Let’s assume you already work more than your allotted hours, rarely get a lunch break, never get thanked and have to watch - bemused - as Catherine Zeta wotsit gets an MBE for being Welsh and pretty while you get someone else’s wee on your support stockings.
OK, let’s leave all that aside for a moment and ask ourselves this question: if we believed that the country and its people were in crisis, what would we be prepared to do to help? Would you work an additional two hours a week without pay? (Yes, I know you already do, but let go of that for a minute, we’re playing a game.) Would you pay an extra £10 a week in tax? Take a pay freeze? A pay cut?
If someone came along and said: “Look, we really are in trouble and we need your help. We’re getting rid of corporate services first, obviously - communications officers are being bussed out as we speak and every manager in the building is being paid band 4 wages as of today - but we need your help too. Please.”
‘The personal wealth of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by £77bn. That is growth of 30 per cent since 2008. Or to put it another way, half a deficit’
All things being equal - and call me naive, you won’t be the first - I think most people would help. Because when presented with an opportunity to do something that helps, public servants tend to take it.
And one wonders if the grave pronouncements of impending cuts and gloom that will touch everyone in the country are perhaps a forerunner to a sort of moral call to arms. “We’re in trouble, we need the best from the British people in order to overcome this crisis.”
But of course most of us don’t believe politicians do we? If the prime minister says “we are all going to suffer a little” we hear “lots of you will suffer but plenty of us won’t”’.
In the most recent Sunday Times rich list we were told that the fortunes of the richest people in Britain are actually soaring. Indeed, the personal wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain rose by £77bn. That is a growth of 30 per cent since 2008. Or to put it another way, half a deficit. Apparently the recession has been good for some people. Which is nice.
I suspect that people who have chosen to work in public services think about work, indeed think about the world, in a different way to people who have chosen to do something else. And because of that I think we would tend towards trying to take responsibility for solving a problem even if it cost us something. But to a backdrop of obscene wealth for some and unquestioned privilege for others it is, frankly, hard to take the foreboding seriously or lend it goodwill.
If politicians want people to back cuts and hardship they need to target some of the areas of more obvious excess before they get to the public servants. Otherwise they don’t carry the best of the country with them.
It’s one thing to make sacrifices in the interests or protection of people who are at risk or in the interests of a collective wellbeing, but quite another to be asked to take a pay cut to protect the excessive wealth of a privileged few.