At the core of the governmentâs plans for a Big Society is the belief that people across the country will diligently take up voluntary work in their local communities once the bureaucracy of an over-bearing state has been swept away.
Equally, it suits the Government, as it squeezes the pips out of budgets in every department, to portray âCanât afford to do thatâ as âweâve empowered you to do that for yourselfâ.
Itâs the ultimate spin â Â âOf course you can have an outreach macramÃ© teacher for orphaned Mongolian chimpanzees abandoned in Aberystwyth, yes, yes, pressing need, we quite agree, thatâs why we have empowered you to do this sort of thing yourself, yep, that applies even if they are showing progress in learning Welsh â when will you be starting courses? â Hello? Hello? Are you still there?â
One enterprising web site has evolved to monitor the progress of MPs as they grapple with the notion of doing things for nothing. They have e-mailed every MP asking them what they did voluntarily for their local community in their summer hols. I should say that I am not completely convinced that this is a fair activity to be monitoring them for â surely every time they open an old peopleâs homes or judge the Victoria Sponge competition they are giving their time towards local activities which they are not strictly speaking paid for â although presumably they have half an eye on their re-election chances as they volunteer their ribbon cutting expertise?
Here goes â top volunteering MP for his local community â drum roll â triumphant clash of cymbals â step forward Mr David Amess MP for Southend West.
What activity did Mr Amess takes part in that the Government no longer has to pay for, that the local community is empowered to undertake itself now? Come on, come on, youâre the top volunteer; letâs have a sterling example of the big society. Did you help teach English to a family of Rumanian pickpockets, or help the UK Borders employees catch another 500 Afghan refugees and return them to their rightful home? Did you make soup for public sector workers unfairly thrown out of jobs? Â What did you do David?
Oh dear! I suspect that your secretary got her qualifications in one of those âpick one out of threeâ multiple choice exams where you have every chance of getting a gold star just for writing your name down. I can hear her brain ticking over from here. ….tick tock, tick tock,
Unpaid Intern: âe-mail here; they want to know what David did for the Big Society over the summer holiday â whatâs the big society?â
Secretary: âDunno really, Cameron was on about it, something to do with volunteering I thinkâ.
Unpaid Intern: So just send them anything on volunteering?
Which I surmise, is how Mr David Amess came to be credited as the top volunteer for Cameronâs Big Societyâ empowering his local community by, by, by …..
By flying to the Philippines for two weeks?
David Amess â Conservative, Southend West â departs 22nd August
Amess, a former member of the Health Select Committee, will travel to the Philippines to train the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) to lobby more effectively for improved salaries and working conditions for nurses.Â Low pay, a lack of management support and difficult working conditions are currently driving many well-qualified and experienced nurses to work abroad or to leave the profession altogether.
Voluntary Service Overseas paid for his airfare and other expenses, as they did for nine other MPS fired off to exotic spots. Well, it had âVoluntaryâ in the title dinnâit? Stupid cow.
If they had any brains theyâd be dangerous. That goes for the secretaries and interns too.