Excuse me but I wrote this a few weeks back.
I can’t begin to imagine how busy the Prime Minister is. It must be a full on twenty four hour a day job and of late you can see the strain on his face as he tries to grapple with global events. it would seem to make sense therefore, to try and reduce the amount of information that he has to plough through to keep him on top of everything he needs to know.
On the face of it then, asking aides to keep their briefing documents short sounds like a good thing yet I cannot help the feeling that there are other motives behind the wheeze from Cummings playbook. This is another example of control freakery. To hell with how important an issue is, brevity is the key. If there is too much detail to include in the report then simply miss it out as the message is clear, the length is more important than the content.
This cap on the number of words, or whatever other measure is being used, will lead civil servants to focus on style rather than substance. How the report looks will be more important than how it reads. Never mind the quality, look at how short it is. Instead of wasting the Prime Minister’s time, it will waste the civil servants’ time as everyone knows it is much harder to write a short report than a long one.
Then of course there is the punishment. Those who don’t tow the line will not have their reports read. Their efforts will have been wasted, their message will not get through and their points lost. It will be their fault should the Prime Minister not be briefed properly.
Dictating how a report should be written is a classic trick of the controller. Of course reports should be short enough to be read and understood easily but their length should be determined by the issue it is addressing. Some issues are more complicated than others and take more time and length to explain. Substance, in this case, is much more important than style.
At least the story made for amusing, if peculiarly British headlines.