The surreal language of the Cabinet Office

Posted by on Oct 23, 2013 in Business, Writing
The surreal language of the Cabinet Office

The A-Z of office jargon in today’s Guardian is good fun, but it’s not a patch on the surreal language of the Cabinet Office. Here’s a selection, pinched from the Lexicon Guide to Contemporary Newspeak:

  • Legacy (leave a lasting): the next Government will pick up the bill.
  • Open Government: letting people see the bits of government of which the Government is not ashamed (cf national interest).
  • Tipping point: unquantified threat of future calamity used to justify vast current investment

Of course, you’ll find this kind of language everywhere across the public sector, but nowhere does it better than the Cabinet Office.

It’s impossible to imagine the bizarre world inhabited by their policy wonks (and yes, they really do say that); I’ve worked on Cabinet Office projects on and off for years, which gave me the chance to peep at this parallel world. It’s connected, through a labyrinth of corridors, with the whole of the north side of Whitehall, and there are probably tunnels running underneath as well. There’s a cockpit, a tennis court and (allegedly) secret apartments for long-ago mistresses of Cabinet ministers. This is where people drink jasmine-scented tea and talk about getting a piece of work done by ‘close of play’.

Perhaps I’ll pluck up the courage, one of these days, to write a book about it…

Photo: the old Admiralty Office, familiar to followers of Patrick O’Brien’s Jack Aubrey