While many are shivering in homes surrounded by uncollected rubbish and ungritted roads at the moment, a fair few of them are quietly content. This is because they suspect that history has rhymed yet again: local services breaking down, things going to pot, and police never there when you need them. Yes, it feels uncannily like 1978/79 revisited. This must, people think, spell the coup de grace for Labour.
My own view is that what’s happening now is both a salutary lesson….and a reminder of what’s really important.
The lesson is simple, so I won’t dwell on it: after every fey idea about multiculturalism, Ministers for Women, British identity and all the other twaddle has been put forward by government (and giggled at by most everyone else), the laughing stops when something like a cold snap happens. Because as ever, it becomes clear that on-the-ground organisation is a figment of some minister’s imagination, preparations are sketchy at best, and there simply isn’t enough money left in the Treasury to do what’s necessary.
Instead, the Government does ‘whatever it takes’; in other words – nothing, dressed up as lots of politicos looking sympathetic and telling everyone to stick together.
This last appeal to our better selves, however, isn’t really needed – and it leads me directly to reminding ourselves about what really matters at the sharp end of real life.
Contrary to the unspoken belief in Westminster, adult human beings do not need to be told what to do when the roads are impassable. They help each other with shortages, give others lifts to the shops in 4WDs; and they conserve everything; they plan how to get through; and perhaps most important of all, they improvise. (For our postman, it was a sledge to carry our letters, his Royal Mail van having failed at the first hill).
Gradually, after four days with the recycling piling up –and a call to the Council revealing that the next collection will be in a fortnight – people are taking their dry rubbish and putting it on the fire (wood and coal being largely absent). The lucky four-wheeled traction owners have begun taking bottles and cans to the main tip in town. We’ve yet to be advised by the Council what they’ll do about the smell, once the thaw ripens our anally collected food scraps
It’s quickly starting to dawn on the inhabitants of our hamlet that we don’tneed any of these prancing twits from London, or even the little Hitlers in Exeter. They’re useless in a crisis anyway – whereas neighbours can, between them, sort out most of what needs doing.
I wrote ‘adult’ human beings earlier because of course, a large number of people aged over eighteen in Britain aren’t. This is often no fault of their own: indulgent, dense, and/or rich parents, government busybodies, and misguided teachers have all given them the strong impression that a life free of responsibility is quite normal – as indeed in Cool Britannia, it often is.
Over the next decade they’re going to have to grow up, because what we’re going through now is a portent of what happens – not including the tax increases, of course – when a rich and decidedly silly country becomes impoverished.
In a nutshell, two things have happened in our neck of the woods: a community sense has been ignited, and the resentment of all things Big has been fortified.
This doesn’t just apply to government. Our nearest Co-op is two miles the wrong side of an impassable hill, and Tesco is five miles of unsalted sheet ice away. In London and other large centres this may be less of a problem, but in this age of ‘just in time’ delivery, the shelves will start to look sparse very quickly if their lorries can’t get through.
Assuming they can organise picking up stock and getting deliveries, at times like these, convenience stores come into their own. This too has been noted by the locals, aware that a whopping great Tesco has just been given permission to knock down our only gym. Even before it’s built, the heralding of Tescopoly has turned a charming shopping area into a wasteland of charity shops and ‘To Let’ signs. Yet more myopic cultural planning from the Centre.
This is where spin gets its final comeuppance. It’s why all the soundbites of Blair and rhetoric of Obama are nothing more than an abuse of much-needed oxygen in the end. Talk, as they say, is cheap: but all-mouth government is damned expensive.
Brown came to power via the knife, not the ballot box. Ever since, Britain has been assailed by floods, an appalling summer, the coldest winter in forty years, and the worst fiscal crisis in our history. Who cares if its his fault or not? It is communities, trade associations, emergency services, soldiers and families who are solving the problems – not government.
Not national government – and most decidedly not Brussels. Distracted now by the toxic States their hubris insisted should join the EU, the Big Boys are also beginning to fall out. The Germans just turned the Greek bailout down – but Hungary and Latvia are in a much deeper hole. There’ll be no help forthcoming from Belgium, of that you can be sure.
At last, people are beginning to notice that big organisations are all wee and wind when real help is required. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow – that’s what I say.
Copyright John Ward 2010