Promise me a miracle

The headline says it all, really. “Lengthen School Hours, urges Gove”. Longer days, shorter holidays. You can almost hear the rejoicing, the length and breadth of the nation, except in Christine Blower’s house, I’d imagine. Better-educated children, who are under your feet less than they used to be. It’s the answer to all our prayers.

It does remind me, though, of certain other classics. Eliminate Benefit Fraud. Reduce NHS waiting lists. Cut crime. Kick out illegal immigrants.

And in most cases, see if you can do it for free.

Well, here’s a tip to the politicians from someone who knows next-to-nothing about running a country:

You can’t.

Deficit reduction is a laudable aim. So are education and health. But you’re not going to get teachers working longer without paying them for it. The same goes for the doctors and the nurses and the border agency staff. As for the police, we’ll see what happens in the near future when the starting salary plummets. But my guess is that the same will apply. You can’t achieve less with more. Oh, I know there’s always a bloated bureaucracy somewhere you can attack and trim and sit back and wait for the congratulations, but odds are you’ll still be waiting for them a few years down the line while your successor’s reinstating all the same bureaucrats into identical (but differently-titled) roles and organisations.

Now we all know that Gove, and the rest of them, on all sides of the house, like to spout these platitudes and gather in the admiring votes. And because we all know it, it’s not usually a problem. They can talk as much empty-headed nonsense as they want, no one’s ever going to implement it, after all. All we expect from our politicians is a little tinkering round the edges of a fiscal policy that might as well be set in stone for all the radical changes anyone’s considering making to it. When the big debate is over whether a few people pay five per cent more or less, you know none of them really disagree on the fundamentals.

But something seems to have changed. Either the politicians have realised we’ve rumbled them at last and want to prove they’re on the level, or they’ve started to believe their own hype. They’re actually trying to do the things they just used to talk about. And guess what? They’re ballsing it up. Everything time. The Disability Living Allowance. The Bedroom Tax. The NHS reforms. It took the last Government years to believe their own hype, but when you’re making yourself more and more unelectable by the day, the gambles have to get more and more reckless. The more stupid things Osborne does, the more stupid things he’ll have to carry on doing, hoping for the big win, like Nick Leeson and his massive, idiotic trades. And since anyone in Government right now is going to have to do things that make them unelectable (the coalition have just become particularly adept at it over the last 12 months or so), you can bet your frozen benefit cheque Miliband and Balls wouldn’t be much better.

So just in case anyone in any position of authority anywhere happens to be reading this, just go back to doing what you used to do. Promise us the impossible. And in return, we promise not to hold you to it.

But for god’s sake, please don’t actually try to do it.


If you liked this, take a look at some extracts from my soon-to-be-published novel Without Due Care here.



  1. Fanners · · Reply

    I enjoyed this post but I confess I feel misled. I only came here because I thought it was a Simple Minds site.

    There are certainly more changes to proposals than there used to be – the opposing press will call them u-turns – but now they dress it up as listening to the electorate. There will always be mistakes in government but we should probably embrace the lack of doggedness to sticking with the bad ones.

    1. Thanks for your comment Fanners.

      I don’t really mind u-turns as long as they’re actual responses to the facts on the ground rather than knee-jerk responses to opinion polls or newspaper editorials. And I don’t mind being taken for a fool and promised the earth as long as I vote for one party or another. What I object to are wildly ambitious schemes with tiny budgets that, as any ful kno, will exceed those budgets and still fail. This is England, not Utopia.

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