Buried deep beneath the “new politics” love-in last week was a story about the Church of England employing a vicar to support and counsel traumatised BBC staff who are being forced to move to Salford to keep their jobs.
It’s a great story, with a lovely image at its heart – fey, weak hearted southerners being eased into the industrial wastelands by a therapeutic vicar. We get to tut at some of our favourite irritants – the BBC, soppy media folk, a misplaced and oversensitive counselling culture and the arrogance of the south. Trouble is, that isn’t what is happening. The vicar is being hired to work with the local community and forge links between the new media centre in Salford and the local university, for example. No doubt the job will involve working with people who work for the BBC – but employing a vicar to counsel the little dears? Afraid not.
Still, it doesn’t matter, it’s just another story and it will be forgotten tomorrow. Any impression it left us with might linger a while – but the story? We may remember what we felt about those irritants but the details won’t much matter.
Last week, the new prime minister did some tutting about the fact that the mess he has found on taking office is even worse than he imagined. Not only did Gordon not clean out the fridge but seemingly – in a fit of wilful destructiveness – the outgoing government also agreed a series of bonuses for civil servants and didn’t pay the milk bill.
We are outraged, aren’t we? No reasonable person believes civil servants should be getting hefty pay rises. In fact, no reasonable person knows what it is that civil servants actually do.
Thankfully, the “new” type of politicians has arrived – like a coachload of postmen going to a wedding – to sort all that nonsense out. And when they do start sorting it out by doing ugly things like cutting the NHS budget, cutting training and education across the public sector and limiting support for people who are out of work, we’ll all know who to blame – the last lot, the old politics, the annoyingly reckless ones who got us into this mess.
Because at the moment “the other lot” are part of our pet hates, along with the BBC and counselling vicars and softie liberal types. Thirteen years ago, a government was swept to power by promising to build up the NHS and schools. Now a government is established by promising to knock them down again. What is it that has changed our tastes so much?I don’t care remotely for party politics but I do wonder what happens to change our priorities so quickly. I also wonder about the quality, objectivity and, in some cases, truth that is presented to us as news.
People may tire of politicians, parties and policies, but do they really stop caring about things like public services because the media says we can’t afford them? I don’t think so. Fundamental values and beliefs don’t change so easily, even in the face of a manipulative and unregulated media.