I watched with a mixture amusement and awe at Russell Brands recent diagnostic of the British political system. In his own interminable style Brand brilliantly articulated the prism of growing of discontent, bemusement and apathy through which many of us now view the political class.
His words got me thinking about one particular pet hate of my own. One gnawing sound byte the grey men, in grey suits trot out when asked the same grey questions about public services. A sound byte that, having emanated from the direction of my television, always somehow manages to penetrate the white noise of kids screaming or the wife asking me to put the kettle on.
The offending phrase in question is that of ‘value for money’.
The phrase has entered the lexicon of British political double speak, alongside others such as ‘accountability’, ‘hard working people’ or the delicious irony apparent when a politician claims to be ‘passionate’ about something in a distinctly ‘passionless’ way.
I have come to believe that politicians view our public services in the same way in which I view green vegetables or prostate examinations – its probably necessary to have some but lets try to keep them to a minimum shall we…
Along with their co-conspirators in the British press, the establishment has consistently sought to convince us that the only real measure of the value of pubic services is how cheaply they can be provided. They somehow dress this up in a way that convinces us that ‘value for money’ is synonymous with quality. It is not.
Everything from healthcare, education, social care to local council services is measured by this dubious yardstick. Nothing escapes this ethos of perverse frugality. The saddest irony here is that a vast swathe of the electorate seem to been in agreement. Often displaying an astounding mixture of ignorance and memory loss, strike up a conversation with your average voter about public services and sooner or later the topic of ‘wasted money’ will raise its head.
We have been conditioned to think this way. Our media and political class feed us this line. ‘Taxpayers money ….’ they say.
To see through the web of deceit it is necessary to understand that the same people who are telling us that public services are a giant black hole of waste and opportunity cost are the same people who most likely have never had to rely on public services in any shape or form. They are the people who were educated at public schools, use private healthcare companies and live in affluent areas that don’t really have much need for a decent constabulary.
Of course, say any of this in public you are labelled a ‘socialist’ or a ‘red’ at best and at the worst….I’ll probably leave that to your imagination.