Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lies of the times

It’s time to update those well practised and well known mantras of officialdom and the untrustworthy: the cheque is in the post; a government spokesman said there was no cause for alarm; of course I’ll still respect you in the morning. The modern state and business practice have given us a rich new set to choose from.

Your call is important to us. Then why not answer the bloody phone and talk to me? This one is just an insult. Similarly,

Every little helps. Then how about opening another checkout?

For your own safety and security . . . Rubbish. It’s not you we care about, but if we put out inane announcements like this often enough we hope to have a defence when a negligence case comes to court.

Thank you for your co-operation. This is usually in company with a terse request to desist from some generally acceptable activity that mildly inconveniences the management. Often used in places where ‘we reserve the right to refuse admission’ and is thus really a threat not a thanks.

The prime minister said he had complete confidence in his minister. The prime minister might say this but the hapless minister hears the guillotine blade being hoisted. A token defence will be made, but only for as long as the embarrassment of the minister exceeds that of the premier. After that point, the chop, the pearl handled revolver or whatever New Labour uses instead – something messy for sure. The first to be subjected to this death by reassurance was Humphrey, number 10’s chief mouser, whom no-one could accuse of incompetence, but was retired, supposedly on health grounds, in 1997 and died at 18 the day before yesterday. Brought in as a stray during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure (I like to think it was she who named him), he did his job night and day right through John Major’s time only to be accused of causing an allergic reaction in the incoming chatelaine as New Labour took over our lives. A publicly posed photo of the two together tried to reassure the public but was the cuddle of dismissal for Humphrey.

This is about improving parent/patient/consumer choice. So just how many hospitals are there within a reasonable distance that I can visit, even by private transport, as an out-patient or be visited in if I have to stay there? On what basis other than government data or local gossip, a toss-up choice for reliability, would I choose between them? If the school I’m in the catchment area of is no good my child will certainly be low down the list in another area, whose school, if good, will inevitably be over subscribed. Can’t they see it’s not a matter of choice, but options. The only choice in many of these cases is whether to accept one’s fate or pay heavily to buy out of the state option – and thus acquire real choice.

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