A friend of mine does her 'Britishness' test today, to qualify to be a British citizen. One of the sample questions she has been provided with - apparently knowledge that no citizen should be without - is to define a quango.
It really is extraordinary, though perhaps not very surprising, that Whitehall Man believes knowing the meaning of government acronyms is one of those pieces information which defines Britishness - alongside knowledge of Shakespeare and all the panoply of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish culture.
I notice that this same narrowness of spirit is exactly the same in the privatised industries, proof - if you needed any more - that it doesn't matter if a business is public or private, it still shrinks the soul if it is too big.
The evidence: the decision by National Express to ban trainspotters from stations on the North East Main Line on the grounds that they are "a security risk". In fact, of course, they are quite the reverse: they know everything about railways, are inoffensive watchers and crime preventers, better than any security camera. But the bureaucratic mind believes they are untidy. I must remember to shun National Express in future.
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