...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Day 2304: Mr Balloon's Irresponsible Agenda


That silly sausage Mr Balloon has been back on the radio and television telling everyone about his new new idea: responsibility.

This is the same as his LAST new idea, but he's launching it all over again. Perhaps someone needs to take responsibility for making sure he does not REPEAT himself.

The PROBLEM of course is the same as last time: you can only TAKE responsibility; you cannot GIVE it to someone else. You need to give them the AUTHORITY and the RESOURCES to deal with it, but YOU remain responsible.

Mr Balloon's examples on the radio this morning should make it clear exactly what is wrong with his approach.

We need to make headmasters totally responsible for the behaviour of pupils in their schools, said he, and if they need to exclude them then they should be doing so. And the state has got to be responsible for seeing that children do not roam the streets, they should be rounded up and sent back to school.

The Head has to kick them out; the Child Catcher has to take them back.

Am I the ONLY one to see that this is a circular recipe for ENDLESS BUCK-PASSING?

In Mr Balloon's world: "giving responsibility" translates as "saying who is to BLAME". And his answer is set up so that it's always going to be "not me, guv!"

You will be TOTALLY unsurprised to learn that the same extends to Mr Balloon's analysis of who is to blame – who is "responsible" – for the lack of "civility" in society today: yes, you guessed, it's not HIM.

In fact it is, no don't gasp, THE LABOUR for spending the last ten years apparently treating us like BABIES. And certainly NOT the immediately preceding Conservatory government who taught everybody to be completely selfish because there was no such thing as society.

(And I am fairly certain that the Labour spent the first four years treating us in EXACTLY the way that the Conservatories had said they would treat us, by following Conservatory spending plans. Perhaps Mr Balloon would like to take responsibility for THAT?)

In another example of "Balloon Bandwagon Jumping" – the sport that previously saw Mr Balloon saying that children should have more "vivid lives" following a report that said children were worst off in Britain; and the Balloonster calling for absent fathers to be "compelled" to look after their children in response to a spate of nasty gun killings – Mr B tries to link his new/old announcement to the horrid news about toddlers being made to fight.

Here's the thing, Mr Balloon: isn't it just a tiny bit HYPOCRITICAL of you to say that the Labour interferes too much and then say that they are responsible for the actions of some VERY BAD MUMMIES?

You might DECLARE that we are all supposed to take some responsibility, but that doesn't mean that everyone WILL behave responsibly. In fact, you can guarantee that some people WON'T.

So if you REALLY think that responsibility should lie with people then when bad people do bad things you've got to stop BLAMING THE GOVERNMENT.

But what IS Mr Balloon's solution to this "crisis"?

First up, he'd like people to be more polite to one another.

Perhaps he should start with having a word with some of his close colleagues. Neither Mr Boy George Oboe nor Auntie Maude seem to think that they should be above tossing insults around. Perhaps Mr Balloon will take some "responsibility" and sack them both for their incivility. No?

Secondly, he wants to "strengthen families" by giving a tax handout to couple who stay together.

How is this ANY MORE like treating people as adults than the way the Labour behaves? "Do as we say and we'll give you some candy." Who is treating people like BABIES now?

If you REALLY want to show you trust people, then cut the tax thresholds for EVERYONE – and if they behave "responsibly" they will stay together to look after their children because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO, not because you have bribed them differently to the way the Labour would bribe them.

Third, and let's be fair, he DOES agree with returning some powers to local government. The Sustainable Communities Bill first tabled by LIBERAL DEMOCRAT MP Julia Goldsworthy, is about giving local authorities and local communities the power to decide how government spending should be spent in their area.

But why not go further, Mr Balloon? If you don't think that this bill can be enacted until you get into government anyway, why not promise a much more SWEEPING devolution of power – rather than giving local communities a say over big government spending, why don't you promise to give the spending back to them in the first place?

Fourthly, he falls back on the old "blame the media" gambit. People are rude because they see it on the telly, apparently. Oddly enough, Doctor Who is quite popular at the moment but you don't see a lot of people TRAVELLING THROUGH TIME as a result, do you? Well, apart from Mr Balloon's Back-to-the-Fifties TIME WARP anyway!

This on the day that Daddy Alex has already thrown a double fit at the psychologist who is telling MPs that television should be RATIONED for children and BANNED for the under threes!

Hang on – it says here only HALF-an-HOUR A DAY for the 3 to 6-year-olds and only an HOUR A DAY for the 7 to 12-year-olds. Good job I am 7 [R: he is 6] or I couldn't even watch DOCTOR WHO!

Let us see if Mr Balloon condemns this as NANNYING or comes out with a new inquiry into BANNING TELLY, eh!

In the end, Mr Balloon's "responsibility revolution" is based on a FALSE PREMISE. We ALREADY live in a society that is one of the safest, richest, most comfortable, healthiest, longest lived, most cosmopolitan and, through television, most widely informed ever in the history of the world. Mr Balloon wants us to look back though his NOSTALGIA GLASSES to an era that NEVER EXISTED. The John Major theme park view of a Britain of warm cricket and beer on the village green, of Dixon of Dock Green and doffing your cap to… well, to toffs like Mr Balloon.

Our respect for those institutions didn't drain away because we gave up being responsible – it went away because we learned that they didn't deserve our respect in the first place. World War Part One was NOT won on the playing fields of Eton – but the people who had trained there made the decisions that cost MILLIONS of LIVE for nothing. "Dixon of Dock Green" was a FANTASY – "Life on Mars" was the rude wake up call.

You'll not get that respect back. What you need is to support the NEW institutions that people are working out for themselves. A bit more PRAISE and a bit less BLAME would not go amiss, either: less of the lumbering people with new responsibilities; more support for the people who go out there and do. Give people more OPPORTUNITIES – access to resources, cash yes obviously, but also education, and support, give local services the ability to work with people rather than to Whitehall's guidelines, let parents co-operate with schools rather than imposing City McAcademies and lets make local health a part of the local community rather than closing hospitals to save pennies.

We have to let people find their OWN way, and many, many of them will – indeed already DO – take up responsibilities for their children, their parents, their neighbourhoods, their communities. Some people WON'T. But that's life.

The only way to make EVERYONE behave responsibly is to take away ALL of their responsibilities and make all their decisions for them.

Funnily enough, Mr Will has just texted my daddy with a message saying "Mr Balloon is the new Keeper of Traken".

Although that could mean that Mr Balloon is about to get TIME RAMMED by the Master. Ouch!

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