Move over Dragon’s Den. Tory Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude’s quest to find investors for some of the civil service’s wackiest ventures could prove to be entertainment gold.
He’s starting with the Behavioural Insights Team—better known as the Nudge Unit—that grabbed headlines last week with its made up quiz for unemployed people.
Some claimants were forced to take the unit’s “psychological exam” on pain of losing their benefits. But the results were the same whatever answer they gave.
The point wasn’t the result, but the idea that taking the quiz would make you feel more like getting a job.
The team of 13 shrinks and policy wonks is one of David Cameron’s pet projects. It gets £500,000 a year to dream up stunts like this.
Its other wheezes include getting courts to scare people into paying their fines through texts instead of letters, and paying B&Q to empty people’s lofts so that they would get around to insulating them.
The idea is that “nudges” like this make people more likely to do what the government wants, while feeling like it’s their own decision.
Maude wants to spin off “dozens” of civil service teams as profit-making ventures partly owned by the private sector. For some reason he’s decided the nudge unit can lead the way.
For that he needs to find an investor. After last week’s negative press that might not be so easy—so we can’t wait to see what nudges the team comes up with to get the bosses on side.
Bad start for Universal Credit
The government’s new Universal Credit system for combined benefits didn’t get off to the best of starts last week, when its trial began in one Lancashire town.
Jobcentre workers in Ashton-Under-Lyne struggled to get past the login page. Then they found spelling mistakes in the menus and other IT bugs.
And how did claimants find it? Hard to say, as there weren’t any that day.
Universal Credit has been dogged with computer problems from day one, but it is supposed to be rolled out nationally in October.
Cop gets collar felt
If crime rates are falling, it’s no thanks to recently retired Dorset detective constable Peter Yeates.
He could face jail for stealing more than £5,000 worth of mobile phones and digital cameras from police stores since 2009.
Yeates had his own collar felt after the dodgy goods turned up for sale on eBay.
Diamond geezer is hiding in the rough
Shamed Barclays boss Bob Diamond has been trying to come over all shy now his banking days are behind him.
“I never set money as a goal,” he said in an interview last week.
“I think we live well, but it hasn’t been about accumulation.”
It’s not the first time this diamond geezer has tried to hide his light under a bush.
When he bought his £24 million New York penthouse, he set up a firm called “Novgorod” to do it through so it would look like it was a Russian oligarch.
l If you were going to let one of the world’s biggest banks off £20 million in tax, you’d have to have a pretty good reason, right?
Well, not if you’re former tax chief Dave Hartnett who overruled legal guidelines to let Goldman Sachs keep its hands on its cash in 2011.
“The risks here are major embarrassment to the chancellor” as well as to “you and me” he warned other tax officials.
The confused Sun wot ain’t won nowt
The Sun newspaper likes to make a lot of its ability to influence elections—or at least to get in with the winners.
Its front page famously bragged that “it was the Sun wot won it” in 1992.
But the Sun didn’t win nowt last week. Its extra-lengthy editorial, star columnist Trevor Kavanagh and a cringey spoof “photo casebook” ummed and ahhed about whether to ditch the Tories for Ukip.
“Vote how you like today,” concluded Kavanagh with a sigh. “It’s all swings and roundabouts.”
More media lies about immigrants
The Daily Express surpassed itself in racist scaremongering last week, with a front page warning that “migrants change Britain forever”.
It claimed that an “explosive” study proved “white Britons” would be the minority by 2066. But it relied on excluding a lot of Britain’s white people, for example if they identified as Irish.
Fashionable vultures circle anorexia clinic
Far be it for us to accuse fashion bosses of encouraging women to feel insecure about their bodies.
But doctors at the Stockholm Centre for Eating Disorders in Sweden have had to change the route of patients’ walks—to stop them getting hassled by modelling agencies.
Talent scouts hung around outside the clinic to recruit anorexic girls as young as 14—including one patient so ill she was in a wheelchair.