President Sarkozy, whose romantic rather than political activities have lately been to the fore (he still has a keen eye for the ladies) has instituted a new form of terror: each cabinet and junior minister is to be issued with a report card detailing his or her achievement of key performance indicators – that’s targets to you and me.

The Telegraph brings us this piece of intelligence:

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has enrolled a private audit firm to help assess his ministers’ individual performance and to hand them out “end of term reports cards.

Under the scheme – unique in Europe – marks are to be issued by Prime Minister François Fillon over the coming weeks to each of the 15 ministers in the eight month-old government. Every term, cabinet ministers will receive grades based on 30 indicators specific to their portfolio, while junior ministers will be marked for their results in 15 areas.

This is, of course, the target culture driven to its minimalist extreme. It will not work, of course, as we have discovered in this country with a Labour Government that lives (and will surely die) by its Five Year Plans and its targets for every facet of government delivery.

From the business of booking GP appointments (with which Blair was neatly ambushed during the last election) to the police picking on easily detected crimes to fulfill quotas, the cult of the target has swept British administration since New Labour came to power. The people for whom the targets have been set have largely discovered that they are a lot smarter than the dummies Blair and Brown have appointed as ministers and their civil servants and can find an infinite number of ways of fulfilling their quotas without actually doing a thing. The whole process is by turns subverted and turned into a meaningless farrago of statistics and lies.

So it will be with a string of hapless French ministers who will now find themselves being summoned to headmaster Sarkozy’s study with their report cards where they will doubtless have their backsides caned for failing to ensure that an adequate number of miscreants from the banlieux have been deported this month or for failing to thwart the import of British beef once more, or whatever ludicrous measure of performance is set.

Soon Monsieur le ministre will be seen scuttling down the corridors of the Elysée Palace stuffing blotting paper down his trousers. Each day he will sit in his office quivering with fear, turned into a piece of jelly by the prospect of a visit from the Prefects who have come to check that he has been doing his prep on time.

Those who do not measure up can then be made to write 1000 lines: “I must not louse up le patron’s chances of re-election”.

Just watch Brown pick this one up. Then he can have the pleasure of putting young Ruth Kelly over his knee and giving her a taste of the Scottish tawse when she comes up with a string of β minus reports. That ought to put colour in the cheeks.

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