Jackie is of course right to be disgusted with Alastair Campbell admitting that both he and the Prime Minister are clueless about computers. She is wrong to make any connection between this and their being employees of the state. Many senior managers in large UK organisations, both public and private sector, are incompetent because once their employers exceed a certain size their own performance becomes so uncoupled from the performance of their institutions that they might as well spend all day playing golf. Imagine someone at a large British company saying this sort of thing to one of its staff:
Yes, David, you and I both went to Durham together, you are as fluent in Managerese as Gavin in Personnel, you always pay your round when you get pissed with us on conference trips, and I very much appreciate the way you covered for me with my wife when the embarrassing business with Lesley blew up, so, normally, you’d be a shoo-in for a place on the board. Sadly, however, your IT skills aren’t up to snuff.
It is, as usual, about snobbery. Knowing how to use IT might result in the same kind of step up in personal productivity that learning to touch-type would, but typing’s for girls and computers are for nerds. Even hardcore, abstract, computational theory is narg* work. (“CompSci” is a still a term of abuse at Cambridge University.) Advancement is about “leadership”—and anything else we on the remuneration committee can think of that’s beyond objective measurement.
There’s also a connection between that kind of attitude and the most successful manufacturing centres in Britain being run by overseas management, but the US, for example, has its own problems. There’s a reason why anyone who’s worked in an American office recognizes the computer-illiterate Pointy-Haired Boss.
*[Not A Real Gentleman]