You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.” Bob Dylan.

Never could words be more apt to describe my return to National School of Government for the last two days to run a training course for twenty civil servants about negotiations in Brussels and UK-EU relations at an administrative level.

It’s the first time in more than 12 months I’ve run such a course and it’s been a shock to the system.

I’ve seldom blogged about it, but I worked full time for the National School between 2005 and 2007, running all sorts of training courses about EU politics. The school is the publicly owned training organisation for UK government, and I ended up there thanks to the old adage: those that can’t do, teach. The civil service, in the middle of the craze of Professional Skills for Government, could find no EU job for me, so I moved to teach civil servants about the EU instead.

After work for the school I’ve worked freelance, first in Brussels and now in London, and until the end of 2009 I still ran EU courses at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on a contract with the National School.

But between then and now things have changed. A new administration is in place in Westminster, and I have no practical experience working with it from the inside. This might not bother some trainers, but it bothers me. To put the situation right would require an investment of time that I simply do not have.

In short, I am no longer as good at doing this EU training as I once was.

So if those that can’t do, teach, then those that can’t teach to the level they once did, stop.

This does not mean I am moving away from training work. Indeed quite the contrary. I am instead re-focussing. Much of my training work in the last 12 months has been EU communications and social media training, and that work stream will continue apace. There’s even a new, dedicated page about it on my business website.

I will continue to maintain this blog that covers EU matters, and my knowledge of the corridors of power in Brussels is still OK (or at least it has not suffered). I’ll hence continue the little intellectual EU work I do for IHEI Geneva and Hertie School of Governance Berlin, but no more than that.

In conclusion, all of this is a wrench, but in professional life you cannot keep building a tower that’s ever more complex, ever more embellished, without endangering that structure itself. What was formerly good may no longer be so. It’s time to move on.

[UPDATE – forgot to mention – @simonblackley on Twitter is responsible for the Dylan quote!]

Photo: Raul Arantes “Belgrave Road”
September 17, 2007 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution


  1. It’s been a pleasure seeing you start out on training and watch you grow in confidence and expertise. Hope we can find opportunities to work together in the future. Nice picture of the National School!

  2. @Tony – thanks for the comment! I will always be grateful for your determination getting me running COM2 and EFFB courses for NSG. I leaned a lot thanks to that. I do hope there are ways to work together in future!

    As for the pic – it’s the only royalty-free pic of NSG Belgrave Road I could find anywhere online…

  3. It’s a bit like you can go back in the river but it wil no longer be the same river… Except this time it is more rather than the waters that have changed.

    Good to see a page about your training on social media. Thanks for that.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *