29 June, 2011


A few months ago (January) I posted a blog  about ‘Broken Britain’  (http://arbeale.blogspot.com/2011/01/broken-britain.html) and  at the same time began to draft a very short  a one act  ‘sketch’ about the  'Oxfordshire  Set' -  a spoof on the characters and on items then in the news. In  my blog I mentioned  the alleged ‘goings on’ in this august group of individuals who seem to be very close to the Prime Minister  and who potentially  wield a lot of power in our country - albeit behind the scenes.  I suggested that these people - some of them by anyone's standards rather dubious -  might benefit from an investigation by the great Inspector Morse – the intrepid fictional Oxford detective. Little did I know that within a few months one of the Oxfordshire Set would sadly meet his death in rather unusual circumstances at the Glastonbury pop festival – just the thing for Morse to get his teeth into!
Inspector Morse and his trusty
assistant Sergeant Lewis

I have to confess that the older I become the greater I become a conspiracy theorist. I simply do not believe that all these 'events' simply jump out of the wood work by chance – whether it be the death of Diana, the death of David Kelly, or raised terrorist threat levels – they have an uncanny knack of appearing at just the right moment – for the Government that is. They have now become so predictable that in my view we are in the realms of farce. The sad thing is that we are such a law abiding and gullible  society we all touch our forelock and 'believe' what we are told.

So, with the latest piece of farce on our front pages and  with tongue in cheek I thought I would add to my one act farce – and make it full length four act farce! Sadly, having read it through I think it's a bit too much like the real thing!

A New Inspector Morse Mystery.

                Dramatis Personae
Prime Minister: David Cannon MP . 
Theresa Mayne: MP, Home Secretary
Michael Grove: MP, Minister for Education 
Rebekah Book: CEO of NewsCom International, ex-editor of various salacious newspapers
Jeremy  Harkson: TV personality and presenter of  First Gear
Jeremy Lunt: MP for, Minister for Culture 
Eric Bickles: MP, Minister for Communities
George Oxborne: MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Vince Dable: MP, Business Secretary 
Andrew Tansley, MP, Minister of Health
Inspector Morse: Detective Inspector, Thames Valley Constabulary
Sergeant  Lewis: Detective Sergeant, Thames Valley Constabulary

Charlie Book: Husband of Rebekah,  'Champaign Charlie' playboy, ex-jockey and trainer and pundit,  ran  sex toy mail order company, 
Rupert  Hoames: Grandson of former Prime Minister, Business man
Christopher Hoames: Brother of Rupert, MP
Rupert Murdon: Australian media mogul, CEO of NewsMedia. and boss of Rebekah Book
Christopher Bale: Business man and chairman of West Cotswold Conservative Association

Act 1
Scene:  January 2011 - The Cabinet Room,  somewhere in Oxfordshire (reputed to be  Rebekah Books' dining room). Assembled around the dining  table is the cabinet – both official and unofficial. There are, of course, no civil servants present  - just servants who occasionally scuttle in and out of the room to service George Oxborne whenever he calls out in his best Bullingdon Club voice ‘Fag’. 
Prime Minister: Lovely salad Rebekah - and I really enjoyed the capers.
Rebekah Book: Thanks Dave - they're local Cotswold capers - they only grow around Chipping Norton. 
Prime Minister: So we’re all agreed then. George, we’re losing the economy argument. Andrew, your NHS reforms look to have the potential to bring the Government down. And Rebekah, we need to take the spotlight off you and Rupert. We don’t want to intrude on the banks – risks our directorships when we give up politics. And the big society is tits up now that Liverpool and Lord  Wei are pulling out.  We need an idea to move the debate away and give those pesky journalists and voters something new to chew on. Any suggestions?

Theresa Mayne: How about  raising the terror threat – that always takes over the front pages for a few days? I could soon have a word with the security services.
Prime Minister: Good thinking  Theresa but we’ve done that several times already – it’s starting to look a bit thin. And anyway, the holiday season is approaching, don’t want to upset the natives by upping  security at airports again. We’ll have that bloke O'Leary from Ryanair at us like last time.
Michael Grove: Should I announce a new school curriculum – I can knock one up while I have my pudding?
Prime Minister :  Not worth it Grovey – what little there was of the education system after Blair has been rubbished by the academies. Nobody gives a toss any longer. What about you Jeremy -  anything at Culture that might give us a get out?
Jeremy Lunt: Err, sorry boss – I’ll have to ask Rupert. All my announcements and ideas have to go through NewsMedia’s press office and be personally  vetted by Mr Murdon.
Prime Minister: Sorry, I forgot, Jeremy – but have a word. Good chap.
Theresa Mayne - the Home
Secretary - reflects the tasteful
sensibilities of Maidenhead
and the Thames valley.

A long silence. People try to look thoughtful.

Vince Dable: Prime Minister, I could make an announcement that all bankers will be named, shamed and publically garrotted.
Prime  Minister: But nobody believes anything you say any more Vince. It wouldn’t even be reported. Would the News of the Planet run  Vince’s idea, Rebekah?
Rebekah Book: Sorry Dave – who’s Vince?
Eric Bickles: I know, Mr Cannon, sir, yer 'onour. I’ll squeeze local councils a bit more. That’ll make big news.
Prime Minister: Eric, how many times do I have to explain this to you!  It’ll also make big problems – we’ve been there  before. I can’t get through my front door for the letters of complaint from authors and library users complaining at the library cuts. That’s the problem with all this education for the oiks. You teach 'em to read and the next thing you know you’re funding libraries. That’s why Grovey is doing his damndest to run down the school system. Let the private companies run it. Have another sausage roll and go back to sleep Eric. Grovey – refill Eric’s trough for him.

Silence – the cabinet (official and unofficial) gaze at the ceiling and their navels (not at the same time) and mull over the problem. Then the silence in broken. Outside there is a screech of tyres, a thump and a scream. 'Bugger' a voice shouts, 'that’s dented my front wing. Can’t these servants learn to get out of the way more quickly?’

Rebekah Book: Oooh! It’s Jeremy – he’ll know what to do.

The door crashes open and in strides a dishevelled Jeremy Harkson. He kicks the chair from under Eric Bickles  who rolls onto  the floor and falls head first into the trough. Jeremy sits on the chair and puts his feet on the table. Rebekah and Theresa gaze at him and sigh.
Eric Bickles - not really Tory 'top drawer'
more Essex MP and ex-polytechnic

Jeremy Harkson: Sorry I’m late boss – been downing a few beers with the lads and chatting up the local totty. Grovey when you’ve finished filling Eric’s trough, lick the mess off my shoes and then  nip outside and clean up  the drive. Clean the blood off my car.
Michael Grove  : Oh do I have to?
Prime Minister: Grovey. Do it. Now!  Jeremy, we’ve got a problem. We need a new idea to put on the front pages to get the press off our backs about all the cock ups we’ve made. Any ideas?
Jeremy Harkson:  Oh I’m good with cock ups boss. (Jeremy Lunt sniggers and nudges George Oxborne; Rebekah Book and Theresa Mayne giggle). Easy, boss. I’ve always found that a bit of racism and prejudice goes a long way. We call it muscular liberalism on First Gear – means we’re free to pick on anyone or anything 'cos we’re bigger and stronger.  Learned it on the playground years ago. In fact Grovey’s outside now cleaning  up the mess it often leaves. Sorry about that servant of yours Rebekah. Used a bit of muscular liberalism on First Gear only last week – called the Mexicans lazy -  certainly boosted the ratings.  Readers of the tabloids love it – and it goes down well with our First Gear crowd. How about making an announcement that multiculturalism has failed and mention words and phrases like Muslim extremists. That’d go down well with the punters and Rebekah here could sex it up a bit in the 'News of the Planet'. It would certainly move the debate on and  Guardian journalists would really get their teeth into it – the economy, the NHS, and your problems with who you had dinner with over Christmas would be on the back pages tomorrow and fish and chips paper wrapping  by Monday.

Loud cheering from the assembled.

Prime Minister (scribbling down Harkson’s ideas): Jeremy, you’re a star – I’ll get my speech writers and new media director onto it right away. Anyone know if it’s a curly 'c' or and kicking 'k'  in mus(k?)cular? Now, anyone for  pudding. What is it Rebekah?
Rebekah Book: Oh, it’s your favourite Dave – Eton Mess.

Scene: June 2011: The sleepy Cotswold's lanes of Oxfordshire. Inspector Morse is speeding along in his red Jag with his trusty  companion Sergeant Lewis.
Morse, Lewis and the red Jag - scourge of
Oxfordshire society 

Lewis:  So tell me again Sir, why are we going to Glastonbury – I thought you were more into Wagner than U2
Morse: (raising his eyes to heaven) It’s not the music, Lewis. There’s been an unexplained death in  the portaloos at Glastonbury. One of the Oxfordshire Set.
Lewis:  (with a look of horror on his face) Not the Oxfordshire Set – aren’t  we  a bit out of our depth with that lot? And anyway -  I guess there are lots of deaths near the portaloos at Glastonbury every year – the smell is terrible!
Morse: Ah but this one is different – this guy is friends with the PM, and his house is only six miles from the PM's constituency cottage and a short drive from the home of Rebekah Book, the  chief executive of NewsCom International.
Lewis: How do you know all this, Sir
Morse: In this morning’s Guardian Lewis – look it says  the man in question, Christopher Bale, lived 'in a handsome house on a remote lane in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside around Chipping Norton, which has become a weekend powerbase for the Conservatives'.
Lewis: I agree Sir – looks nasty.
Morse: It gets worse. A newspaper, the  Mail on Sunday,  was going to publish a leaked document written by this guy saying that the Conservative Party  was 'graceless, voracious, crass, always on the take'.
Lewis: Well everyone knows that, Sir  and anyway nobody will ever believe what  the  Mail on Sunday says.
Morse: Quite true Lewis but I think it’s a bit suspicious – after all the other goings on with the Oxfordshire Set in recent months it’s too much of a coincidence that this guy dies on the day all this is published.
Lewis: Sir, you don’t mean that Mr Bale been MURDERED!
Morse: No, I don’t think so Lewis.  All I’m saying is that it needs looking into. With the people in the Oxfordshire Set we have to be careful.
Lewis: Well yes -  I mean, the Oxfordshire Set must be the brightest and best of English society – all those clever, genteel people – pillars of society and all that.
Morse: Where have you been Lewis? Do you believe everything that you read  in your Daily Telegraph? No, the Oxfordshire Set are a devious bunch – linked to every shady operator in the world -   Silvio Berlusconi, Rupert Murdoch, George Bush, Tony Blair, Prince Andrew, Fergie, Peter Mandelson, Simon Cowell.....the list is endless. I wouldn’t put anything  past them.
Lewis: Gosh Mr Morse, this looks serious.
Morse: It is Lewis. These people will stop at nothing to get what they want. Just like the Gods in The Ring.  It’s Wagner at its best!
A remote lane in Oxfordshire


Scene:  Evening the same day: A  handsome house in a remote lane of the Oxfordshire countryside. The room is filled with members of the Oxfordshire Set. It is the Conservative Party powerbase.
Michael Grove promotes the
new reading materials for schools

Michael Grove: Oh I do wish this would soon be over.  I mean I didn’t do anything. I know that what Mr Bale said was true – I am a bit crass but I do try hard.
Prime Minister: Yes, Michael – we all know – you are very trying.
George Oxborne: When can I go boss? I admit it – Bale was right on – he often told me I was always on the take. And I admit it – it’s bloody expensive being MP in Cheshire – all those Manchester United footballers living in my constituency. I have standards to maintain, parties to throw.  I mean Cheshire’s  MP used to be old  Neil Hambledon and his loopy wife – talk about on the make – look what happened to him – cash for questions, bankrupt. It’s just so lucky that my constituents are all so rich and on the make themselves that they don’t notice me making a few bob.
Rebekah Book: Don’t get so worked up George. I know that it’s grim up north – I was born in Warrington you know – but that’s another story.  Everything will be alright – Rupert promised. And to cheer you up my Charlie will get you a load of blow up dolls – they’ll go down well at the next Constituency Fund Raiser you have up in Cheshire. All those Premiership footballers love will ‘em.
Prime Minister: Now look, let’s get our story straight. We know nothing and we saw nothing. After all it’s true. Let me do the talking.  And Eric (looking at Eric Bickles who has two sausage rolls stuffed into his mouth and custard around his face as he looks up from the trough under the table)). Please would you try not to look so obviously voracious – don’t make  it look as if Bale had a point.
Eric Bickles (snorting and  dribbling custard down his tie): Err alright yer 'onour – can I have some more cake please?

The door  crashes open and in strides Jeremy Harkson with Theresa Mayne on his arm.

Jeremy Harkson: They’re  here boss – an old red Jag just came up the drive.
Prime Minister: Jeremy, tuck your shirt in and stop fondling Theresa – don’t be so graceless – and please try to show a bit of respect to Morse. He’s not a fool. Theresa make yourself decent.
Theresa  Mayne (tucking in her blouse and adjusting her skirt): Oh don’t worry Dave – Rebekah and Rupert Murdon have already bought the Met. We can soon put something together with Thames Valley Police to get Morse off our backs. I’ll fix it. Give me the word and Morse will sleep with the fishes at the bottom of the Thames. I know just the spot near Maidenhead where I live. After all, what's a Home Secretary for?
Jeremy Harkson comes up the drive

A knock on the door.

Prime Minister: Come!

In walks Morse followed by Sergeant  Lewis.

Morse: Good afternoon Gentleman and, err, Ladies. Thank you for agreeing to see me.
Michael Grove (putting up his hand): Please Sir, can I go now – I need to go to the toilet.
Morse: I’d rather you didn’t, if you don’t mind, Sir.
Michael Grove: But I’ll wet myself.
Morse: You may be aware that we are investigating the sudden death of a local man – Christopher Bale. I understand that he was a friend of all of you all.
Everyone (Together): No – never heard of him! It wasn’t me! Didn’t know him from Adam! I’ve been here all the time! It's a fair cop! It was him - he told me to do it! I'll get my big brother on you! I demand to have my lawyer present! What about my human rights? Mummy! 
Morse: Oh! But I understood that he was a local Conservative – a big man in the local Party.
Prime Minister: Oh you mean that Christopher Bale – well, yes I met him once or twice but I’d hardly say I knew him well.
Morse: It just seems rather a coincidence that on the day he called the Conservative Party 'crass, voracious, graceless and on the take' he should be found dead in a toilet at Glastonbury.
Michael Grove: Well it’s true, Sir, we are all crass, graceless, on the take and vor.....vor...acious – how do you say it? What does it mean? Please Sir,  can I go to the toilet now. I need a poo.
Morse: Lewis escort Mr Grove to the toilet – watch him like a hawk.
Lewis: Do you really mean that Sir – do I have to watch him? Ugh!
George Oxborne returnng to his Cheshire
constituency home

From under the table there is a large burp and Eric Bickles’ head appears smeared with custard and gravy.

Bickles: I feel a bit sick – can I go to the loo as well?
Morse: Excuse me Prime Minister, who is that?
Prime Minister: Oh, that’s Eric. Don't mind him. He can’t help it – he's an MP in Essex you know so he's not really top drawer – only went to a polytechnic. We just keep him to remind us what life would be like if the oiks got into power. Actually, he was a free offer in 'Waitrose'.
Morse: I see – but back to Mr Bale – what can you tell me about the gentleman?
Prime Minister:  Well, it’s true Inspector, I did hear that Christopher had made some rather strange statements – I think that he had been a little unwell recently.
Morse: Quite so, Prime Minister. But is there anything else you might be able to tell us?
Prime Minister: Inspector,  we in the Conservative Party believe in transparency  - and we agree we are all crass, voracious, on the take and graceless – we have nothing to hide. Everyone, after all, has their little foibles. I mean look at poor old Eric.
Jeremy Harkson: Hold on Boss, my foible is rather large – isn’t it Theresa?
Theresa Mayne (Giggles) Oh you are wicked Jeremy!
George Oxborne: And I know that Theresa’s foibles are enormous  I’ve seen 'em!
Prime Minister: (Raises his eyes to heaven and glares at Oxborne and Harkson): As I was saying Inspector, I don't think we can help you. 
Morse: Well, thanks anyway, Prime Minster.  I’ll be going now. I  think you’ve told me all I need to know. Are you sure there is nothing more you would like to add?
Prime Minister: Glad to be of help Inspector. Oh...... there is one other thing – I've heard a rumour that Mr Bale met Rupert Hoames at Glastonbury. Hoames might be able to help you.

The whole Oxfordshire Set roar with laughter.

Nicholas Hoames - what a laugh!
Jeremy Harkson: Oh the Hoames’ boys – Rupert and Nicholas – what great guys. The stories I could tell! Do you know women MPs  shout "click" at Nick because they say that he’s so fat that having sex with  him is like having a wardrobe fall on you with the key still in it. But Nick doesn’t care he  makes  cupping gestures with his hands, suggestive boobs, when women are trying to speak in parliament, in order to distract them. He even rang  a Labour Party guy  and said "you sex god, you Adonis, you the greatest of all great men". Trouble was, he was actually speaking to the guy’s young son. He’s a hoot. I mean the Hoames boys take crassness, voracity, gracelessness and on the take to a new level!
George Oxborne: Yeh, bit like a night out in Wilmslow! Great!
Theresa Mayne: And Maidenhead! Bring it on!
Prime Minister: Jeremy! Shut it - stop being so graceless and crass! And you two - behave like Government ministers! And now Inspector I really do think that's all. I have important work to do running the country.
Morse: I understand Prime minister. Thank you for your time - you've all been more than helpful.

Lewis and Morse leave and climb into their Jag.
One of the Oxfordshire Set (Rebekah?)
  -  or is it Brunhilde in 'The Ring'?

Lewis: Do you know who did it Sir? Are we any closer?
Morse: (sighs) It wasn’t murder Lewis – the poor man realised he was right in what he said – he suddenly realised that the Oxfordshire Set, which he had worked so hard to get into, was simply a  group of not very nice people.  Bale was a good man – look read his obituary in the Guardian. He worked abroad at a Christian mission, was keen to make the country a better place and was by all accounts discreet and personable. He was asthmatic  and born with a finger deformity but he worked hard and got to the top of his profession. He really wanted to make things better but his undoing was he got caught up with the Oxfordshire Set. He thought he was joining like minded people and  the academic and genteel elite of English society  -  a set of Gods. Instead he found that these  Gods  were just Tory politicians - crass, voracious, graceless and on the take – not at all like him. Just like the Gods in Wagner’s  Ring really. And on top of all that he went for a bit of peace and quiet at Glastonbury, to sort his ideas out and there he sadly met Rupert Hoames. It was all too much for the poor man.  His dream was shattered – he  simply sat down in the portaloo and lost the will to live. What a way to go – in a portaloo at Glastonbury. Very sad. The Gods move in mysterious ways. You should listen to the Ring Lewis - Wagner is about important things - life and death - and for poor Mr Bale it was death. Let’s go home Lewis – and we’ll stop for a quiet pint on the way.
A sad end

And the  red Jag disappeared down the drive.
In the house a row of little  faces press against the glass  of the window.

Eric Bickles: Can I get some more sausage rolls yer 'onour?
George Oxborne: When are the rubber dolls coming Rebekah?
Rebekah Book: Oh you are impatient George - just like a little boy! Look if you're really good and do as I say I'll get Rupert to buy you a new constituency so that you don't have to make those awful journeys up to Cheshire and mix with those northerners. We'll find you somewhere nice in Oxfordshire or Berkshire or Surrey - they're all filled with people with no brains, no morals and loads of money - just the place for you. You'll make an ideal MP for them - I mean look at Grovey and Theresa - and Rupert will soon fix it with a bit of bribery, corruption and dodgy newspaper articles.
George Oxborne: Oh! Will he really Rebekah? That would be great. What would you like me to do - a few tax breaks for Rupert? Or could I  give you a few directorships at the banks we now own - you know RBS and the rest - that'll bring you a few bob in and someone with your skills would fit in admirably on the Board? Or how about taking the VAT off blow up dolls - that will please your husband, Charlie.
Michael Grove:  I’ve pooed my pants
Prime Minister: Don’t be crass Michael.
Jeremy Harkson: Chill out Boss. Come on Theresa – climb aboard my  super car – it’s a  Ferrari Testarossa – we’ll burn some rubber down these Cotswold country lanes and play with our foibles.
Jeremy Lunt: Just popping outside for a few minutes Boss - I have that TV appearance booked for 10 o'clock.
Prime Minister: OK Jeremy - hope it goes well. (He picks up his mobile and sighs as he looks at the group before him): Is that Special Branch?  Oh good,  it’s the PM here. I just wanted to check that you have made sure that the Glastonbury Coroner’s office  won’t be carrying out an inquiry into the death at Glastonbury. Can I be assured that the whole thing will be put quietly to bed? Good. Thank you.
Morse and Lewis enjoy that
well deserved pint of beer. Oxfordshire
and wider society can sleep
safe and sound in their beds.

                                  ACT 4

Scene: A pub a couple of miles from the Oxfordshire Set's residence, later the same night. Morse and Lewis sit by the bar drinking their beer. In the corner a TV is broadcasting. The  news comes on and the screen is filled with a picture of Jeremy Lunt standing out side the Oxfordshire Set's residence. 

Jeremy Lunt: I'm pleased to announce the government's approval for Mr Rupert Murdon's NewsMedia takeover of ASkyA. We are all delighted with the outcome. Everyone has worked errr.... very hard for this. There have been a lot of late nights putting all this together.

Rupert Murdon thanks
everyone on TV
Behind Lunt.  through the window of the house, Rebekah Book can clearly be seen laughing as she dances on the table with David Cannon. As they dance they dribble champagne into each other's throats and wave drunkenly at the TV cameras through the window. A party is going on and the popping of champagne corks and grunts from Eric Bickles can clearly be heard. George Oxborne is doing something quite possibly illegal with a blow up doll, a cigar with a fifty pound note. Jeremy Harkson and Theresa Mayne are sprawled out on a sofa admiring their foibles and Michael Grove is trying very hard (counting beyond ten doesn't come easy to Michael) to count his huge pile of newly printed NewsMedia shares that have just arrived special delivery from London. The  TV screen in the pub changes and Rupert Murdon appears in London.

Rupert Murdon: ......and I'd like to thank the Culture Secretary for all his...errrrr... help, in bringing this matter to a satisfactory end. I'd also especially like to thank Rebekah Book for all her hard work in ensuring this monopoly went through  - it's good to know that England is full of people like her. And now if you'll excuse me I have phone calls of thanks  to make, undue political influence to exert and important people to manipulate. I'm really looking forward to playing an even bigger part in Britain's democratic process.
Morse (Sighing): Oh, I'm sure he is and he will, Lewis. You see, Lewis, the Gods at work - crass, voracious, graceless, on the take........poor Mr Bale didn't know the half of it! 
Morse sips at his beer and wistfully looks through the pub window into the Oxfordshire sunset. He shakes his head and quietly speaks - to no one in particular:
'High on a throne of royal state, 
Which far outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind, 
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand 
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold, 
Satan exalted sat, by merit rais’d 
To that bad eminence.'
Lewis: Is that Wagner Sir?
Morse: No Lewis - it's Milton - John Milton. 'Paradise Lost'. It's about what Milton thought his world had become. What would he think to day? Didn't they teach you anything at that school Lewis?


 Please note, this is a work of fiction - any similarities with real people are coincidental

20 June, 2011

'Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates and men decay.'

I have just returned from a short, pleasant and rather warm few days away with my family in Portugal. The sun shone, the accommodation was excellent, the flights on time – a perfect holiday. I should be relaxed and at ease with the world. For a week I was out of contact with world news but when I return I find little has changed.  – we still have austerity measures, Ascot has come and gone – but this time with a punch up amongst the toffs at Ladies Day (little did I know a few weeks ago when I wrote my recent blog rebuking the 'Mrs Malaprops of Fashion' that my bizarre ramblings would so soon become reality!) - and the government appear to be on a collision course with public sector unions concerning pension rights and provision.

This last, rather unpleasant item, for me says much about what is wrong with our modern society. The government, ably supported by the Labour Party, are adamant that the costs of these 'perks' are unsustainable. We have heard the arguments well rehearsed before – we are all living longer, working life is very different from many years ago etc – all very true. But what upsets and angers me is the culture of envy that has developed in our society. Anyone who is in receipt of a final salary pension or likely to receive one is increasingly viewed a 'sponger' by those in the  brave new world of  private enterprise.

The Bible tells us that 'the love of money is the root of all evil' (Timothy 1:v 6-10) and more recently the economist John Meynard Keynes mischievously and pointedly  reminded us that there might be more to life than money and the balance sheet when he commented 'once we allow ourselves to be disobedient to the test of an accountant’s profit, we have begun to change our civilisation for the better' . It was Keynesian economics which  gave countries across the world not only the greatest rises in living standards ever but an increasingly equal and fairer society throughout the middle years of the last century. Then along came Mrs Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and the rest, as they say, is history. The society we now have measures its values in monetary terms – and  it bizarrely  envies those with money but at the same time despises those who it perceives to be 'on the make'. As  Professor Tony Judt ('Ill Fares the Land') points out, for years young people - and often the brightest and best of each generation - upon seeking employment went into jobs that largely benefited society rather than themselves and their pocket – the professions, the civil service and the like. Indeed much of the Victorian British Empire was built upon the backs of such people.  Our own Queen (and I am not a royalist) vowed on her Coronation Day to devote her life to the service of the country. In the past money was not the ultimate defining criteria for a 'good job' - there were other considerations such as  job satisfaction, social good, personal fulfilment, security. Salary or wage was only one, and usually not the most important, factor. Today is very different – young people dream of celebrity status and the wealth and all that goes with it; our brightest and best look to the city for their rewards. Oscar Wilde famously said over a century ago 'The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing' – and we have become a nation of envious cynics.
John Maynard Keynes

It is all a sad reflection that this  culture of cynicism, envy and animosity which has increasingly permeated our society over the last few years and is something for which we all share a portion of blame. It also stunningly highlights our hypocrisy as individuals and a nation.    The reality is that the  castigation of  bankers and city traders largely denies the fact that most of us, given the same opportunity,  would  do exactly the same. The vast majority of us given a large bonus would say 'thank you very much' -  and feel we were worth it. Similarly with MPs expenses – I defy anyone to argue that the majority of us given the chance to claim for items used in our everyday lives (especially when 'the rules' appear to justify many of the claims)  would  not act as many MPs have done. I do not defend either of these examples or practices but merely recognise that  'there but for the grace of God go I!' Of course, there would be many good  souls who would turn down the bonus or be totally honest in relation to expenses  - and thank goodness for that – but these altruistic beings would be the exception rather than the rule. The current envy, bile and animosity being poured on the shoulders of public service workers with their allegedly 'gold plated pensions' is simply another dimension of this unpleasant culture.

Now, as an ex-teacher, I must of course declare an interest – I am in receipt of a final salary pension. I have oft been told 'Oh you're all right - you've got a final salary pension'. Well, yes, and I feel no regret or guilt about it. It was one of the reasons that over 40 years ago I went into the teaching profession . I was prepared to accept, compared with many equally qualified people, a  lower salary, in return for a stable career and the promise of a decent pension at the end of it. Indeed, before becoming a teacher I was a qualified draughtsman and when I began teaching my first few month’s salary were slightly lower than that I had been receiving as a draughtsman five years before – but I made a conscious decision. Tory MP Francis Maude and Liberal (I use the term loosely) 'Danny' Alexander who seems to be leading the charge  against these 'public sector spongers' had just the same choice.  Presumably they had the academic qualifications so could have become teachers- they chose not to. They could have become 'fat cat' hospital cleaners or millionaire local librarians. They could have enjoyed the glory of being a fireman and be told 'what a wonderful brave chap you are ......but ....... oh! sorry - can you please do a bit of moonlighting, take a second job so that you can keep your wife and family'. They could deal with the blood, vomit and drunks at mid night in my local A & E department rather than be a government minister or city trader - there's nothing stopping them and then they too can have a final salary pension.  As Chuck Berry sings and reminds us 'It's a free country, live how you wanna live, man..... ' (Chuck Berry: My ding-a-ling!'). But no,  they elected not to. Why then castigate those of us that did? Indeed, I might argue further  that, having made that decision all those years ago, to become a teacher I might just have contributed rather more to society’s greater good than had I stayed on the drawing board. Perhaps Francis Maude and 'Danny' Alexander might have given me their seal of approval and judged me somehow to be 'a better person' had I stayed designing industrial gas furnaces rather than working with many thousands of young people over four decades.  For me I’m not so sure.  But no, in the end it is cynicism and envy – no more no less -  and our current politicians (of all three parties) are skilled in harnessing this human failing.
Oscar Wilde

But for me there is another dimension to all this - in fact there are many dimension but they are for later blogs you’ll be pleased to know!

For as long as I can remember politicians – and even royals - of all persuasion like to be seen with those whom society generally applauds – nurses, children in schools, on the beat with policemen and the like. David Cameron, Tony Blair Ed Miliband and the like are past masters at applauding our brave firemen, our angelic nurses and other emergency service workers when there is a crisis. It is a photo opportunity. Indeed there have been  many occasions in the past two decades when these workers have been described in the press and in Parliament as 'key workers'. Over the years, however, these groups have been morally blackmailed – 'don’t go on strike and put patients at risk', 'don’t close our schools and put children on the streets and effect their education and well being for the rest of their lives', 'don’t stop digging graves or collecting our rubbish' – the list is endless -  and generally it has worked.  A notable exception was the 'winter of discontent' in the late seventies which  was the death knell of the Callaghan Labour government and heralded in Mrs Thatcher. In the final analysis these workers are absolutely crucial to our very way of life – when hospitals shut their doors, when the litter lies on the streets infested with rats, when bodies remain unburied and fires are left to blaze then society knows it is in trouble. That is why they are called 'key workers'.

And yet, and yet................in many parts of the country these very 'key workers' do not even  earn enough to  get a mortgage. Sometimes they have to take a second job (or more) to make ends meet – the very people that we depend upon most when the chips are down are often unable to take the most basic step in our great 'property  owning democracy' – the ownership of a property! On a weekly basis poorly paid hospital cleaners and their like have to count their pennies but the envious and cynical Mr Maude and Mr Alexander and their ilk now turn their attention to the 'unaffordable' 'gold plated pension' these people might expect in some distant future. How dare they! But sadly, our envy ridden society jumps on the band wagon and gleefully takes up the call: the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, the City whiz kid, the white van merchant lead the derision and envy of the pension that the policeman or nurse or teacher or ambulance driver or other public servant gets.  But at the same time, these 'envious moral guardians'  expect the public servant  to show commitment beyond the call of duty when we need him, to always be available when we require her, to attend to the jobs that we choose not to do ourselves such as looking after the elderly or burying bodies or taking away our waste or rescuing us when we are in dire danger............the list is endless.  There is much cant and hypocrisy at work here.  

You will have gathered by now that I feel strongly about this! As I noted above there are many other dimensions to this – about our society’s value system, about our moral landscape, about trite phrases such as 'meritocratic society' and the like – but they are for another time. My rant is not an argument for  preserving the 'status quo' – public servants and the like must, like everyone else, change as society changes. My anger is directed at the hypocritical thinking, the cynical use made of public servants by politicians and some aspects of the media, the culture of envy that has been created and promoted in our society in the past quarter of a century and a value system that successive governments have created. That value system allows,  accepts and often applauds great wealth often based upon birth, opportunism  or doubtful transitory talent or celebrity fame but at the same time vents its spleen on those who serve our very basic needs.  'How dare these hewers of stone, these drawers of water, these cleaners, these dustmen, these mousy librarians and petty civil servants, these callous social workers who fail to look after our ‘at risk’ children, these lazy teachers and brutal police men have a pension that is better than mine says 'Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells' in his letter to the Telegraph and 'I'll drink to that' says 'Del Boy' as he climbs out of his white van in Peckham? 'It's not fair' they all cry.
The late Professor Tony Judt who died last year having
succumbed to Lou Gehrig's disease- an aggressive form of
 motor neurone disease.  A total quadraplegic Judt dictated
'Ill Fares the Land - a treatise on our discontents'
in the months before he died.

So, regretfully, I will not cry crocodile tears if the little men and women of our hospitals and schools and fire stations and cemeteries and old people’s homes and social services and County Halls and  the like decide to go out on strike. Indeed, I will quietly applaud – and if by any chance a local protest is held then  for the first time in my life I think I might go and wave my banner . Striking is a bad thing – however one describes it – and the reality is that probably the proposed pension reforms are not so draconian – but for me that is not the point. It is time for the little man and woman to bite back. It is time for society to try to realign its values – sadly, I don’t think it will happen.

I read today that  the intellectually and morally challenged   'Be my  friend, please call me Ed', Balls is entreating public service workers not to take industrial action and 'fall into a Tory trap'. He might be right, he might be wrong, but in the end he is self serving – he doesn’t want his party  or himself to be mired in a potentially 'bloody dispute'. He is covering his back rather than standing up for what is right – he, and his party, should be ashamed.

While writing this  sad nonsense for some reason the words of the song 'Ghostbusters' has kept creeping into my mind  - what a sad person I am! But no, perhaps it has a place:

If there's something strange
in your neighbourhood
Who ya gonna call?

If there's something weird
and it don't look good
Who ya gonna call?

Oliver Goldsmith
Perhaps it is a timely reminder of those we do call and rely upon when we  want help, when we have things to be done that we find frightening or unpleasant or dangerous. We will not call Francis Maude or Danny Alexander or Nick Clegg or Ed Balls or Ed Miliband or Dave Cameron  or Tony Blair, I think they might be out! – no,  I will call those we rely upon everyday -  the dustman who will cheerfully take away the dirt that I have created each week, the fireman who will turn up to help put out my blazing home, the teacher who works hard with my grandchildren,  the  nurse to whom I will desperately turn when I roll up at A & E, the ambulance personnel who will turn up at my house within minutes and provide support when my heart plays up as it did several times last year,  the street cleaner who keeps my village beautifully clean and tidy each day – but who told me yesterday he is to be made redundant in two week’s time.  These are the people to whom I will turn and who are of value to me on an everyday basis – they are to do with life’s very basic necessities. It is why they are ‘key workers’ and I will applaud their pensions and say let us all pay a little more tax to pay for their 'perk' so that it is 'affordable'.  It is shaming that our leaders ( I use the term very loosely)  and our society despises and envies so much their little 'perks' – affordable or otherwise - and is of the opinion that they are 'unaffordable'. Our values are truly warped.

Personally, I would ask the question is Mr Maude 'affordable', is 'Danny' or 'Ed' 'affordable'? Was Tony worth what we paid him? And my answer would be 'No'.  Because in my book their contribution in economic terms to our society is little but infinitely more importantly, their contribution to, and their effect upon, the well being of our society is at the best non-existent or more likely corrosive - unlike my village street sweeper or the ambulance driver or the teacher or the librarian or the carer of old people who day in day out contribute to our and my well being. It's rather like the group in the  hot air balloon that was travelling over the jungle and was losing height and about to crash.  Someone had to be thrown out to reduce the load!  The nurse with her medical and caring skills might be needed - so she was safe! The brave, resourceful  fireman was also safe - he would be needed should they land in a  dangerous place - he could hack down the jungle with his axe, he could put out the fire if the balloon with its gas burner ignited when it crashed and he could rescue with ease  anyone trapped in the wreckage. The school dinner lady was safe - she could provide healthy food from virtually nothing. The hospital cleaner was  safe - he would ensure that everyone was kept clean and free of germs and leeches in the jungle - he had no fear or hang ups about dealing with the nasty things in life! The teacher was safe - her geographical knowledge  and map reading skills would be invaluable. The policeman was obviously safe - his bravery was unquestioned and he would keep them safe through the dark jungle nights and fight off any intruders. The list went on until ........ 'And what can you contribute?' they at last asked Danny Alexander, 'Ed' Balls and Francis Maude the three politicians in the group. Francis looked shamefaced......'Err well, I'm a Tory so I don't really contribute anything......as a Tory I'm of course one of life's natural leaders. I don't actually do anything and have no particular skills but I tell others what to do and how they can do their job better and more efficiently. So I could advise you each how to do your jobs  - that's what I used to do in government. And if I think any of you are any good when we get home I'll give you a job in my new privatised Fire Brigade and my new privatised schools and my new security companies - sorry, there won't be anything for the nurse and the hospital cleaner because there won't be a health service.  I'm all for people who do things efficiently, cost little and make more money for me. ' There was silence and embarrassed looks all around. The fireman ran his finger along the blade of his axe. The policeman felt in his pockets for his handcuffs.  Silence - the balloon drifted lower towards the tree tops. 'Well. what about you 'Danny' what can you do to help' they asked. 'Danny' thought hard (this was rather difficult for him for  as a Liberal member of the Coalition he wasn't used to thinking for himself). Then,  a  smile lit up 'Danny's' little cherub like face......'I know,  I can talk a lot - unfortunately nobody ever believes me 'cause I'm a Liberal and really it's all hot air anyway - but if I talk out of the top of my hat as I usually do the hot air might rise and it might keep the balloon up!'  The teacher picked up her cane. The nurse grasped her hypodermic syringe. The two women looked at each other and sighed. Silence.....the balloon basket grazed the topmost branches of the trees and swung violently from side to side.   'This is getting desperate' said the policeman.  'And what about you 'Ed' said the Hospital Cleaner to 'Ed' Balls - 'what can you do to help - after all you're a Labour politician - you're supposed to help people - it's the reason for the Labour Party?'  Balls looked perplexed, 'Mmmmm....well I was once a boy scout I could make a tent out of branches - a shelter'. 'That's wonderful' the hospital cleaner cried  'it's what the Labour Party are about - giving shelter to those in need - a kind of  physical manifestation of socialist policy! We'll all need shelter if we crash in the jungle - you can stay in the balloon and as soon as we land you can get building'. 'Oh......'I'm sorry mumbled 'Ed' - I meant a shelter just big enough for me  - y'know to keep me dry and away from those nasty insects and leeches. I mean.......I'm not really a socialist in that sense of the word.....I don't really like ordinary people ......I wouldn't want to catch anything from  you.  I mean, don't take offence but won't you be a bit grubby picking those nasty leeches off these people. I'd be much better off in my tent till help arrives - I won't bother you, if you don't bother me. And haven't you heard, the Labour Party has changed... it's all in the latest Labour Party Manifesto under the section headed 'I'm all right Jack pull up the ladder.'  The rest of the group looked at each other, shook their heads and heaved all three politicians over the side........and everything immediately improved - the balloon soared, the dead weight of Danny Alexander, 'Ed' Balls and Francis Maude and  their ilk had been removed - the balloon society's future was assured!

Flippant - perhaps - but it might say a little as to who are the biggest contributors to our society. Sadly, however,  in our topsy turvy world we can, it seems, afford 'Ed'., Francis and Danny but not the hospital cleaner or the bin man - it says much about our value system.    
John Stuart Mill

In his humbling, scathing, poignant  and brilliant historical and political commentary 'Ill Fares the Land - a treatise upon our discontents' the late Professor Tony Judt quotes  Oliver Goldsmith and John Stuart Mill. Goldsmith in 1770 famously  said in his poem The Deserted Village 'Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates and men decay.' We are, in 2011, in our country, in danger of our society decaying – our 'leaders' can talk glibly of austerity, affordability, big society and the like -  but the in the end they have, for the past quarter of a century (and ever more rapidly)  encouraged a society based upon wealth  and greed – and in doing so have made us all part of this hypocritical culture of envy  – we are all, already, 'decaying' in humanity and human values. And what of nineteenth century economist, philosopher and civil servant  John Stuart Mill -  a man whose contribution to the economic, cultural, social, political, philosophical and industrial life of our nation would be impossible to quantify so great was it. Well, Mill famously said 'The idea is essentially repulsive of a society held together only by the relations and feelings arising out of pecuniary interest’.  I would agree and argue that this sort of society is precisely what we have today and indeed it is repulsive.I wonder who, in a hundred years time, will still be remembered as the great contributors to our society - Maude? Alexander? Cameron? Balls? Stuart Mill? Keynes? Goldsmith? Judt? Wilde? - I know which ones my money is on!

Perhaps the grubby Mickey Mouse politicians like Maude, Cameron, Blair, Balls, Miliband, Alexander and the rest, perhaps the media......... and perhaps we too in  our wider society should begin to think a little further than the end of our money grubbing, pecuniary noses. Perhaps we should all re-align our own and society's values. We used to have a Labour Party that at least tried to do this but the deaths of people like John Smith, Mo Mowlam, Robin Cook and Michael Foot broke the link with a rich political/social  heritage. They were replaced by the present incumbents and ably lead by that morally bankrupt con man Tony Blair.  He was more than  ably supported by the totally untrustworthy  Peter - 'I'm intensely comfortable about people being stinking rich' - Mandelson.  A shallow, pseudo intellectual, Mandelson's  private life, his wheeling and dealing and dubious ministerial 'connections' with shady operators in the business and celebrity world brought  the moral and ethical standing of the Labour Party to a nadir. Unfortunately, like the other political parties, the lack of depth, the lack of belief, the lack of conviction, the ideal of a quick fix, the lack of compassion, the simple lack of intellectual rigour, the perverted sense of values and the inability to inspire and give people something to aspire to that has characterised political life in the last quarter of a century  has created a vacuum which is now filled with second rate 'chancers' - in for a quick buck with little to offer and the only emphasis and focus was that of the accountant - and that is a recipe for a society which is cynical  envious, harsh and uncaring . American President Franklin D Roosevelt once famously said 'The test of our  society and our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little' -  I wonder what he would have made of Francis Maude, 'Ed' Balls, 'Danny' Alexander and the grubby, parsimonious society that they are so anxious to foster and impose on some of its most valuable yet most  poorly paid members - in short, those 'who have little'.

When our leadership has perverted values and offers no moral compass to society; when our leaders are incapable of inspiring the best in people or in offering a better way; when our leaders simply represent the worst prejudices, extremes and excesses of society rather than guiding and enlightening it - then our land is indeed 'to hastening ills a prey'.