After making his name promoting British business across the UK, Digby Jones was well-suited to promoting our industries overseas.
But his new job as the Government Minister responsible for banging the drum for UK PLC came as something of a culture shock.
He’d been used to working in the private sector while the Government position exposed him to the practices common in the public sector, and particularly among civil servants in Whitehall.
Discussing his 16 months as a Business Minister, Lord Jones warned that he had seen the soul-destroying effect holding down a junior ministerial job can have on politicians.Although he escaped the worst of it - partly because he knew he would be gone soon and didn’t need to worry who he upset - he saw colleagues adopt a habit of keeping their heads down and playing it safe.
And this was partly a result of civil servants refusing to work with Ministers who took any decisions which might be seen as risky.
In the private sector, taking risks could be the key to success, assuming they paid off. In the civil service, staff assumed they had a job for life, and saw no incentive to make difficult decisions, according to Lord Jones.
Perhaps one should point out, in fairness, that the private sector is hardly free of poor managers and bizarre working practices. Even the pressure of working in a profit-making industry doesn’t guarantee hard work or innovation.
But it’s clear that Lord Jones certainly wasn’t cowed into submission during his time as a relatively junior minister, as he told MPs that half the nation’s civil servants deserve the sack.
No less outspoken than ever, he has undoubtedly ruffled a few feathers with his latest comments. Long may it continue.