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?
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?
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.