The coalition government is behaving just like New Labour in cunningly manipulating public opinion. Doubtless you will have heard that our new government has even less money than anybody realised, the public sector has grown hopelessly out of control and the pensions of government workers are going to be even more unaffordable than we thought. This rhetoric in advance of a budget is, of course, contrived to prepare us for something very bad the idea being that when we finally hear what is in store for us we will be so inured that we won't quite feel the need to riot on the streets. That something very bad will be a wholesale assault on the public services.
The other day Dr Grumble met a nice lady. She works for a chain of high street chemists. Dr Grumble rarely visits such places. There is a reason for this. The average chemist stocks scarcely anything of value to Dr Grumble. Toothpaste, razor blades, soap and shampoo are about all Grumble needs from the chemist. Most of what is for sale is of no value to Dr Grumble whatsoever. Dr Grumble asked what this charming lady did in the chemist's shop. It turned out she was a health advisor which, of course, interested Dr Grumble. He is, after all, aware of the enormous number of snake oils that some of these high street stores now seem to stock. The number and range of useless pills and potions, vitamins and supplements they peddle is remarkable. Why people buy them is puzzling. They are certainly not cheap. After talking to the charming health advisor, Dr Grumble was to become even more perplexed. He asked what sort of advice she gave. Her answer was clear. She advised people who come into the shop that they do not need these various pills and potions provided they are on a good diet. The amazing thing is that, despite this advice, the shoppers buy their useless vitamins or whatever and then fall hook line and sinker for the 3 for 2 offer. They not only buy what they never needed but they end up purchasing three times more than what they didn't even need in the first place. It is quite extraordinary. Not that Dr Grumble should be surprised. He gently tells his patients that they really don't need to pay out for these things and they too take absolutely no notice.
You don't have to keep your ear very close to the ground to hear from the coalition that the only honourable sort of work is work in the private sector. Work in the high street chemists would be an example. These industries, you will be told, are the only ones that generate wealth. These hard working types beavering away in the shops earn the money to pay those of us fortunate to have a cushy number in the public service. We do not generate wealth. Those in industry do. In short there are the grafters in the private sector and the spongers in the public sector. That anyway is how the coalition would have you see it. Because it then follows that the spongers need to go and the grafters should be encouraged.
This is, of course, utter nonsense. If you work for a company that makes, say, bottled water you are doing a job that is completely useless. We just don't need it. We used to manage without it. Somehow society has been persuaded by a less than honest industry that everywhere we go we must have a bottle with a teat on it which we should swig from regularly as if we are newborn babies. Even the Grumble hospital has been persuaded to spend thousands on bottled water for the convenience (and, apparently, health) of staff and patients alike. It is crackers. It costs a fortune. A man in a van has to deliver it at great expense producing CO2 on his way. Loads of plastic is wasted and meanwhile water of the same, perhaps better, quality flows freely from the taps.
Now compare the private bottled water company with your local state school. Has your local school conned you into believing that your children need to be educated? No. They didn't even advertise. You know your children need education. You know it is of value. Are the people who work in the school educating your children spongers? No. Of course not. They are working hard and creating real wealth deposited in your child. It's an intangible wealth. It will be a long time before it comes to fruition but there is no doubt about its importance and its benefit. We all know it. Don't let the coalition tell you otherwise.
The public sector is not just a bunch of spongers. We need them. Whether it is the council mending your roads or or the university or school teaching your offspring, we need these things more than the snake oils in the chemists or the ubiquitous bottled water. Don't let the colluding coalitionists tell you otherwise. We need to stop the waste in the private sector. A hefty tax on bottled water and snake oils would be a start.