Thursday, March 19, 2009

Possibly the Worst Ministerial Interview Ever...

While I was in Oxford this morning, I was inundated with emails from people asking if I had heard the Today Programme interview conducted by John Humphrys with Education Minister Sion Simon. I hadn't. That will teach me for listening to 5 Live...

Anyway, I have now had a chance to catch up on it (listen HERE) and it is the most excruciating seven minutes imaginable. Sion Simon clearly hadn't briefed himself and was almost totally incoherent. It made David Lammy's interview on Today last week sound eloquent. Part of me puts it down to rank incompetence but there's another part of me that thinks they have given up caring. They know the game is up, so they don't see the point in putting in the hours.

Anyway, in case you can't listen to it, here's the transcript for your delight and delectation.

John Humphrys: That was Sue Rimmer ending Kim Catcheside’s report.
And with me is the Minister responsible, Siôn Simon. They’ve got a problem and it’s basically your fault isn’t it?
Siôn Simon: Well they, they have got a problem and I mean let me say I really do, I understand and I sympathise with the frustrations of colleges in this kind of position. There, there, there will be colleges who’ve invested money, who’ve borrowed money, even some that have started doing building works. And it’s, it’s right to say that the LSC has given in principle approval to seventy nine colleges which totals three billion pounds, would total nearly three billion pounds of Government money and that it’s clear that that level of expenditure can’t be funded in the current spending round.
And we’re quite clear, as Ministers quite clear, that that’s not acceptable. We, that we shouldn’t be in that position and that’s why we, we’ve appointed Sir Andrew Foster, the former Chief Executive of the Audit Commission to look in to how the LSC got in to this position, what we need to do immediately to get out of it and what we need to do in the medium term to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

JH: I’m a bit puzzled as to why you need this review led by Foster because your own man, Stephen Marston, was, was at the meetings of the Learning and Skills Council where these things were being discussed. I mean you know what’s been going on, you should have been kept informed.
SS: Well I think one of the problems, I mean we’ll have to, we’ll have to see the, the, the Foster review to know the detail of exactly, exactly what ...

JH: But wasn’t Mr Marston telling you what was going on directly …
SS: Well …

JH: … I mean he was at the, I’ve got the minutes in front of me and he was there.
SS: … well if, if you’ve got the minutes you’ll see that the, the minutes of LSC, LSC council meetings tend not over the course of the last year either to have referred to this at all or to have referred to it in very great detail. Only, only towards the end of last year, as far as I understand, was this being flagged up to the, to the LSC council.

JH: Yeah and they accepted that mistakes had been made.
SS: And, and it’s clear that mistakes have been made and that’s why we’ve appointed Sir Andrew Foster to look in to what mistakes, why and how we make sure that they’re not making …

JH: Well I suppose the, the point I’m making is it’s odd that you don’t know what those mistakes were given that your own representative was at the meetings where those mistakes were acknowledged.
SS: Well I think the point I’m making is that it, I think the LSC itself doesn’t know how and what mistakes have been made and why and that’s why we’ve appointed an …

JH: Well that’s extraordinary, they wrote the letters to these people, I’ve got copies of some of the letters here that they wrote to these people.
SS: I mean, we should be clear that although there will be some colleges in the kind of difficulties that you’ve described in your packages that what we’re talking about is, is future expenditure. There’s an ongoing college building programme. There were two hundred and fifty odd colleges currently being built now as we speak …

JH: Oh indeed.
SS: … and, and none of that, no college in those circumstances is being stopped or slowed down or frozen.

JH: But there are these seventy nine colleges, as you well know, who are …
SS: There are.

JH: … in very serious trouble, some of them as you heard there, you, you heard Mr Booth at Barnsley College saying maybe we’re going to have to go bust, we’re technically insolvent.
SS: Yeah well that, that mustn’t happen and there, there will be some colleges like, but I mean it’s, I don’t want to go in to the details of individual college projects now, but Barnsley for instance is a very complicated multi phased project and it, and isn’t, by, by no means typical. All I’m saying is I don’t’ want the impression to be given that this is true for all seventy nine colleges, ‘cause it, ‘cause it will be nothing like the case, although most …

JH: Varying degrees of problems clearly, but some are in very serious trouble and that’s clear.
SS: And, and where there are colleges in very serious difficulty, well in any difficulty, but certainly if there are colleges that feel they’re in any kind of a precarious financial position, they must go immediately, immediately to their local LSC and they must, they must make the situation clear and we as Ministers will expect the LSC to deal urgently with urgent situations.

JH: Because what they may do is go to court. And indeed the LSC has acknowledged here again, referring to the minutes, the possibility of legal challenges arising from their decisions. What will you do then?
SS: Well I mean the, the, the LSC say that, that, that as far as they’re concerned that the, that the legal position is, is, is absolutely sound and, and one of the …

JH: Well, they, they don’t seem to be sure with the, if members asked that a clear action plan be in place to respond to any legal challenges. I mean, they seem to be a bit worried about it.
SS: One of the, one of the impressions that I think was created in, in, in one of the earlier two ways this morning was that colleges in getting approval in principle have, have all but got final approval and, and that really isn’t the case. Approval in, in principle is the very beginning of the process and the …

JH: Well that’s what Sue Rimmer was challenging wasn’t it, very robustly challenging, she says it’s disingenuous to suggest that. And when you look at the letters that they have had you, you do wonder about it, I mean looking at the wording of some of these letters. I mean if I’d had that letter I’d think yeah, they’ve guaranteed me the money.
SS: Well they, I mean again it’s not, it’s not for me now to second guess the wording of the letters, but they, I mean they weren’t guaranteed the money. But, but in a way I don’t think that’s the point now. The point is that this, this programme has not been managed properly. We shouldn’t be in this state, that’s why we’ve appointed Sir Andrew Foster to review how we got here and how we get out of it and colleges that are in immediate difficulties of the kind that you’ve been highlighting then we will expect the LSC to step in and sort these problems out?

JH: Isn’t it ultimately the responsibility of the Secretary of State, I was going to say of you, but you’re a relatively Junior Minister, isn’t it the responsibility of the Secretary of State? Shouldn’t he be considering his position?
SS: It’s, it’s the statutory responsibility of the Learning and Skills Council as a non departmental …

JH: Who answers to the, the Secretary of State.
SS: … they’re responsible to the Secretary of State and Ministers who set the policy and it’s the responsibility of the Learning and Skills Council to administer these programmes and this budget and to make them work and to let us know if they’re going wrong.

JH: So who carries the can ultimately, given than clearly things have gone wrong as you’ve acknowledged in this interview?
SS: I think Sir Andrew Foster’s report will, when, when we have that report which we’re expecting imminently …

JH: Are you? ‘Cause it sounds a bit like buck passing doesn’t it? Let’s have an inquiry.
SS: No it’s, it’s genuinely not a, a buck passing, let’s have an inquiry inquiry. He’s a, a very serious figure. He was Chief Executive of the Audit Commission for a decade. He’s, he’s done by the standards of the scale of the project and the amount of, the complexity of the projects and the sums involved, he, he will have done a very fast report that we are confident within the next few weeks we can begin to give people, colleges in the sector some, some clarity where we go.

JH: All right, and, and in the meantime can you give an absolute assurance to all of these colleges that not one of them will be allowed to go bust?
SS: I can absolutely assure any college that’s in financial difficulty should go to their local LSC and we will expect the local LSC to urgently support them through any immediate difficulties.

JH: In other words they will not be allowed to go bust?
SS: I mean, you know that I can’t give you a …

JH: Well I don’t know really, I mean you fund the LSC, or we, the tax payer, fund it, but you dish out the money.
SS: We, we dish out the money to the LSC and it’s the LSC’s responsibility to administer it. It’s …

JH: You, you, some people might, I know it’s a bit of a cheap crack, but some people might say RBS, a bank like RBS is safe, Government guarantees that’s not going to go bust, we can’t say the same for our colleges.
SS: Well I am saying that we, we absolutely are, are not willing to see colleges go bust and if there is any college in financial difficulty they should go to the LSC who we will expect to work with them to make sure that they’re supported through any difficulties that they’re in now.

JH: Siôn Simon many thanks.

61 comments:

JuliaM said...

What an unbelievable train wreck of an interview! If he had a shred of self-respect, he'd be tendering his resignation right now...

pregethwr said...

Not a fan of Humphreys but on this occasion he did exactly the right thing - didn't lose his temper, didn't shout, just gave him the rope and let him hang himself.

Particularly bad since it was the 8.10 - the glamour spot.

Dr Snuggles said...

Makes Lammy look a genius.

Oldrightie said...

A Government of delusionists and twats, led by a ................

Cato said...

I've never heard this gavoon before and I'm so glad.

What a shambling oaf. My granny could have done better and she's been dead for forty years.

idle said...

It took me half an hour to realise I had not been dreaming, and then I posted on this straight away this morning. I reckoned it was a career-ender, but I may have to agree with you that they just don't care any more.

If this had been 1998, with the hard bastard Campbell running No 10, I doubt Simon would have lasted beyond the weekend.

http://www.cctvstar.blogspot.com said...

Be afraid...

ED BALLS SEEKS LEGAL POWERS TO REVISE HISTORY

titus-aduxas said...

That's it, then. After that performance, he's up for promotion..........

denverthen said...

I cannot believe this man is a minister.

Sorry, no, still can't believe it. I'm just....

No. That's it. We're finished.

All you need to know about this dimwit, overpromoted, student activist clown you can work out from this clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgM1TK_msVs

Remember?

Victor, NW Kent said...

Sion Simon is well known as the MP who gave twerps a bad name. He suffers from perpetual adolescence.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

agree Iain. The interview was a total joke. I can't believe how low we've sunk in this country.

apricotfox said...

It was shockingly,ludicrously bad and further undermined the last fraying shreds of credibility of politics in general and Labour politicians in particular. How ON EARTH did he EVER become a minister???
And, yes, it was a VERY smart move of Humphreys to leave him to hang himself...not that Sion Simon has enough wit to carry out that simple task. Dreadful. Shame-making. Only in Brown's Britain...

sunny said...

Sorry wait, I thought the BBC was a propaganda outfit for the Labour party!? I'm confused Iain!

Rexel No 56 said...

Ah, but will Master Simon be the worst performance by a Labour politician on the BBC today?

QT panel tonight pits dear Tessa Jowell against Ken Clarke, Vince Cable and Douglas Murray.

No doubt Tessa is there to comment on complex financial instruments and how they can get the unwitting investor into trouble if they don't read what they are signing.

R56

Unsworth said...

I agree - it was ghastly. I missed the beginning of the interview as I piloted the chariot around the one-way system - and for several minutes was convinced it was Lamy having a reprise on the wireless.

Still it was a fair indicator of the general intellect of these 'Ministers'. Woolas always gets me at it, too. I think they're the root cause of morning road-rage for Radio 4 listeners.

Mike said...

Kin Ell!

Don said...

This man is a total moron. That link to you tube still irrigates because of it's total lack of respect. It specifically winds me up due to the fact that he brings Camerons children into his pathetic preening, one of whom is now dead. The man is a skid mark on the sheets of life.

Don said...

irrigates obviously = irritates

Rexel No 56 said...

O/T but the Campbell special edition of the New Statesman is running a poll:

Do you agree the Tories don't deserve to win the election?

Surely a resounding Yes to that one from the NS readership?

Er, not quite:

32% are saying yes
68% are saying no

So either the left are getting real, or the NS is read by Tories or the average socialist can't cope with a double negative.

Childprotector said...

This is what happens when policy makers are also treated as responsible for delivery. Today should principally have interviewed the LSC, and then quizzed Simon on his governance of the Council. While it's good copy to focus on an incoherent politico, it's the LSC that is responsible for distributing its grant, so why was it not put on the spot?

Pip said...

Well that has closed off suppliers to Colleges ! What an idiot -I heard the interview and felt so ashamed that this specimen was considered acceptable to address the UK as a representative of our government. (sorry - Useless government).
If there is anybody left prepared to supply colleges I would be surprised as this lunatic has effectivey said if they go bust they can talk to the LSC but not government. In other words - you are on your own.

The Creator said...

Incoherent, rambling, ignorant and obviously incapable of stringing more than three words together.

And this a government minister.

Welcome to Gordon Brown's Britain.

Mazza1230 said...

Sion Simon has always been an utter goon. He really is not fit to be in charge of the proverbial whelk stall, then few of this miserable shower are!

GENERAL ELECTION NOW please....

subrosa said...

Iain do tell me that's a spoof of a Today interview...

Roger Thornhill said...

This is what happens when you have State control of everything.

When they screw up, everyone is sucked in. Each entity abdicates their responsibilities.

The state is not a security blanket, but a rug that they can pull from under you when you least expect it.

Cato said...

Did I miss the comments by James, Canvas and Chris Paul or did they pass me by?

Mirtha Tidville said...

sadly I`m old enough to remember last time this lot were in power and it gets more like 1979 every day....

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

The transcript doesn't give the full flavour of bungling incompetence. That only comes over if you listen to it. The man was completely out of his depth.

What a dearth of talent there must be in the PLP if they have to appoint clowns like this to ministerial office.

Ophelia Nobbs said...

If you've ever wondered what other bloggers have meant by the comment, "We're f****d," I think you might have some idea now.

yarnesfromhorsham said...

What a PRAT - made my toes curl - makes one feel so proud.Salary expenses pension - they really do earn it.

Still hopefully we will have enough money for the 2012 shambles. Clearly a good month to out of the UK

Stepney said...

This era will go down as a special one in the history of this country. With no exceptions whatsoever we are under the iron fist of the most incompetent, inept and inarticulate amateurs ever to have held positions of power. Nothing has been safe in their hands; no project has been completed well or on time or to budget. Their policies have led to deaths, misery and outrage. Somehow a bunch of failed student union politicians with no experience of the thing we call real life, and their poorly educated and lazy accolytes have got themselves in charge at the most crucial moment since 1939.

The history books will judge this era and the political management of it as the lowest of British history. Makes me quite appreciative of the Callaghan era in retrospect.

They really are a bunch of no-hope shi*es.

Son of boso said...

Sion Simon is a very sad man. I had no idea he had been made a minister. His appointment, like the return of the f***wit Draper shows Labour is truly finished

yarnesfromhorsham said...

On the other hand the interview could have been part of the next series of "In the thick of it" Sounds reasonable

John said...

Christ. David Lammy does look like a genius in comparison.

Where did ZanuLabour dig this turd up from?

WV = Christ on a bike

Jabba the Cat said...

@ Cato said...
"Did I miss the comments by James, Canvas and Chris Paul or did they pass me by?"


Lol...Jabba's thoughts exactly.

Alan Douglas said...

SS nearly caused me to give up the Telegraph when he was a so-called journalist on it.

My goodness, I might nearly give up the Labour Party too, if he carries on like this.

I heard recently that in the good days of A.M., no interview lasted more than 3 minutes. What a good policy.

Alan Douglas

Mr Grymme Harbinger said...

oh..my..god

Glyn H said...

I too heard the interview and found it most encouraging; if Gordon Brown (himself totally unsuited to Office) is reduced to using twerps of this calibre as ministers there is some hope that the electorate will come to understand quite what they elected in 1997.

And when Lammy was interviewed last week how did Sarah M manage not to ask him about the difference between Curie and Aintoinette?

Woolas is not much better, a sort of sub-Hoon minister for folding chairs (thank you C Mullins) but less flamboyant than Little UniBen.

But can Cameron find a full set without resorting to the Gummers/Spelmans/Mays and other detritous?

Paul Pinfield said...

If that clown (not you Mr Obo) had performed that poorly whilst I was interviewing him, I would have terminated the interview and called in the next applicant...

I mean, come on! No employer would allow that drivel to continue.

The game is over

tankus said...

Lot of lead pipes still left in Brum
.....explains the generational drop off in average IQ.
.... causing things like, annoying accents, considering spaghetti junction as road improvement,giving birth to Jasper Carrot and voting for an utter tool like Sion ,to represent them ...!

Maybe an ideal choice perhaps !
do you think that his gums bleed too ?

Jess The Dog said...

I heard it as well. It was utter pish! The most absolutely unassuring absolute assurance I have ever heard!

Mostly Ordinary said...

The made junction 10 of the M25 bearable this morning.

trevorsden said...

"SS nearly caused me to give up the Telegraph when he was a so-called journalist on it."

He had a weekly column as he was supposed to know the inner working of New Labour. It was very illuminating in the sense that it was clear he was a complete tosser.

As further evidence he apparently wrote this in The New Statesman back in Sept 07 (according to Wiki)
"Shortly there will be an election, in which Labour will increase its majority. That is a frightening responsibility. The young princes who now stride the parade ground with the confidence born of aristocratic schooling can never be afraid. They never have been. Like latter day Pushkins drilled in the elite academy of Brownian blitzkrieg, they are bursting with their sense of destiny. It’s not the Milibands, the Ballses or the Burnhams who are unconsciously nervous. This is the moment for which they were created. They are ready."

I presume this was the Magazine not the TV Satire, but I do wonder.

He also led (well fronted) the plot to get rid of Blair, so thats why he is now a minister.

But as I read it he was also amazingly an associate editor of the Spectator!

Richard said...

Where did you get that photo? It's even more embarrassing than the interview!

Old Holborn said...

HAHHHAHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

John Moss said...

Of course, Sion Simon is previously famous for this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yn4IpyVViw4

To which his response, when challenged on his crass and stupid behaviour, was this:

http://www.order-order.com/2006/10/sions-sky-meltdown-be-quiet-while-i/

Sion Simon is a complete, total, utter, absolute
................................

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Simon and Lammy represent the dregs of a Labour administration. Would you, in your right mind, appoint tossers like this? I can only suppose that no one wants the job, that is, no one with a scrap of dignity left wants to be associated with this sprout-farting rump of decay known as the Labour Government.

Gordon said...

He seems to have lost an awful lot of weight as part of his meeja training since the Telegraph employed him under some sort of care in the community project

The Beast Of Clerkenwell said...

Well....(bollocks)
Well.....(crap)
Well......(BS)
Sion Simong seems to be a total Hoon.
On the plus side(for him)he is going blind just like Gordon McMental, Imagine having to look at that face every morning whilst having a shave.
Probably explains why Draper has a face like a bears arse.
A slapped one.

pol-e-tics said...

Sion Simon was ever thus. Curious his website biography makes no mention of his less than distinguished role in the 90s as campaign manager at the European Movement. He always gabbled complete nonsense then. And now ... plus ca change...

Brummie Tory said...

Hi, I am currnetly the treasurer of the Birmingham Erdington Conservative Association. If anyone would like to help (in a financial way) to get rid of this cretin from British politics you can send us a donation!

At the last local elections we took the popular vote across the constituency, by a country mile!

If you would like to send in a donation you can either:

Write to - 113 Plumstead Road
Kingstanding
Birmingham
B44 0EJ
Email - gary.sambrook@googlemail.com

Call - 07500965040


Every little helps!

Nick R Thomas said...

Iain, I can't wait to read your review of Jody Marsh on This Week...

Tuscan Tony said...

...and yet around 30% of the populace thinks this not only acceptable but also the way forward for the next five years from 2010. Agree with your analysis - they know the game is up and its just a matter of marking time and racking up pension entitlements and expenses. How very sad, and what a lost opportunity for the country.

Dave H said...

I only caught the tail end of this interview but the sound of a man floundering helplessly is pretty unmistakeable.

It's impossible to believe that a man of this calibre could make it to ministerial level.

Perhaps its a reflection of Gordon's insecure nature that he surrounds himself with lightweights incapable of mounting a credible challenge to him.

Windsor Tripehound said...

Education! Education! Education!

And what do we get? Lammy and Simon. Good grief. But I suppose it's true that they could both do with some.

yarnesfromhorsham said...

Strange that its not possible to contact this idiot via his e-mail address provided on his blog. Only wanted to say "Resign you Prat" So much for an open society

Nick Martin said...

I blame DIUS for hanging out to dry a junior minister who clearly has next to no media experience.

We need to be a bit careful not to confuse competence of a Minister with their ability to pulll off an interview, this wasn't a paper review or a chit chat about politics.

Tony Sharp said...

Sion Simon was clearly operating at his real level when he made that infamous video in his baseball cap, uttering barely coherent slang.

When Labour came to power we gave up all pretence of a government containing the best and brightest.

Sunny in comment above: Can you not discern between criticism of BBC editorial policy in general and a blog posting about an interviewer being stunned into disbelief by the utter incompetence of a government minister, who was incapable of articulating his thoughts in English?

acadman said...

Amazingly, though he comes over as immensely thick he was educated at Magdalene College, Oxford....perhaps if he is going blind then he has trouble briefing himself properly, but then in that case he really shouldn't be a minister.

Any sympathy I had for him however was completely overshadowed by his awful columns in the Daily Telegraph right at the start of the New Labour era. For anyone who remembers them they showed what was coming in all its arrogance, cynicism and utter contempt for the electorate.

seebag said...

>> yarnesfromhorsham and anyone else who wants to email dear Sion - try
simons@parliament.uk
I've done so congratulating and asking him to keep up all the good work towards getting all these charlatans out

davidc said...

i too heard the interview and was forced to wonder if perhaps Sion Simon is part of a 'social incluesion programme'in which case sympathy rather than condemnation might be more appropriate.