13 February 2011

Forest protest

The last time Dr Grumble went on a protest march it was over MMC/MTAS. Before then it was way back in the 60s. Dr Grumble does not often feel the need to take to the streets. But yesterday Dr Grumble felt the need to take, not to the streets, but to the paths through his local woods. Once again it was an interesting experience. Dr Grumble took a look around at the protesters. Many, perhaps the majority, might best be termed middle-class old farts. They were very peaceful and rather too quiet. They are not the sort of people who know how to protest. What brought all these people out?

Even children were carrying placards. For them it will matter most.

Dr Grumble thinks that these middle class old farts have rumbled the coalition government. The electorate are not quite as daft as politicians like to think. We the people have realised that Cameron's Big Society is something of a con. It is not really about less top-down government. It is more about look after yourself. The government is not going to do anything. You are going to be left to your own devices. The woods may well need looking after and preserving for future generations but that's not the job of government. The call from Cameron is for the locals to get their act together and sort out the maintenance of their woods themselves. If they haven't got the money to buy them, then somehow they have got to raise it. If they can't then the woods will simply have to be sold to the super-rich. There's no discussion because we are in a financial crisis. It has simply got to be done. That anyway is their line. It's a similar thing with the NHS. It's performance is awful. There's no choice. Something has got to be done. But is any of this true?

According to Mark Steel, in 2007 a report by the Ministry of Defence on future threats to national security stated that the growing gap between the middle class and the super-rich could lead to the middle classes becoming a revolutionary class taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx. Could that be what was happening in the Grumble woods? Have we become aware of the enormous divide between us and the local super-rich Charterhouse-educated MP? How many people on the march were lowly-paid government servants who are already giving much of their time to society? How many were teachers who stay late? How many were doctors or nurses doing much more than they are paid for? Who amongst these has the time to raise the money to buy the woods we already own?

One of many yellow-ribboned trees in the Grumble wood.

Dr Grumble thinks that it is these things that brought out the crowds and not just concern about the welfare of our forest. The woods matter but so do all the others things this government doesn't want to take any responsibility for. Everywhere you look you see the pernicious effects of this Big Society nonsense. As others have joked, society is going need to be big to have all the volunteers needed to take on all this extra work. No. It's not just the woods. The government doesn't want the Royal Mail. It doesn't want the NHS. And it wants parents to run the schools. We the electorate have not signed up to this, Mr Cameron. We elect governments to look after things. Things like libraries. And universities. And students. And, yes, our woods.

We are not taken in by assurances that the 'royal' will still be in Royal Mail. Or that the queen's head will still be on the stamps. That is just a Condem con. There might (or might not) be a case for privatising the post but please don't play these tricks with Dr Grumble. We need a proper case for these changes and not patronising platitudes.

And another thing, Mr Cameron. We are not taken in by those consultations. We had enough of this from the previous government. We know that government pollsters will ask ludicrous motherhood-and-apple-pie questions designed so that you get the answer you want. That's not democracy.


Anonymous said...

I agree with every word of this, but really don't know what we are all going to do?

Join the Greens? Their policies do include publicly provided services
and they seem to be the only party in England which is against NHS marketisation.

Not long ago I saw a newspaper piece which was about the 'big society', and have tried to find it.What it said was that in a cohesive big society, people would probably decide that as individuals they could not do all that was needed for schools, libraries, health etc. It suggested that public-spirited people could be employed long-term to run these services full-time on behalf of the community, so everyone would benefit from them.

They would be called 'public services'

Dr Grumble said...

Thanks for that support, anon. Dr Grumble sometimes wonders if he is the only one who thinks this way. It was the turnout in the woods that made him think that he might not be alone.

I never ever thought I would vote Green. But the environment is an issue that we must address and the reality is that we just cannot go on and on with our dependency on economic growth and an ever expanding population. And, as you say, the Greens' policy on the NHS is the best of the lot.

How can we have the arrogance to castigate countries like Brazil for allowing the loggers to destroy their rain forests when our equivalent went centuries ago? The map in the consultation document shows what a tiny amount of woodland we have left in England and now it looks as if even that risks being turned from an ecosystem that we should cherish into an economy that generates income.

What happened to the happiness measurements Cameron was so keen on? What's wrong with a holiday walking in the woods instead of a jet to wherever?

Make no mistake. This is a government of upper class lumberjacks out to rape our public services with a view to pleasing only their powerful paymasters and securing their own fortunes.

Julie said...

We wait til AV gets through Parliament. When that's done, the cracks will begin to show in the coalition. I can't see the ordinary Lib Dems being the Conservatives' whipping boy for much longer after that and that's when there will be an opportunity.

Lou said...

I love your posts on current political affairs. I agree somebody really needs to tell them loud and clear. WE ARE NOT STUPID!

Yoav said...

Funny how people will protest at the privatisation of forests but not of the NHS.

Dr Grumble said...

The explanation, Yoav, is that the public do not really know what is planned for the NHS. Where has the sell-off of the NHS been overtly announced?

It may also be the case that they do not really care about NHS privatisation. They may not grasp the enormous costs involved in buying and selling healthcare and all the others problems a multitude of providers will bring.

Actually there are many coalition MPs who are very concerned that Lansley's plans will lose them the next election so some grass roots politicians certainly seem to think that the public may not like what lies ahead. We shall see.


I hope you are well, Yoav.

Dr Grumble said...

I realise I have strayed off my usual topic, Lou, so it is good to know if it has some appeal.