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Gavin Haynes Sleepless Nights

The World Is Full of Pinheaded Weasels

And unfortunately for Danny Baker, many of them help run it.
November 6, 2012, 8:00am

Flesh stockings full of human pus. Is one of the few insults that Danny Baker left out of his final radio address for BBC London last week. He was being let go, poor guy, for being too old and costing the station money. He was 55. He'd been charging them 300 quid a show. The station was looking to make cuts, and some HR genius had suggested guillotining the guy who was just about to be given a special award for his contribution to radio.

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Unfortunately, someone else who is probably being witch-hunted themselves right now let slip to Danny that he was about to be ended, so he went on air as usual and spent the next two hours basting his bosses in all the ways he knew. They were "abacus men". They were "pinheaded weasels". “Great way to treat a guy who's had cancer,” he noted, laying his Big-C card on the table without much ceremony.

Radio is unique in that it can offer you the chance to barricade yourself away for a considerable amount of time, like a sniper in the clocktower, leisurely picking off your enemies and a few bystanders before anyone gets past the booby trap on the stairwell. Danny joins a long list of ex-employees who have pissed in the punch live on air. From the twatty South African newsreader who dropped 13 F-bombs in an on-air resignation statement last year, to Dave Lee Travis' celebrated outbursts against the Radio One bosses who decided that a man who called himself "the hairy cornflake" may have outlived his usefulness – an incident that was rather like an evolving hostage situation in a clown shoe factory.

Baker has joined the eternal pantheon of people who, for better or worse, lived out every office worker's fantasy, and spoke truth unto power. It's a dangerous game. I knew someone who sent his own final company-wide email that told the powers that be that they were shitcunts of a high order, named everyone who had been screwed over for promotion, took it upon himself to explode everyone's tightly-coiled grudges for them, then walked away. Unfortunately, he'd forgotten about the big award he'd entered himself for. Or at least, forgot that his entry still needed to be co-signed by his boss. He then spent several weeks in negotiations over the exact form his unreserved apology would take.

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Baker's mega-flounce faces the same problem. Inevitably, he's going to be running into these pinheaded weasels all the time. Especially as he hasn't quit the Beeb altogether. He is continuing with his Five Live football show on Saturday mornings, which is where it all gets a bit George Costanza in "The Revenge". He's marching out, then marching back in again, and expecting people to treat him as two separate entities: Danny Baker London Radio and Danny Baker Five Live. On the whole, life doesn't work like that. Most industries are more incestuous and smaller than you think. The only real way to tear down the house behind you is to make sure you're emigrating to Bolivia with enough money to see you through the rest of your natural life. If not, the world will very quickly become a big network of embarrassing chance meetings in elevators.

If I were a semi-sadistic BBC middle-manager recently labelled a pinheaded weasel, I'd be using his continued contract to gently squeeze him till he burst. A man marching out of one job looks like the fault of his employer. A man marching out of two looks like the fault of the employee. If these drones had any strategic sense they would just gradually up the pressure on him until he cracks. A lot like whatever strategic genius at Radio One didn't pay Chris Moyles for two months. Moyles went Colonel Kurtz in front of the nation's Cheerios and starts ranting about the "lack of respect". Result: when it comes time to scrape the old limpet off his rock, the public outcry is much more muted.

That's the modern way of sacking, though – "just messing with ya". Take people's desks, staff, responsibilities and pride away, until they eventually get the message and go into the small, well-lit room where HR keep the bottle of whisky and the loaded revolver and do the necessary themselves. Like the sad-eyed shopworker ushering you to the vacant self-service checkout, more and more the world is requiring us to sack ourselves. The folks at the bottom get turned freelance so whenever you don't need 'em you just turn off the taps. The folks at the top get golden parachutes. The folks in the middle get re-organised and then faced with the choice of whether to humiliate themselves by re-applying for their own jobs, or simply end it all.

Looking people in the eye and sacking them? That's just peasant-y. Only Alan Sugar does that, and that's only because the dynamics of TV mean it takes too long to show him asking an employee to train up the 21-year-old unpaid intern who is going to be handling most of their key functions from now on.

Follow Gavin on Twitter: @hurtgavinhaynes

Previously: Gavin Haynes' Sleepless Nights - Let's Quit Quitting Smoking Together