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Wei to go

An English city has had to stop making its emergency payments to families.[1] This means that if a poor family contacts the council and says, “We have absolutely no money to last us until the end of the month”, instead of being able to dole out 30 quid or so to tide them over, the council is now obliged to automatically remove the children from the poverty-stricken home and place them, however temporarily, into care, a process that’s pretty awful for the family and is vastly more expensive for the taxpayer.

No politician ever sets out to make that sort of thing happen. However much you might hate the politician of your choice[2], they honestly didn’t arrive on their first day rubbing their hands and saying, “Right, first things first—have all the children taken into care and waste loads of money. And give the little sods one from me”. How has this happened?

If a council is spending a lot of money, Tory reasoning goes, they must be wasting it. There’s no conceivable way that all the money could be going on anything necessary. Look, it continues, the council responsible for my lovely village, containing all my lovely friends with their lovely cars and gardens, hardly spends anything. Lambeth council, on the other hand, spends oodles. They must be eating it or bathing in it or something.

So the government’s plan is to remove money from the very local authorities that depend on it the most, but also to restrict the ability of those authorities to raise any money of their own.[3] That’ll teach them, goes the thinking. Now they’ll have to get rid of some of those meaningless jobs they must have created over the years. No more Black Disabled Lesbian Hurt Feelings Officers for them.[4]

In response to those people concerned that their local council is facing a massive cut in funds and isn’t allowed to make up the difference, the coalition is sanguine. There’s no reason for your council to cut its services, they say. You shouldn’t have to lose your swimming pool or library or whatever. The council will just have to shed some of their useless jobs instead. You’ll see, it’ll all come out in the wash!

And maybe it will. What reason do we have to doubt them? After all, every policy decision the coalition has made has been backed up with barge-loads of irrefutable evidence, and hasn’t borne a single hallmark of simply having been spawned around the dinner tables of the privileged. Oh, excuse me, I just have to take this phone call. Hallo? That can’t be right. Yes, bags of evidence. No, I haven’t actually seen it myself. Really? Well, I have to say I’m disappointed. And there’s no need to use that sort of language.

Still, surely that’s a secondary question. After all, as the Bush and Blair administrations showed, faith—in both the religious and non-religious sense—trumps evidence every time. The windscreen-wiper of belief will always take care of the grit of facts. If, say, you have created the notion of the “big society”, of everyone giving up their free time to become active citizens and replace the burdensome state in running their local facilities, then you’ll definitely be wanting to lead from the front and blaze the trail for the rest of us.

Big society tsar Lord Wei “doesn’t have enough time to perform role”

Lord Wei of Shoreditch, who was given a Tory peerage last year and a desk in the Cabinet Office as the “big society tsar”, is to reduce his hours on the project from three days a week to two, to allow him to see his family more and to take on other jobs to pay the bills.

A common criticism of the plans, under which the government hopes that communities will take over the running of local services such as schools and charity projects, is that people don't have time to run a public service on top of holding down a job and seeing their families.

Wei has told friends he is cutting his hours to allow him to earn more money and “have more of a life”. He originally worked three full days a week and will now work two days, with the hours split over three, while taking on more non-executive directorships with private companies. [Guardian]
Hallo? Look, I can’t keep answering the phone while I’m writing. No, I don’t think the only fitting response to Lord Wei’s decision is “No shit, c*ntyballs”. How about some sympathy for the poor man, for a start? Well, because according to that article he gave up jobs in the charitable sector to become the big society tsar but was told only the night before he started in the House that the role was voluntary and unpaid, and—hallo? I can’t hear you, there’s too much laughing. Hallo?

At first glance, the noble Lord may appear to have fatally undermined his own clever idea, but actually he is continuing to light the way. For anyone who finds themselves battered by the tender mercies of the big society—perhaps one of those lucky recipients of disability benefit who are about to be liberated from the repressive shackles of state subsidy—it’s perfectly simple: take on more non-executive directorships.

Meanwhile, as the cuts are unveiled and services start to be dismantled—to some Tory dismay, as that really wasn’t supposed to happen—children from poor households whose feckless parents do not follow Lord Wei’s worthy example and simply refuse to become non-executive directors are just that bit more likely to get one of these:

[1] I’m not going to name it because I don’t actually know how confidential that information was supposed to be. If it turns out to be common knowledge I’ll say so.  Back

[2] I have a fantastic recording of an 11 year-old girl telling me what she thinks should happen to Nick Clegg, but I genuinely can’t reproduce it anywhere for fear that both she and I could be detained under antiterrorism legislation.  Back

[3] This is called “localism”.  Back

[4] Why the coalition hasn’t yet ennobled Richard Littlejohn is a mystery.  Back


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 2nd, 2011 12:54 pm (UTC)
You are brilliant. This is brilliant. Thank you!
Feb. 2nd, 2011 02:31 pm (UTC)
What she said.
Feb. 2nd, 2011 01:10 pm (UTC)
Love it!

Maybe you can answer a question for me. Isn't there supposed to be, like, some other people in Parliament who aren't in power, who sort of point out all this stuff and try and make people aware how morally bankrupt and ideologically wrong some of these policies are? We used to have a name for it when I was young... Opposition, I think it was... It's been so long.
Feb. 2nd, 2011 01:19 pm (UTC)
Amusingly, one of the names for these people used to be "Liberal Democrats". It turns out, though, that many of them—at least in the building—are far more comfortable with this kind of thing than they ever expected.
Feb. 2nd, 2011 01:20 pm (UTC)
Memo to self: re-read "Animal Farm" before voting LibDem ever again.
Feb. 2nd, 2011 01:33 pm (UTC)
The purpose of local government was to demonstrate, on a small scale, what identical bastards the LibDems inevitably became if they ever came close to power. They're like Mogwai - cute and fluffy out on the stump, but let them into the smoke-filled rooms after midnight and you've got trouble.

Feb. 2nd, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)
Which I'm still really surprised about, considering in the Scottish Executive Lib/Lab Coalition they were very sensible and did good things. That worked differently tho, with both parties compromising on all items. And that was with Labour. Not sure why I'm surprised at all to be honest.
Feb. 2nd, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
Not sure why I'm surprised at all to be honest.

Ancestral memories of the likes of Roy Jenkins?

(I'm beginning to wonder if one of the big tragedies of post-1945 British politics won't turn out to be the way that the exit of the Gang of Four and foundation of the SDP sucked the social-progressive wing out of the Labour Party and sent it forth to die in the wilderness.)
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
(i think that's already pretty well established isn't it?)
(no subject) - gummitch - Feb. 2nd, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 2nd, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)

I am lost for words at the brilliance of this. When are you going to try making some money out of your talent instead of just spunking it away on us for free?
Feb. 2nd, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
Feb. 4th, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
It's a shame LJ doesn't have a like button. I love your posts, this one especially.

Incidentally I had a jolly chuckle when I got a letter from my employers, who in attempting to save several million £, have told us that unfortunately all our jobs are presently at risk of redundancy but that should we keep them they will reduce everyone's salaries by 10% and slash benefits like paid sick leave and annual leave etc. This is all right, since with less money I won't be able to afford to go on holiday and spend it.

My employer is totally not the guilty party - they are a very good organisation and have been very fair to all their employees. I'm much less concerned about my own likely redundancy than I am about the service users. Good thing ConDem is so concerned with families considering their approach to Children's Centres seems to be modelled on 'slash and burn'.
Feb. 4th, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
Actually, could I share this on facebook?
Feb. 5th, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC)
Why, yes!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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