12 ways to tell that the 80s are back

Roll up, roll up. We all knew that it would come around again in all its septic glory. It’s the 80s again. Time to dust off your Toyah albums and look back to the days when U2 were brand new, ‘really cool – you’ve got to listen to this man!’

The other week I was standing in a queue by an ATM machine, next to a punk with a massive spiky Mohican. I wanted to ask, ‘How can you afford all that hair gel? Don’t you know there’s a recession?!’ but he might have punked on me, so I didn’t.

In truth, I was pleased to see him: at least punks have a sound ideology to follow. The rest of it makes my 80s war wounds twinge.

How to tell it’s the 80s again
1. The Tories are in – all of them. Suddenly public life is awash with nasty little fascists.

2. Unemployment is rising (bear in mind this isn’t always a personal choice).

3. The Tories say, ‘there are plenty of jobs’. The real problem is that people don’t want to do them. Heard that one before in the 80s. Almost every week in fact.

4. There is renewed dialogue between the Government and trade unions about how many people are on the dole. The Government says it’s under 3m. But the TUC say it’s over 6m. Exactly the same debate raged throughout most of the 80s; no-one won.

5. A lot of people look bloody miserable, tired and scared. I don’t blame them.

6. I see more people begging, and other people pretending not to notice them. In fact, hardly a week goes by when I’m not approached on the street by someone in dire straits: and I don’t mean the band.

7. Hate crimes have gone through the roof (many of them racially motivated). People are beating up their pets too… and their partners. Riots are a fact of life again.

8. Pundits constantly talk about ‘growth’, but there isn’t any. Soon though… it’ll happen if ‘we stick to our strategy’. Heard it!

9. Children are going hungry while an impassive nation looks on impotently and hopes for a win on the lottery (George Orwell got that bit right).

10. Older people are being shuffled around a bemused care system which can no longer look after them because its funding has vanished.

11. The Government is trying to privatise the NHS while claiming, ‘we’re not trying to privatise the NHS’. Of course not; and I’m the Pope.

12. The airwaves are alive with doublespeak, doublethink – but mostly, double standards.

Still – not to worry. Britain is Great again and we have the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to look forward to. Makes me proud to be Blitish. Sign me up for Cameron’s Big Society. It’s big with lies, panaceas and raging hypocrisy.

The Rise of the Brylcreem Warrior

Testa de cazi
Tory boy and notable dick-head (hence the picture above) Wavey Dave Cameron carries on apace with his big society delusion, dragging us siren-like to a mass watery doom.

I’ll give him his due. The Brylcreem Warrior always has a smile glued to his fatuous face during his very public vapourings about localism and the rising tide of ‘entrepreneurs’ who are supposed to sail the Good Ship Britannia towards a safe harbour. There’s nothing safe about his shenanigans though.

‘Why?’ you may ask with an ugly sneer smeared across your lips, as you advance towards me, coalition manifesto in hand as though to batter me to death with that tome of the party faithful.

‘Simple’, say I, retreating slightly before your withering gaze. ‘There’s no-one left to deliver Deluded Dave’s perfectly potty vision’. Even a swift straw poll will reveal that local services are dying out faster than fleas on a dead feline. Virtually nothing has been left untouched, as the voluntary organisations, who will supposedly step in – like the hero in a cheezoid Hollywood movie – lose their grant funding and lay off their staff in droves.

Oh, go ahead and volunteer then, but don’t expect to actually get paid for your trouble. Not a bean will you get, because this year heralds a tsunami of public sector job cuts. ‘So what, I don’t work for the public sector. And anyway, they’re a bunch of greedy bastards chugging along on the gravy train.’

Wrong fool. They deliver the local services (‘localism’ in action!) which we all depend on. Are you old, and did you depend on Supporting People grant funding to pay for your meals on wheels? Bad news I’m afraid; that particular pot of money is no longer protected. To use the parlance of the public sector it’s been ‘un-ringfenced’. It will now be used to deliver essential LOCAL services – or should I say, ‘More essential than looking after all those inconvenient oldies who clutter up our country. Hell – they haven’t got long left, so why even think about them?’

All right then. Are you a young person trying to get a start in life. Too bad! Your LOCAL (there’s a clue there isn’t there) Connexions service has already been axed by Dave the Tory Tyrant and his band of thieving brigands. You’ll be okay though, because these days you should apparently ‘take responsibility for yourself’ and do your own donkey work. No-one could accuse this lot of shirking when it comes to unfeeling idiocy. Whatever happened to cooperation as a way of getting things done?

Are you a small organisation trying to deliver local services to your members, thereby generating the ‘green shoots’ of economic recovery we sometimes hear about? Too bad. Who do you think will supply your grant funding now? The public sector. Sorry! Its pockets are empty. The private sector? Nope – they are laying people off and pulling up their proverbial drawbridges. Localism is a canard – where else can services be delivered if not locally? In dream land obviously.

Some people view the public, private and charitable (third-sector) as completely separate, and the coalition often implies that local authorities should look to the private sector for greater efficiencies. This overlooks one simple fact: these sectors are not independent, they are completely interdependent. Local government is quite complex, but historically, it has been very good at working in partnership with both private and voluntary organisations. The coalition’s massive round of public sector cuts is tearing apart private contractors, and forcing charities to withdraw funding from people who really need it.

Localism and the ‘big society’ is akin to chopping your friend’s legs off and saying, ‘Go for a walk pal’. It’s an  irrational idea used to mask the real agenda: the removal of the Welfare State. I support the idea of distinctive local services, and I even agree that the third sector should play a much stronger role in society. Third sector organisations must be supported and enabled, but instead they are being quietly pruned to death through an act of ideological vandalism.

Don’t believe me? I can prove it. This site contains data showing that so far cuts to the voluntary sector total almost £49,000,000 – and that’s just the start. In case you are thinking, ‘What’s this got to do with a blog about bohemian life?’ I would say, ‘Loads’. Those small distinctive organisations help to prop up creative projects around the country. Without them we might as well sell out and get jobs in call centres, because at this rate there won’t be much left of our local services.

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The Big Society swindle

I have to do a lot of reading and writing these days… and far too many advanced Google searches. This is, I’m told, to feed that old oxymoron ‘business intelligence’. Mostly it’s because of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ with its focus on ‘localism’.

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Cameron’s idea is to decentralise power back to local authorities, and even further down to community groups. To do this, he’s steadily dismantling old local government structures. ‘Quangos are bad’, and many of these are going too.

I have a life-long interest in politics, though I now see it as a crude and rather primitive beast. After all, it isn’t about what’s good or reasonable – only what people believe is good or reasonable. These are two different things. The fact that people don’t know the difference, and are prepared to argue to the death about it, explains why we have such complex political structures. We are highly evolved apes, and we like to squabble over our bananas.

The Big Society apparently supports mutualism: for example, housing co-ops, community banks, workers co-operatives and the like. Cameron says it’s about smaller, less intrusive government. Sounds okay… until you look more closely.

We are in the middle of a global economic crisis, and perhaps we should ask ourselves, ‘Would these ideas be touted if things were different?’ The state will always try to save itself, even if this means sacrificing its own citizens on the altar. What’s the welfare of a few million people, compared to the wellbeing of a few bloated, corn-fed state brigands?

Statist governments want to distance themselves from responsibility, devolving this to local authorities. Then when things inevitably go wrong, because there’s no money being pumped through the economy to deliver essential services, local government can take the blame. We can take the blame too for not doing enough. And David Cameron can walk away with an oily smile and an extra quiff in his hair.

Don’t get me wrong. I love co-ops, and I love the idea of local activism. But if the ConDems are serious about it, why don’t they go the whole hog and abolish themselves too? Could it be because they have imported state controlled libertarianism from America? Or is it because they are simply power hungry?

I believe so. The Big Society is a Big Brand Name, and it really means, ‘You are free to do exactly as you are told’. We are free because our governments have granted us permission. How nice of them… Who put those bastards in charge anyway? Ah yes… it was us. It always comes back to that, doesn’t it?

The real Big Society wouldn’t have a brand name. We would indeed form co-operative groups for the good of us all, and we would be in charge of our own lives. The state would have nothing to do with this process. Who needs to be granted permission to be free? Why do so many people fail to connect? Because that’s how modern capitalism works.

As long as we see ourselves as alone – and treat each other this way – struggling through the world towards some foggy, unreachable goal, we will remain powerless. Do not be divided. Unite, unite, unite!

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