Tag Archives: Volunteering

“It Is Always With the Best Intentions that the Worst Work is Done”—Oscar Wilde

30 Jul

God bless him for trying, David Cameron. I do believe he’s got the best intentions, somewhere inside that doughy head of his. But he’s got it so wrong that I almost feel a little bad for him.

Take, for instance, his “Big Society” business. According to the Telegraph:

In his first major speech on the theme of the “Big Society” since winning the election, the Prime Minister will announce the “biggest redistribution of power from elites in Whitehall to the man and woman on the street”.

Mr Cameron – who is keen to present his administration as offering optimistic new policies that are not just about cuts – will say that the “liberation” of volunteers and activists to help their own communities is the vision which drives his premiership.

As part of his drive to roll back the reach of the public sector, the Prime Minister will attack the previous Labour government for turning state employees into “disillusioned, weary puppets” and communities into “dull, soulless clones”.

Me oh my. Someone is not taking advantage of his public school education on the power of language. Big Society? I just don’t see that phrase appealing to the youth who loiter outside the leisure centre. I bet their parents wouldn’t even swallow Big Society if it were the name of a pizza which came with free garlic bread. Just listen to yourself. You’re going to liberate volunteers? Volunteers are already free—that’s the whole point.

He will announce that four areas in diverse parts of the country have been chosen to form a “vanguard” in realising his dream of “people power” in which individuals rather than the state come together voluntarily to solve their problems.

The four – the greater London borough of Sutton and Cheam, the leafy Berkshire council of Windsor and Maidenhead, rural Eden Valley in Penrith, Cumbria, and the metropolitan city of Liverpool – were chosen after they petitioned Downing Street to start their own projects.

They will be the first to be invited to submit applications to the Big Society Bank, a fund which will allocate the proceeds of dormant bank accounts worth hundreds of millions of pounds to help set up volunteer schemes to improve communities.

Combining Big Society with the word bank, well, you’re on to a real winner there to earning the public’s trust. Also, if we’ve learned nothing from the MTV Awards, we’ve learned that the word vanguard certainly doesn’t mean what it used to. And little David, people power? Really? What’s next—women’s libbers, rap sessions and hep cats? Get with the program, Prime Minister!

Communities already unite to take care of each other in many ways. The little kiddies at our church do sponsored silences to raise money for the hospital. Last month quite a large group “came together voluntarily” to vandalise Mr Willingstoke’s Bentley after he suggested Jeremy Clarkson open our village fête. We stand up for our community like that. As individuals, we also do good. Look at the help Christopher gives me out of the goodness of his heart. The old man three houses up has a volunteer nurse who comes by to look after him once a week and she’s even willing to do it in costume. Alice Wintergarden and I both read to the blind and sign to the deaf (not simultaneously); neither of us are “dull, soulless clones” (though admittedly some of those we help may be). We don’t need the government telling us how to take care of each other.

But we do need the government for some things. After all, what is the state for, Mister Cameron, if not to help the people?  Build some playing fields. Make sure there’s disabled access in the shopping precinct. Insist the local library carry all of my books, not just those published in the last ten years. Go back to weekly rubbish bin collection. These are the duties of government. These are the kinds of things the government should be doing, instead of coming up with ways for us to do them for ourselves once the budgets have been slashed.

Governments don’t give power to the people, the people give power to the government. You were elected by the people of this nation, well, you weren’t exactly elected, but the thing is you’re there now so do your job, do it right and quit being a dick.