I attended a meeting organised by Tolworth and Hook Rise Conservatives on Friday evening. The hot topic was the Council’s plans for the improvement of Tolworth Broadway.
Much discussed was the consultation questionnaire the Council had put out to selected roads. It hadn’t been warmly received and, on reading it, I could see why. One was presented with a series of ‘yes/no’ questions to which it was almost impossible for a rational person to answer ‘no’.
I could almost hear, as I read, the conversation this would have provoked between James Hacker and Sir Humphrey Appleby:-
Hacker: I’m not very happy with this questionnaire, Humphrey.
Appleby: Oh really Minister. Why ever not?
H: Reading the answers I’m no wiser as to what people think of the scheme!
A: (smiling) Really Minister? Thank you, I’ll pass on your compliments to the Circumlocution Department. They will be pleased!
H: (indignant) It wasn’t meant as a compliment! Consultations are supposed to tell the Administration what people think………aren’t they?
A: Why ever should we want to know that?
H: So we can respond to their wishes and give them something they’d like!
A: (shocked) Really Minister – there are times…….(smiling again) We already know what they want better than they do. Consultation is about getting them to agree that they want what we know they want – or ought to want. It’s not about finding out their views, it’s about persuading them to either agree with us or keep quiet.
H: But that’s really all just a confidence trick on the public…….isn’t it?
A: (exasperated) Yes Minister!