If I were responsible for the global promotion of UK Inc., I would now
be reaching for the pearl handled revolver - and taking aim at
Switzerland. No, their blessed cuckoo clocks have not got on my nerves.
It’s their league tables.
I recognise that I am treading on sensitive soil. As one who sees
considerable merit in informing parents about the relative performance
of their child’s school, I am in favour of league tables. As a supporter
of Crystal Palace, I only wish league tables, measuring a season’s
performance, decided promotion to the Premier League rather than
moneyspinning play-offs. And as a non-executive director of a PR company
which, according to this organ, has been roistering on rose, I am all in
favour of PR Week’s agency league table when we move up it.
There is thus something to be said for league tables, whether as an
instrument of policy, a stimulus or a PR tool, provided they are soundly
based and the criteria are unswervingly applied. There may well be
arguments, as in education, over what you can read into placings, but at
least the chosen system applies universally.
But what are we to make of two recent competing Swiss commentaries on
the UK economy? The World Economic Forum (WEF) raised us from 18th to
15th place in a league of 48 nations whereas the Institute for
Management Development (IMD) dropped us from 15th to 19th. A day later
the OECD, representing the world’s leading economies, said ‘Britain’s
economic outlook could hardly be brighter’, according to the Guardian’s
If I were in No 10 Press Office, I would claim a 2-1 win, take the money
and run with it. But what’s the point? The OECD’s reports are known to
be vetted by individual governments. And the two Swiss institutes have
different ways of looking at things. Broadly speaking, the WEF has a
Thatcherite flexible, minimal government, open trading view of the
world. The IMD sounds like Shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown with its
emphasis on investment, skills and education. No wonder the UK is
bobbing up and down like a yo-yo in the upper middle quartile.
All that this elaborate Swiss exercise in looking at the industrialised
world through two different microscopes tells us is that we are doing
fair to middling, as they say in Yorkshire. Not bad, but nowt to write
home about. But that is not the image conveyed to battered Britons in a
nation - indeed, a world - where the only good news is bad news.
Still, it could be worse. I could be responsible for Germany’s
promotion. WEF has demoted the beef-banners from sixth to 22nd place
and IMD from fifth to 10th. Beware of league tables pointing in the same
direction. Thank God when they don’t.
Sir Bernard Ingham writes for the Daily Express