Thursday, 30 May 2013

Another poem?

Yes.  This one's called:

Rough Guide to Eco-Research

We came and we shouted 'efficient resources!'
we hunted for papers and relevant sources
we charted the data and highlighted trends
we chatted with experts and most of our friends

We spoke with the public and asked for their views
we scoured the websites and followed the news
we monitored surveys and highlighted quotes
we summarised findings and stared at our notes

Then we sat down and had a really good think

We drew our conclusions and wrote a report
we filled it with insights and made it quite short
we kept it robust and we covered all sides
then we met with the client and showed them the slides

Govian perplex

I had that Michael Gove in the back of my church once.  Well, it wasn’t strictly my church; but it was definitely Gove.  It was late 2009, just a few months before the 2010 election.  I was helping my colleagues with our annual charity day, on this occasion making Christmas dinner for what turned out to be about 80 homeless people – mainly East European men, as it happened – and the venue for this hybrid feast of turkey and Polish cabbage was a church hall just off the Askew Road.

The charity we were helping was led by one of those burly charismatics, late 50s and genial, motivated by some unfathomable mix of deep faith and the vicissitudes of his particular life path, and I should probably have known who he was – and should definitely know now – but either way I heard a rumour as I was sweating away in the kitchen that some bloke called Michael Gove was dropping by.

The Tories at that point had been making noise about the Big Society and the importance of the third sector and all that jazz (the days of austerity were yet to come…) so I presumed that the previously mentioned burly genial chap was a well known 'social entrepreneur' and that Gove was dropping by for a photo op – you know, aspirational politician endorses entrepreneurial charity, looks good in the promotional literature, etcetera.

But when Gove arrived there were no cameras; and rather than stay for five minutes he stuck around for close to an hour and a half.

For a while I was impressed; he spent virtually the whole time with the genial fat bloke, clearly grilling him on how all this worked, and how it was funded, and what were the barriers to expansion and so forth.  He – Gove – wasn’t much interested in Brook Lyndhurst, or the people cooking and serving and clearing up, or even the poor people so obviously enjoying their Christmas Party.  No, he was clearly intent on learning as much as he could in preparation for the delivery of the Big Society, and this meant talking to a big man who ran a small-scale, community-based entrepreneurial charity.

But after a while I began to get just a tad pissed off; Gove was throughout this time surrounded by busy people working hard, in most cases doing tough but elementary things like pouring drinks and ferrying potatoes and suchlike – and not once did he lend a hand.  In fact – and this for me is where my pique began to reach a crescendo – he was increasingly in the way of all the hard work, and appeared to have no idea that this was the case.


So I was standing next to Ellie, looking through the serving hatch from the kitchen, and I shared with her a fragment of my perspective on this matter, and she said:

“What are you going to do?”

So I walked into the hall, found a big pile of dirty plates and handed them to the shadow minister:

“Can you put these over there please?” I asked.

And he did.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Cultural Amnesia

What if there’s a 30 year cycle of political will?

The visionary post-war settlement, forged during and in the immediate aftermath of the second world war, endured from the ’45 election until the mid-70s, when the costs of corporatism (exemplified most obviously by the excessive power of the trade unions) collided with an economic crisis (most obviously the oil crises of the early 70s) to comprehensively tip the balance.

With the settlement dismantled, there followed a few years of chaos – IMF bail out; winter of discontent – before the new visionary arrives in the form of Thatcher.

The Thatcherite model endures from the 82/83 phase, until – well, until about now – when the costs of individualism (bankers bonuses, corporations avoiding tax) collide with an economic crisis (which hardly needs spelling out) to once again tip the balance.

We are in the ‘few years of chaos’.  All we need now is the new visionary.

And don’t worry: it’s not Farage.

Sometimes, a poem

Talking the walk

The lightbulb has to want to change itself
and we, who shine much brighter, know the same;
the elegant simplicity of form
belies the darker function of the name

Enlightenment’s an easy place to start:
communication surely is the way!
But words are not enough: if truth be told
our habits and our myths hold greater sway

To change requires a power from within
and empathetic passion from the sky:-
not all will have the strength to make the grade;
not all will even feel the need to try.

From those of us committed to the path
forgiveness and compassion are required
that we should not condemn the weak, or blind
that we should not berate the merely tired

Instead, let gratitude pervade our work
for all that have the willingness to walk
the narrow roads to perilous relief
who know the cure is more than simply talk