Friday, 22 April 2011
'Four Key Platitudes' Competition: and yet more bad consultation
If it weren’t so tragic you’d have to laugh. Following Cameraman’s skin-crawling comments about his ‘discomfort’ at the level of immigration and language skills – as he blithely cuts ESOL funding and other means of supporting people into work – he just had to speak his mind about Incapacity Benefit and the ‘fault’ of those unable to work because of obesity, drug and alcohol abuse. Apparently this benefit should only be paid to those unable to work ‘through no fault of their own’. Since this pronouncement we have heard stories from addicts who had been through the care system because of parental abuse, and had never found peace of mind; a consequence of society’s failure to protect the vulnerable. Is that their fault? How about someone who suffered a work accident after a moment of carelessness? Is that their fault? Should we withdraw benefits – or even medical care – from those with cancer who may have led an unhealthy lifestyle? Would that be their fault too?
Cameron has put his listening face on and is working on these questions, hoping to address the issues after the Easter break with four key platitudes:
He's a busy man so help him out and send your suggestions direct to me or via Comments and I will forward them.
When my children were little I became adept at quick-fire loaded questions to overcome potential conflict points, such as ‘Shall we use green or pink shampoo today?’, sidestepping the hair-wash debate entirely.
Little did I know that such simplistic issue avoidance techniques would be used so flagrantly in the weird world of local politics. Full Council last Wednesday was a case in point. We were debating a Motion that challenged the progress of a very poorly run consultation about a new secondary school. We need this school. Generations of local children have been unable to attend secondary school in the borough, sentenced to travel long and exhausting distances or attend failing schools nearby. The debate was raging when I joined the Council in 2006. The Tories were adamant we did not need one, then experienced a Road to Damascus conversion promptly followed by taking all the credit. Of course.
It is very clear they want the school on a totally inappropriate but relatively cheap site in the middle of a housing estate, destroying precious green space into the bargain. The consultation that has ensued is barely worth the name. Letters were not delivered, petitions were ignored, Cabinet Members refused to meet residents, Council officers cracked under the strain. So in the midst of this debate, what do our ‘leading’ Tories say: ‘Don’t you want our children to have a good education?’.
This of course was a loaded question. The implication is clear: if we want our children to be educated we must shut up and accept what we are so graciously given. Cabinet Members know what is best for the little people.
Wornington Green was a similar case. In the face of huge opposition to the proposed plans, landlord Kensington Housing Trust conducted a survey. After a very mixed bag of responses the ‘result’ was based on the answers to a single [heavily loaded] question: Answer yes or no: ‘I have concerns about the regeneration, but I think on the whole it is for the best’. Out of nearly 2,000 residents they asked 269. Of that group, 153 said ‘yes’ to that loaded question. This was judged to be overwhelming support for the development in precisely the form it was being offered - which was entirely fallacious.
While we will continue to fight tooth and nail to support our residents, we will also have to up our game to challenge weak debate, dodgy consultations and bad maths.