The Plastic Hippo

October 7, 2010

It`s not big and it`s not clever

Filed under: Politics,Rights,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 1:13 am

Willenhall Leisure Centre, once described by council leader Mike Bird as “an open sore”, could be resurrected under the auspices of the Amateur Swimming Association. In Cameron’s “Big Society”, the key word here is amateur – that is, not paid.

In late August, after Walsall Council closed Willenhall Leisure Centre in the face of massive public opposition, Councillor Bird said this regarding the sale of the building:
“One of the problems is that everyone wants us to give it to them for nothing. Although we’ve had a lot of interest, obviously no-one has come along and said `here’s a cheque`. But while we are keen to sell it as soon as possible, it remains a council asset and we will not just let it go for peanuts. It could take two years to sell it.”

Fast forward just six weeks. On the day of Cameron’s rallying cry for national unity and a war time big society spirit, our council leader said this:
“I know about the interest from the Amateur Swimming Association and other parties but we have had no concrete offers yet. We would consider a community transfer at no cost but we would have to make sure it is a good deal for the people who want to use the centre. I have always said if someone can run it better than us then put your money where your mouth is, we could not afford to lose £900 per day keeping the place open.”

This conversion on the ring road to Damascus or, in this case, Symphony Hall, has left the somewhat bewildered Councillor Bird even more light-headed than usual. Not going for “peanuts” in August has become “no cost” in October and it seems a little incongruous for a council leader to demand “a good deal” for the people who used a facility that he and his cabinet so tenaciously and determinedly closed down. No peanuts then, not even an empty packet, not even a lick of a salt coated finger. As for running things better than the council, Serco, Tarmac, Amey and Greasy Sam’s Granny Farms Inc. are all doing very nicely, thank you very much and pass the caviare.

So what does the Cameron speech in Symphony Hall, soon to be sold off along with other Birmingham council “assets” to middle eastern speculators, actually mean?

Simple. Flog off the bits that make a profit and ask people who have already paid for services through taxation to provide themselves with those services for free. Those that do not pay tax – tough – work or die.

The Cameron speech was alarmingly littered with references to Monty Python and Basil Fawlty. One can only hope that Mr Cameron was offered a final waffer thin mint after dinner and that Little Michael Gove will be promoted to the Ministry of Silly Walks. Cameron spoke of an end to confrontational politics and praised the partnership between his party and the Liberal Democrats which was vital for the “national interest”. About half his speech, along with those of his cabinet colleagues, was given over to a flesh stripping condemnation of his predecessors who, according to him, are the ones that have made it necessary to ask us to melt down garden gates into Spitfires. Margaret Thatcher has been invited back to number 10 for a birthday tea.

In a packed hall where the young and photogenic were placed at the front to catch the cut-away camera shots, Cameron attempted to emulated former leaders. One can imagine the autocue instructions.
“Please…(look right, wait for applause)…remember…(look left, wait for applause)…to turn off…(look into camera, wait for applause)… to TURN OFF YOUR MOBILE PHONES (bang lectern – acknowledge standing ovation – wave at wife)

He tried the futile message of Lord Kitchener, the oration skills of Churchill, the weak jokes of Thatcher, the family intimacy of Blair and the long, inane, irritating tongue-twisting lists of achievement and failure so favoured by Gordon Brown. In a speech that was low on policy and full of self justification and blaming others, the Prime Minister proved himself to be just as barking mad as the self serving hypocrites that preceded him. Meet the new boss – same as the old boss, only this time he wants us to do his job for him.

He talked of nurses co-ops, citizen patrols to rid the streets of drug dealing and prostitution and free schools where parents will enjoy the right to head-but teachers currently only enjoyed by their children. This “call to arms” to join the big society predicates cuts in the police service, the armed forces (apart from Trident missiles), education, social services, the economic cleansing of the posher parts of London and, what is euphemistically termed, a reorganisation of the NHS.

The “big society” means that central and local government has become redundant so perhaps we should resurrect individual groups like Barings Bank, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., RBS, Northern Rock and the financiers that placed Liverpool Football Club at the bottom of the table after suffering a home defeat to Blackpool at Anfield. These people will surely ask what they can do for their country rather than what their country can do for them. After all, £44k is just a lunch bill.

Cameron delighted the faithful by tub thumping opposition bashing and a demonisation of the weak and vulnerable. He constantly referred to the “fairness” of his cuts that will ultimately destroy lives, livelihoods and basic human rights. The youthful photogenic and the portly, ugly ones at the back left Birmingham tumescent with pride. Four days of empty rhetoric on Broad Street will soon be forgotten when the full horror of the comprehensive spending review is exposed. Back in the shires and the leafy suburbs, the chosen ones in the hall might think twice about unpaid national service and are unlikely to consider the future of Willenhall Leisure Centre.

It is not big, it is not clever and, regardless of what the autocue says, it is not fair.


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