a train.

Tapper:
Yes, well I went to Cambridge and I'm head of HR, and ultimately it's my decision. Sir Malcolm is the man for us; Sir Malcolm gets the job. Right, if we're done here I need to make a move. I'm seeing the Duke of Cumberland this afternoon about an exciting new role in the staff canteen. I think we might just have found our Head of Sausages.

 

Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2021

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