The European Business School was packed with luminaries and students from all over the world, including the Middle East, keen to hear a Treasury minister talk on 'The Business of Development'. In other words, how Britain is doing its bit to help the developing world. At the last minute, Paul Boateng dropped out and sent Dawn Primarolo, the Paymaster General, instead. The audience didn't know until she walked on stage.
She started well. A little icebreaker: 'Trust me, I'm a Treasury minister - responsible for your caring, sharing Inland Revenue.' We laughed. And then it all turned to worms. Her head went down as she tried to make sense of a classic over-written 30 minutes of tightly typed civil service speak.
It was overblown and obtuse, with statistics used like sledgehammers to bludgeon the audience. It was all delivered in a shrill, faux caring-and-concerned voice one imagines the ideologues of social work reserve for their less bright charges. All the tired words were there in spades. I swear 'partnership' was mentioned a couple of dozen times.