So, I’m driving to work, near the coast but not so near that the roads were not surrounded by fields and trees. Lovely day, beautiful light and the mistake I made was having the radio on as it threatened to “debate” cuts to public services.
Of course, I try to avoid such things. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the journey shouting at the radio. I hate talking to electrical appliances. Except the fridge. The fridge understands me. But I thought - with all the naivety of a lamb booking into the Slaughterhouse Hotel - that maybe someone would say something unexpected, something new.
Thirteen seconds later I turned it off. Some annoying buffoon was saying “Public services have had it too easy for too long - they arrogantly presume they are different from the rest of us but they are not”. He worked for a tabloid newspaper - you nurse. He writes drivel for a living - you look after ill people. Are those things not different? Who kidnapped reason and replaced it with a talking doughnut?
Obviously, logic has nothing to do with the discussion around public service cuts. Everyone I know, be they nurses, doctors or teachers, realises that the work they do and the reason they do it is going to be undermined - if not devastated - over the next couple of years.
‘Let’s stop this expensive public service nonsense and do something useful, like sell carpets to the people of Britain. Think of the money it would save’
The mantra is set: we have to claw back an awful lot of the money we spent on banks, wars, economic speculation and unnecessary shoes. We can’t do that with taxes because people will get cross so we’d best stop investing so much in all the peripheral stuff like healthcare, education or those blokes in shiny hats who put out fires.
And, maybe rather than argue with the festival of wrongness that is modern politics, we should make it easier for the “economy” and just stop doing what we do - yes, all of us - and go and open a chain of carpet shops. Let’s stop this public service nonsense which is annoying and expensive and instead do something useful with our time. Provide floor covering for the people of Britain and turn a healthy profit too. Think of the money it would save.
Then we could sell off the schools and hospitals and use the space they so annoyingly take up to build extra car parks or shopping malls which will, of course, create jobs for countless former radiographers, occupational therapists and neurosurgeons.
Of course, if people still carried on getting ill we might have one or two problems, but I’m almost sure someone will come up with something, particularly when retailers and businessmen are so much happier with the economy and they can think again of how to pay for those little extras like a police force or some pesky midwives.
Petulant? Probably - but the nature of the public service debate invites it. If the premise is that public services have the same moral and social value as selling houses, playing football or baking cakes than the premise is wrong and we ought to spend some time establishing a better one. The fact that we won’t makes us all poorer and will cost so much more than money in the long term.