My local toy and sports shop apparently ran out of sledges on the first day of our recent flurry of snow. Yes, they had anticipated the possibility of a winter sales bonanza but sadly the bulk of their sledges were faulty. Or to put it another way - they were skateboards in the wrong boxes. And so children did what they always do and improvised by sliding down hills on dustbin lids, trays or their parents.
Customers requiring snow goggles were also to be disappointed unless they wanted some that came with a snorkel attached and a free pair of flippers. Meanwhile the rest of the country seemed a little bemused by the shock onset of winter in what can only be described as, well, winter. You want salt for the pavements? Give us a call in August. You might not need it to combat the ice but it could be handy in seasoning a potato salad. As a nation we are prepared for anything, just not always at the right time.
‘You want salt for the pavements? Give us a call in August. You might not need it to combat the ice but it could be handy in seasoning a potato salad’
We are preparing for a general election and that, according to chancellor Alistair Darling, amounts to impending public service cuts the like of which we’ve not seen for 20 years. So to summarise: it’s cold, pay day is a long way away and when you turn on the news you get to watch politicians trying to guess what waffle might make them popular with a population that, in the main, loathes all of them.
On the one hand we will have prudent economic policy telling us we could save billions by cutting back on public spending: freezing salaries and pensions perhaps, closing a few schools, and maybe we could replace the police force with extended neighbourhood watch schemes or enthusiastic puppies? On the other we get surreptitious promises to protect jobs and services and invest in the things that matter which, depending what day it is, are Strictly Come Dancing, thermal underwear or the financial wellbeing of the banking system.
The Tories are promising more single rooms for patients and more choice around childbirth. Later Labour will promise something vague about accountability and safeguarding service investment. Nobody will say anything new, helpful or insightful. Quite frankly David Cameron could promise every patient their own butler and Gordon Brown could offer to come round and do everyone’s ironing for all most people seem to care because, whatever they say, it sounds hollow and unfocused doesn’t it? Apart from anything else is it single rooms and nice curtains patients need or simply more staff who are better equipped to look after them?
In truth public services will get what they are given and, in the same way as the kid on the dustbin lid, improvise as best they can. Nurses have managed through both the wholesale lack of interest that has been the Conservative government in the past and the wholesale lack of understanding that has marked Labour this time around, and they will manage again. But why should they have to? The sooner the NHS is made independent of the inconsistencies of government, the better. It’s simply too important to let politicians loose on it.