Image by David Scullion
Everyday Lies

World Class

On a phrase used by people with brains of tinsel

This article is taken from the June 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

Whenever any British politician uses the word “world-class”, which is with lamentable and increasing frequency, the humble citizen would be well advised to replace it in his mind with “fraudulent”. At best, “world-class” is a phrase used by people with brains of tinsel; more often it is an attempt to mislead people into accepting a rotten present on the promise of a supposedly glorious future.

Politicians, alas, are not the only ones to bandy the word about. Their ultimate masters, the bureaucrats, attempt to give their langue de bois the aura of afflatus and use it freely. Here, for example (one of many), is the NHS Digital data and information strategy of 2016:

The mission the strategy sets out is to empower the health and care system to be intelligent in the way it uses data and information to drive improvements in health care, by delivering world class data and analytics services though the highest level of skills, expertise, tools, techniques and technology.

Ah yes, world-class data and analytics services, I seem to remember we have been here before. Were not £12,000,000,000 spent on a world-class information system for the NHS which was abandoned without anything whatever having been produced, except (I presume) substantial numbers of millionaires whose fortunes depended on their continued failure to produce anything?

In a sense, the failure was world-class, being of an almost unequalled scale. It was so large, indeed, that I almost took a patriotic pride in it. What other country could equal it? What other country could hold a candle to Britain for legalised corruption? When, therefore, any British politician offers us a world-class something-or-other, what he means (whether he knows it or not, though I think he mainly does know it) is that he proposes to make a small number of people very rich at taxpayers’ expense.

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