Category Archives: Volunteers

Lenin, Elephants and the Big Society


Goodness. have you noticed, we have an elephant in our front room. Don’t panic. The important thing now is not to get excited. If you agitate the elephant it can do real damage. Let us think before we act. To hell with that ring 999 and get the emergency services. Hold on, that’s just what he wants. Elephants are attention seekers. If we know how he got in we can work out how to get rid of him. Agreed? Good. We didn’t put him there,  did we ? Of course, we must have been careless it must have taken quite an effort to put him there and a good deal of noise – and we didn’t notice. Be a little careless and you wake up one morning to find him there. Agreed? Fine. Let’s look at the ideology of this. Who would think it a good idea to give us an elephant?  I don’t know. Well I looked it up on Google. Did you know that there is a Society for the Domestication of Elephants? It is based in East Grinstead and a Mrs Fortescue Smythe is the Secretary. Quite voluntary of course, but you can make a contribution. But to counter this sort of propoganda you must take account of the ideology of it. I detect the hands of Veblen and Lenin. Yes, don’t laugh. Veblen wrote a book called The Theory of the Leisure Class. His point was once a society had met all the primary needs of its citizens what was left was a great deal of time on your hands. In East Grinstead you retire at 50 with a fat pension, daddy leaves you a lot of money, and you have a great deal of time on your hands. At first you go on holiday (not much chance of a trip down the Nile and a visit to the pyramids these days, joke joke!) How many weeks to tidy up the loft and clear out the garage, Six weeks at tops?. What do you do then? You volunteer, of course and do good deeds. Now doing good to others is not easy. You find that people with professional qualifications are ahead of you and local government thinks you unsuitable. Damn cheek. Now along comes David Cameron and he agrees with you. You don’t need to know anything at all really. Start  a voluntary organisation of your own and get going. And how does Lenin get into the act. Easy peasy. He read Veblen and it seemed to him that what would happen in a society  when basic human needs were met is that people had time on their hands. So he organised them to do voluntary work. After a while people got bored. There were better things to do than to sweep up, metaphorically speaking , for nothing. No one paid you and physical labour was not everyone’s cup of tea. Arthritus, overweight, you know the kind of thing. The coaches taking people to the fields and to council estates were not alway filled. People took long lunch times and drank too much. There were problems of arthritus and fat bellies In the end they had to be forced to do these things. Not many people liked this. And the rest as they say is history. Hence the elephants. What local authorities are involved in the domestication of elephants/ None. No competition there. Still not every household is taken on the idea of keeping an elephant.. They have to be encouraged. Hence our elephant. Our society is a Big Society. You don’t get much bigger than a white elephant. What  shall we do then. Well if the Libyans can get rid of Ghadaffi can’t we get rid of our Dave and his white elephants?

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Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, George Osborne, Ghadaffi, Libya, Politics, Public Services, Revolution, Volunteers

Big Society: Slash, Burn and Replace


I am rather excited. I have gained an exclusive interview (imagined) with our Dave and he has kindly offered to answer  my questions, no matter how critical, about the Big Society. There speaks the bravery of  a man with the courage of his own (almost exclusively his own) opinions.

 Prime Minister, can I call you Dave, good. Would it be true that the present economic circumstamces when public expenditure cuts are limiting the size of the public sector, is a prime opportunity for you. If I understand it you wish to replace the provision of public services with the unpaid efforts of voluntary organisations and their members and supporters. Is this true? Charlie, there is a need in Britain to fix the broken society. There are unsolved social problems that are best met by the private sector, by individuals who really care. But Dave that isn’t true. Over the past fifteen years there has been a vast expansion of charitable and voluntary services. The activities of government in meeting social needs has created new opportunities for voluntary services to fill in the gaps and to supplement the efforts of government. And it follows that to cut one is to cut the other.

Well Charlie,  there is something in what you say, but all this activity has not solved the problems of a broken society. There, Dave, your analysis is sadly lacking. If you are talking about crime, and despite all your efforts to inflate the figures, there is universal acceptance that crime has fallen some 40 percent over the last ten years. And by any reasonable set of criteria there is more caring and volunteering in our society than at any time in our history.

Well don’t you think Charlie that encouraging citizens to voluntarily provide their services is a good thing in itself. No Dave, I don’t. It may be  and on the other hand it may not. A great deal depends on the professionalism of those individuals volunteering to replace professional trained staff. What ordinary citizens should do is to get on with their lives, look after their families and pay their taxes. Caring and participating should, in the main,  be the task of paid professionals who know what they are doing, not volunteers with more enthusiasm than skill. This is not how I was brought up Charlie. We were taught to care for our fellow citizens, to contribute to charitable endeavours, to join the scouts and the women’s institutes. And a jolly good thing it was too. More of that and the world would be a good and better place. For you Dave, it has always been a good place. Other people, other lives, other needs. Grow up Dave, you’re a big boy now.

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Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Ed Milliband, George Osborne, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Politics, Volunteers

Do It Yourself Policing: 2


I am horrified to learn that my satire on policing has attracted support within the Coalition. Reports suggest that the Government is thinking of just such a scheme as I outlined earlier this month with Voluntary Special Policeman being rewarded with a 50 percent rebate on their Council Tax. This confirms for me that there is no member of the Government with a sense of humour! Let us assume for a moment that the proposal is under serious consideration. What must be properly considered?

I have suggested that there are three important aspects  of any National Scheme to get right.

1. Safety. We cannot play fast and loose with the safety of volunteers some who are old and infirm, and after all they who have the most time on their hands must be protected. Do we expect them to arrest burglars or break up teenage riots and group binge drinking on the village green? Of course not. I suggested arm badges, distinctive hats and whistles. Yes, police whistles to summon help and to scare miscreants. But it is well known that there is a national shortage of police whistles and large scale production in China has to be negotiated to make this possible?

2. Disabled people. I have it on good authority is that there is a scheme to get the disabled off their benefit by offering them a financial incentive to become a Special Volunteer Policeman. I pointed out that you cannot expect a woman in a wheel chair to tackle a rioting crowd without help. If this inducement is to work then it is necessary to ensure that each wheelchair volunteer is accomapnied on patrol by at least one able bodied person. We hear nothing about this problem.

3. Shifts There will be considerable difficulties in arranging shifts. It is important that this new species of Constable should be representative of the country as a whole if the scheme is to work. Many northern elderly ladies will be reluctant to go out on patrol when East Enders and Coronation Street are being shown. Younger people will insist on the continuance of  watching educational programmes: X Factor and Big Brother. And what about football fans otherwise engaged with Football on three to four days of the week. Young men would not exchange these programmes even for the enjoyment of a good punch up!

There are no signs that the Coalition has considered these important issue. There are many more but regrettably I do not have the space and time to bring them to your attention. Anyway in the Big Society you are expected to think of them yourself.

I say to the Coalition that good ideas are not like butterflies in summer. You can no doubt come up with ideas but do you have the abilty to think them through as acts of social engineering? I think  not. If I am to continue with my pioneering contribution I need to think that they will be taken seriously. If not, move over and let someone else try!

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Filed under BBC, Big society, Cabinet, Cameron, Civil liberties, Lenin, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Nick Clegg, Police, Police Federation, Volunteers

Thatcherism with Knobs On


If you wish as a politician to tell an untruth about a matter of significance and import choose a subject about which most  people are ignorant. Even better choose one where the ignorant deceive themselves into believing they are experts and have short memories. How about the management of the economy?

Here is a statement by Nick Clegg: cutting the budget deficit [in the way the and at the speed the Coalition propose] is necessary to grow the economy. Now hold on, Cleggie. Cutting as proposed will reduce growth and  increase unemployment. Do you mean that in three to four years time the economy will  start to grow again from a lower base? You do, don’t you. And would we have lost more than we could ever regain? Well. I don’t know. What I do know is that unless we cut the deficit growth will be constrained in the future. I don’t understand you. There is no political disagreement  about the need to cut the deficit. What is at issue is how fast we do it and what we cut, isn’t that so?

And another matter. Boy George and Dave go around the world telling other countries to cut their deficits boldly so shrinking their economies and  our exports. Why don’t they shut up? Don’t be rude. Stay constructive, please.

It is difficult to be nice when all around you…so to speak. Why don’t you confess. The Lib Dems, somewhere on the road to Brighton, have had a conversion to Thatcherism. ‘Unemployment is a price worth paying!’ and all that. That’s unfair. We are committed to fairness : increases in tax credits, higher benefits at the lower end of the income scale, and so on.  And we have proposed special measures to help the disadvantaged in schools. Surely, that is not Thatcherism.

Well, if I may say so Cleggie, that is a typical Lib Dem evasion. If the budget measures are considered in the round the poor are worse off: higher unemployment, the plight of single mothers forced to stay at home in the school holidays because they are denied nursery and play facilities, increases in VAT. The poor will become poorer.

This argument is becoming tendentious. The truth is that Labour left us with a huge budget deficit and it has to be cut. No amount of wriggling can avoid it and any programme to do this will be painful. I am not ashamed to say so and neither should you or any bunch of irresponsible Labour politicians – or their journalistic friends and place-seekers. There. there. Who is  becoming ratty now Cleggie. What is going to give: reducing the size of the state, replacing professional public services by volunteers, defending the nation abroad, reducing crime at home, building a fairer society – getting re-elected. Perm any one from seven. The Lib Dems should be good at this game they have had a lot of practice.

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Filed under Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, George Osborne, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Goverment, Labour Home, Labour leadership, Labour Ministers, Labour Party, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Schools, Thatcher, Volunteers

Poverty: a checklist approach


I think I must tell you once again that these posts of mine should  not be treated seriously but as fun. In my humble opinion there is too little fun in the world today and even a  chuckle is worthwhile.

Charlie. Thank you for coming along today, Dave,  and for your willingness to discuss your policies for reducing poverty in Britain. Dave. Not at all, Charlie, isn’t it?  The pleasure is mine Charlie. Could we start Dave by a definition? Poverty is usually defined as the difference in income between the poorest in society and those on average incomes. Is that how you define it? No. I prefer to think of poverty as people having too little income. We all know when we are short of a quid. Really Dave. Would a millionaire short of a few quid for buying the latest Ferrari be thought of as poor by you? Well he might be Charlie. he might be. He could be down on his uppers so to speak. I prefer not to concern myself with definitions. You might not be able to define an elephant but if one were to burst into this room we would certainly recognise it. Wouldn’t we? Early in my life I adopted a simple but effective way of dealing with problems. I put down all the factors involved in considering one and then I attempt to deal with them, factor by factor, one by one. For example, let’s take poverty. I write down: low intelligence; grotty home with inadequate parents, probably not working but living off benefits; poor schooling; heavy drinking; takes drugs; self-deluded about suffering incapacity; being a woman. I know that if I can help these inadequate individuals get into work all will be well. Dave, my dear chap that would be quite a programme and given the background of a recession and fewer jobs  do you really think  that  much can be done in the way you indicate, and even if you had some success,  wouldn’t it still be true that the unacceptable gap between the incomes of the poorest and those on  average incomes  would still remain? Charlie, Charlie, there you go again! Definitions, you are stuck with definitions. Can we help the poorest, of course we can. One to one is the answer. We send an experienced volunteer to their house and chat with them over a cup of tea. We identify the problems and help these unfortunates deal with them. The world is stuffed full of criminologists and sociologists, Charlie, every kind of ologist really, and a fat lot of good they ever do for the needy. Volunteers and more volunteers, that’s what’s needed. Will this be enough Dave, I don’t see how it can be? You need faith Charlie. The old ways have been broken. We can protect the very poorest but, as for the rest,  the way ahead is clear for them. Get fit, get rid of that hangover, keep off the pills and do not rely on the social for it won’t be there for you if you are a slacker, or benefit cheat. Get yourself a job. And if that turns out to be difficult, why not think of volunteering. After all who knows more about drug addiction than an addict? Common sense really, Charlie, have faith in your fellow human beings.

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