NB This post comes with a health warning. No one without a sense of humour should read it.
What I do from time to time is to talk to you about the real purposes of the Coalition. Of course, it is common ground among all political parties that urgent and difficult decisions need to be taken to reduce the financial deficit. That difficult burden is placed on the Coalition. However, our adminstration offers the British public something different: we really are serious about diminishing the role of Government and shifting power to you the people. When some fuddy-duddy objects it is quite clear that they are misguided: public service union officials trying to hold on to their membership and their jobs; pressure groups with odd objectives, well-meaning but misguided; and of course politicians nervous that fair representation will lose them their jobs. You know the kind of thing. They simply don’t get it.
Let’s consider policing. The Police Federation has suggested that expenditure cuts will cause a big loss in the numbers of policemen and that after 4 years there will be 60,000 fewer. I’ll be frank with you. In my judgement the loss will be greater. Would this be a disaster? No. Not if we do the right things.
As you know, I am a Revolutionary and something of an expert on Russian history. (Stop laughing, please, at the back). Our dreadful political and economic disasters are akin to those confronting first Lenin and the Stalin. They were confronted with similar circumstances. Power lay with the State. The police served a narrow bourgeois interest and were resistant to change. What did Lenin do? Well, he was a pioneer of the Big Society. He called upon volunteers and instituted the creation of Druzhinicks (Volunteer Guards). Companies were obliged to volunteer people for Guard Duties. A vast body of men and women were issued with uniforms, arm bands and a whistle and they patrolled the streets. (More laughter). It was a holiday with pay spent in the fresh air. Of course, like Community Policemen today, they had no powers of arrest and when confronted with really difficult situations had to call the police. But it worked there and then. People confronted established power and made it subject to their will.
We have a plan. (we usually do). Let us replace these policemen with volunteers. These men and women could be recruited from two sources of manpower: first the growing number of unemployed and secondly the release of short stay prisoners from prisons onto this form of Community Service. (Even more laughter). Of course, there will be objections. Those on Job Seekers Allowance and Disability Allowance might object. They must be told ‘get serious’. If you want some of our money you must earn it! It is certainly possible to patrol in a wheelchair when accompanied by an able bodied person. Some objections might be raised by the media and the general public to the use of delinquents. But who better to catch a thief than a former villain. Remember they will be in uniforms. A good uniform can help the process of rehabilitation and change personal behaviour.
Of course there are expenses here but just think of the savings: no new prisons, the release of 20,000 short stay prisoners and up to 100,000 high paid policemen made redundant. What is the cost of 120,000 whistles compared to these savings? And the benefits to 100,000 of a life in the open air and the handing back of responsibility for policing to communities will have enormous advsantages.
The Big Society worked for Lenin and several generations of Soviet citizens, so why not for you, and for us. Those who want to try out a whistle can get one as they go out. (Laughter and the blowing of whistles?)