Performance review

How to stay cheery in the face of management-speak

Star Radio

On Star Radio in Ely, the morning show presenter Ryan Taylor was mid-interview with the newly elected president of the Cambridge­shire Link: ". . . our role is to look at the issues that may arise and result in a number of outcomes, from ongoing pieces of work that have been included".

“Brilliant job!" said Ryan, batting off the staggering levels of Orwellian doublespeak with his youthfully high-gear neurospectors. "The easiest way to get into this is to establish what the Cambridgeshire Link actually is?"

“Well, it's a local involvement network, and part of a government initiative to . . . help communities have more of a say about how their health services are . . . planned and run." (Right now, I'm pressing my eyelids open and closed for long moments, trying to bring the physical objects on my shelf - a 40-watt bulb broken in its box, a wind-up tin penguin - into some kind of focus, hoping they will bring the rest of the world with them.)

“Gr . . . eat," tries Ryan, bravely. "And . . . how many task groups are there exactly?"

“There are over ten altogether. [Ten. Can you imagine?] We've investigated some areas of concern and various recommendations." Incredibly, Ryan remains unfazed. A 22-year-old who has clearly never once been caught in the vice of management-speak, he is super-alert. He's a person standing at the top of the stairs at a station, letting the cold wind hit him. (As opposed to me in such a situation - oh so easily defeated, lolling like a patient in rehab, allowing family members to barrage me with small talk about a school friend's wedding.)

“What force does Cambridge Link actually have?" asks Ryan.
“It's got . . . view and enter powers, which means members can go into organisations and
. . . look at something and make reports."
“OK," says Ryan, magically unbowed by this unstoppable linguistic evidence of the Power of the System. "Just to make this totally clear - if
I had a problem with my doctor or my dentist, would I come to you to talk about that?"
“No. Individual problems with hospitals are handled by the Patient Liaison Group. But if there are patterns coming up, we can deal with the patterns . . ."

And on it went, with Ryan one of the few presenters in the country able to project that thing that cannot be packaged: a little sprig of hopefulness just beginning. Someone knight the kid.

For two years now, he's been the best thing on Star Radio and it can't be long before the multiverse nabs him and the late-middle-aged women of Ely do their collective nut. Recently, when he complained (cheerfully) that someone in his block of flats had grassed him up for putting the wrong thing in his recycling bin, and he was thus facing eviction by his housing association, the torrent of support was frankly violent, conjuring the image of a thousand housewives trashing the kitchen, leaving only frayed electric cords dangling.

“Have people got nothing better to do than watch you putting things in your bin?" exploded Lorna. "And they're probably only jealous!" Another offered to clean his bin personally, or at least give him a lift down to the local dump. "Some people are horrible," came the protective bleat. "It's horrible, Ryan, it's just horrible . . ."

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 02 November 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Mob rule