The Monty Python reunion is an excuse to retell the one about the lumberjack who sang about his fondness for cutting down trees and putting on women’s clothes. To remember how we laughed at the ridicules attempts of a pet shop owner to sell a dead parrot to an increasingly incredulous customer.

‘John Cleese as the customer − or patient − would represent the increasingly incredulous public’

It was funny because we couldn’t believe anyone would be so persistent and so adamant in their attempts to con the public. Is it so funny now we know that the police have been routinely fiddling the crime figures, hospitals have been caught manipulating waiting list statistics and ambulance trusts have been guilty of falsifying response times?

In other words, leaders have been trying to convince us crime was falling, waiting lists reducing and ambulances arriving on time when it’s simply not true.

‘I wish to register a complaint’

Since success is measured by performance public sector leaders have focused on improving the figures rather than improving the services and when the figures have not told the right story they have simply been changed. The appearance of continuos improvement is maintained and careers advanced until someone points out that the parrot is in fact dead.

The whole NHS transformation programme could be seen as the Monty Python team doing a reworking of the dead parrot sketch. John Cleese as the customer − or patient − would represent the increasingly incredulous public as the pet shop owner or private sector tried to convince him that the exotic import was going to breathe new life into the NHS and far from being dead it was simply asleep. While doctors and nurses yearn for a brighter life as a lumberjack.