Spad's Army. Pt 4 - Keep Calm and Carry on Spending
Captain Camering of the Second Homes Guard is in the Westminster village hall in his office with his deputy, sergeant Cleggson. The Warden Blinky' Balls had just left after winding up Camering again.
As Camering and Cleggson were sitting in the office Camering was still thinking about what had happened. “The cheek of that man.”
“Oh I know sir. Dreadful chap. And so loud and ..well...so very blinky.”
“Imagine! Me only interested in looking after number one."
“hmm..imagine” said Cleggson faintly.
“I do look out for everyone! I’m not one to take advantage of my position. And what’s all this fairness I keep hearing about? It’s all fair isn’t it. If I protect the nation’s interests, then that makes everyone better off, surely you can see that?”
“But people want fairness now.”
“Well they’ve got rationing. That’s fair. They've all had cuts to salaries and pensions. That's very fair. No one gets an advantage with that.”
The door opened and Pte Johnson, the spiv Londoner and mayor, put his head around. “Sorry captain..those stockings you wanted for Mrs Camering, for your anniversary..Only in blue with a red garter, alright? Two bob to you, Ok?” And he closed the door.
“You see sir that’s just it. The rich are not affected like the poor. Its not a fair society. you can buy whatever you want.”
There was another knock at the door. Vicar Rowan Williams came into the small office.
“Captain Camering. I need to have the space by the side of the cemetery. Its on church land. I need the space for some fifty tents for about a hundred people. I told you about it last week. These are people escaped from the occupied counties, like Merseyside and Inverness. Its an occupy protest. The church will supply water and of course spiritual guidance. I shall write a unifying sermon..How to serve more God and less Mammon”
Camering looked amazed. “Tents! What are you talking about? Vicar..that rifle range is integral to the efficient training of this platoon. I cannot permit it to be filled with the tents of trade unionists, reality refugees and loony left wing intellectuals. It would be impossible. I’m sorry.”
“Very well. I suppose I could let them use the Verger’s garden...But you must let them make their protest about how the banks led us into this dreadful war. Just a few banners..?”
“Ohhh..we’ll talk later vicar. I’m very busy..if you don’t mind..” and he ushered the bearded cleric from the room.
“Really Cleggson..All this banker bashing. It’s getting quite absurd. Its not the banks fault we are in a crisis and have to have deep, deep unthinkable austerity and tight controls. And I’m the bank manager. Its almost like they are attacking me personally.”
"We'll have to do something Cleggson. It'll be all over for me at the next election if we don't."
"Really? How unfortunate."
" And for you much, much sooner..Now come on man! Pull your socks up! you're the platoon sergeant. Buck up! Go and get the men ready for parade."
As the sergeant left Dave thought about this fairness thing. He pondered what his Liberal colleague had been saying. A fair society. But how. Charity? Had that for centuries. Benefits? Everyone was entitled to a ration from the state now as it was. Some more than others. What did they all mean. A better society? A more balanced society, where everyone had a chance? Maybe a bigger society? Where everyone had a chance to be a .. a..big shot?
Was that it?
He went out to join the others.
Camering spoke to the men.
“Right..I believe that the only way to defeat the immense forces ranged against us is if we can somehow reduce our costs so that our spending is so low we can maintain our triple A rating. Even without a single percentage point of growth. We need to get the public to become completely self sufficient. Get ordinary people to take on the roles that were previously only provided by the state.”
“Ahh knew it..its priiivaarrrrtissssaaaaationn” called private Cable in his high quavering voice."Ahh knew it all along"
“No its not,” said Camering crossly. “Privatisation would mean people taking on the public sector jobs to make a profit. I want them to do it for nothing.”
“How would we get people to take on work for no pay, “ Asked Lance corporal Hague.”They are quiet used to getting paid for work, you know sir.”
I can help you there sir. Said Private Johnson. I’ve got a load of those little windmills from the novelty rock emporium. The ones the nippers stick in sandcastles. Well..if we wire them all up to a generator, as long as the winds blowing, we’ll have electricity. Five bob for ten, alright?
Do be quiet Johnson.
Allright. Tell you what. I’ve also got all the mirrors out of the house of fun on the pier. We’ll put the mirrors in a field and they’ll reflect sunlight into the bedrooms of nearby houses. Call it a fiver and I’ll get my mate ‘speedy’ Huhne to install the mirrors. Can’t say fairer than that now can I? Said Johnson, puffing on the stub of his cigarette.
I don’t think this is a good idea at all,said Camering.
Thats a shame. You father-in-law says he wants to stick a load of ‘em in his field. For a decent rental of course.
Ahh...well...That’s different. Quite different. You’re a bit of a rough diamond Johnson, but I’ll trust you judgement on this issue.
"Wake up Clarke someone", said Camering, as he spied the platoon's oldest member sleeping by the stage. "And Cleggson, take his name. He's wearing Hush Puppies on parade again."
“Oh I’m terribly sorry Captain Camering. I must have drifted off again. I had a very bad night, I’m afraid. I think my sister Dolly’s upside down cake disagreed with me. Or perhaps it was the four glasses of fine port. "
“Yes...I see..well have you any had any ideas on the Big Society? For your Justice brief?”
“As a matter of fact sir, I have. I thought of all the money we’ve been spending keeping Abu Qatada in prison. I never really cared for that fellow at all, sir. Anyway I was sitting in a deckchair at the village cricket match the other day and I had an idea. When a batsman was given out, he was jolly angry. Some sort of no ball decision. But..you see sir..once he’d been to the pavilion and had a nice cup of tea and some jam scones, he was quite all right again. Smiling and chatting and reading the papers...”
“Is there a point to this story, Kenneth?”
“Well..I was just thinking that if we sent all our angry young prisoners for a nice cup of tea and some ginger biscuits in an open pavilion, how much happier and less troublesome they’d be. And it would save a fortune in prison costs and officers. Just a bit of catering required."
“Clarke, “ said captain Camering with mounting exasperation, “That is the most stupid idea I’ve ever heard.”
“Oh dear, that’s a pity. I’ve been doing it for almost two years already. I wonder if I might be excused Captain Camering. I've got some theatre tickets. I'm sure you can manage without me.”
"No you may not! In case you hadn't noticed we're in a life and death struggle with Frau Merkel's U-turn boats. We need everyone fully committed if we are to win a second term in government. Its not easy wining a majority in an election you know?
"Well blimey, I managed it,” called out Private Johnson, his blonde hair flopping in a very unmilitary manner.
“Ahh..yes..but you were fighting against a very unpopular opposition. Comrade Ken and his discredited policies.
“An’ you was fighting against old tax ‘n spend Oswald Brownshirt. Cor dear. A contest against the most useless leader since Kinnochio. And you muffed it."
“That’s quite enough Johnson. Quiet in the ranks. Private Lansley? Any ideas?” Asked Camering agitated at the outburst.
“Well I thought a top down reform of the NHS would reduce our spending and unite the health service behind us.”
There was silence as Camering looked at him. Dave pursed his lips . He lent over to whisper in Cleggson’s ear.”Take that man’s name sergeant, He’s an idiot.”
"Any ideas Osborne?" He asked of the young chancellor. "And take your thumb out of your mouth!"
“Well..you know how its really annoying being stuck behind a caravan on holiday? I’d thought I’d solve that.”
“AAhh..Now ..Finally! Here’s something. A good idea. You mean something like a nationwide road building scheme using minimum priced, currently unemployed contract labour instead of expensive machinery. With the burdensome bureaucracy ripped up and a generous system of bonuses for timely completion of much needed works?”
The private bit his lower lip. “ No. ..I meant I’d put a 70% tax on caravans.”
"Camering puffed again. “You stupid boy! Well that just leaves you Hague. Any ideas?"
“Well sir..Back in the day, when Lady Kitchen led us against the Fuzzy Argies the whole nation rose up as one and stood together, in support of our brave boys.”
“Yes, Hague...but I’ve had one war already. And we’re still in Afghanistan. And the cuts have been so deep we haven’t an aircraft carrier to take on the Argentinean or any artillery shells to tackle the Syrians.”
“No sir..I wasn’t thinking about the war bit sir. I was thinking about the flags. Thousands of people lining the streets and waving union flags and cheering. That got the morale up, sir. And the poll ratings. ...We could arrange something like that.”
“Aye..the silly old fool is right sir. Why not have a national day of celebration? Get the people to celebrate the influence of tha’ Lib Dems on the rich, arrogant posh boys. Tha’s nay my words, ye understand. Tha’s Mrs. Dorries.. Ah’ just repeatin’ wa’ I heard. With great relish”
“No one will turn out for the Liberals, Cable. Even the greens have more support."
" An’ everyone hates greens.” Claimed Private Johnson.
“But he is right you know. A national day of celebration. Street parties, bunting! Union Jack non vat rated cakes and face painting. A day to forget the bleak future and budget cuts. .By Jove, Cleggson! This is a great idea. A Jubilee! Give everyone a day off to celebrate a unifying cause and we’ll pick up the feel good factor.”
“Even though we in government have nothing to do with it?" Said Cleggson. " Its the people organising the events for themselves in their own streets, with their own food. Making their own entertainment and using their own money, and clubs and societies and volunteers time. Making use of their very own skills, tupperware and garden furniture?”
“Precisely Cleggson." chuckled the Captain.
"What could be more big society than that?”