Inside the ECB spin camp
ECB media training headquarters, Loughborough, April 2014. In front of a small group of students stand managing director Paul Downton and captain Alastair Cook. They are holding very modern clipboards.
Downton: Right, guys. Thank you all for coming. Basically, Alastair and I have asked you here today to try and see if our core competences can help you reboot your communication strategies. So can I just get a few names?
Sir Winston Churchill: I'm Sir Winston Churchill.
Downton: Lose the title, Winston. Rather elitist ethics. Next.
Dr Martin Luther King: I'm Martin Luther King.
Downton: Great. Please give Alastair a fist bump. And you with the beard?
Moses: I'm Moses.
Downton: Mega. Love the way you've executed your surname-reduction skillset, Moses. Right, so let's align our progress drivers and get started. Now, Winston, I think you've prepared a little speech that Alastair and I have already assessed, but let's hear it as you intended.
Churchill: We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
Downton: Hmm, I see what you're getting at, but instead of "fight" why not say "engage long term as a unit"?
Churchill: Are you sure? I mean, I think it sounded better before.
Downton: Dear, oh dear. Alastair, tell him what Stuart said the other day.
Cook: Change can be exciting.
Downton: Exactly, Winston. Now try the whole thing again.
Churchill: Okay, fine. We shall engage long term as a unit on the beaches, we shall engage long term as a unit on the landing grounds, we shall… look, I'm really not sure this is working.
Downton: Oh, just get out then, Winston. This seminar room will be a better place without you, anyway. Right, Martin. Over to you. What have you got for us?
King: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
Cook: Good ethos.
Downton: Yep, very promising, but wouldn't it be more powerful if you said, "I have a dormant sensory experience"?
King: Yeah, er, maybe. But isn't it better to address serious problems by using plain language instead of hiding behind jargon?
Downton: You've clearly got rather a lot to learn about unity, Dr King. I think you should leave, too. Right. Let's move on, as Giles says. Moses, I see you've brought some visual aids with you. What are they?
Moses: Stone tablets.
Downton: Great. Well, off you go.
Moses: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal.
Cook: Good values.
Moses: Cheers. Shall I carry on? I've got ten.
Downton: No, that's okay, Moses. Let me just stop you there. Not bad, but I think you could really re-energise those tablets going forward by reading them in a jokey voice like one of the ones Swanny used to do in the dressing room.
Moses: I think you're being a tad prescriptive, to be honest.
Cook: Bit rich coming from you.
Downton: Exactly, Alastair. You can get out as well, Moses. What a shame.
Cook: Disappointing. I'd heard quite good things about those three, but if they're not willing to be man-managed properly, what can you do?
Downton: Sure, sure. Do you think I was a bit heavy-handed getting rid of them all, though?
Cook: Not at all, boss. It was a brave decision. Took guts.
Downton: Thanks, Alastair. Let's go and reintegrate ourselves into a fluid caffeine-based culture.
Cook: You mean let's go and have a coffee?
Downton: Yes, Alastair. Keep up. I mean let's go and have a coffee.
James Marsh writes Pavilion Opinions. He is also a Tefl teacher whose students learn superlatives by being shown Graham Thorpe videos