Saturday 5 February 2011

Groundhog Library Day

For those of us that remember the 80s in all their divisive, useless anti-glory, "Save our Libraries" day - which will be taking place up and down the country today - is a bizarre echo of the past.

Ditto "Save our NHS" "Save our Schools" "Save our Forests....  Oh well, you get the idea.

The greatest danger today is that everything is under attack at once. Those of us who want to get a message across about a particular cut or sell-off are competing for attention, each desperate to be heard.

I've argued very many times that this government's ideology makes Thatcherism look like a fresh idea from the Dalai Lama. It'll take a while to really hurt us, but as Benedict Brogan argued during the week, hospitals will almost certainly close up and down the country. Even Maggie quailed at hospitals. Libraries will close - not here and there but around 1 in 5. I remember the absolute rejection of closing libraries in the 80s.

Legal aid has been slashed along with police numbers, courts and prison funding. Legal aid is generally considered to be a right so basic, no government would dare suggesting that they deny its people access to justice. Along with legal aid, Citizens Advice Bureaux up and down the country face cuts and closure. The very last line of defence against loan sharks or unfair dismissal or exploitation is a cut so hard on those most in need, even Maggie would have turned elsewhere for a few quid.

Whilst Maggie sold off most of our UK owned businesses, this government has aimed its asset-stripping, Conservative, sights at our forests!! Forests!! Did no-one tell them how passionately people will defend a bunch of trees? We've had protesters living in a little copse near my home for 5 years - 5 YEARS!! to stop developers from building a housing estate. It's genuinely as though the government thought "Right, we're going to be deeply unpopular, so we might as well slash what was previously considered un-slashable and use the old "Divide and Conquer" trick. They'll be so busy lurching from one protest to another, we might just get away with it."

Any cuts fans really ought to remember that if the government falls over trees or books, they won't last long enough to pay down the deficit or re-order society in the way they hope. Picking stupid, destructive fights might seem a good way to keep us all running around like headless chickens, but some fights will just dog them endlessly, sucking energy from ministers trying to manage the fury that will build over these sacred, UK-cows.

On a final note, this government who promised endlessly that they would protect the most vulnerable, really have no shame at all when it comes to cutting services that the vulnerable rely on most do they? Take a young person with nothing. Chaotic home life, rarely fed, no books to read, gangs or drugs always just a heartbeat away.

Today, he can go to a library, sit down, find peace and read any book available, whenever he likes - for free. He can get away from the rotten streets and estates that try so hard to suck him into their failures and walk for miles through woods and forests that we all own - for free. If trouble does find him, he can get advice at the CAB - for free  - and should the worst happen, he has the right to be represented by a legal expert to ensure he isn't wrongly accused of a crime or unfairly imprisoned. For free.

They aren't much. They don't even cost much in the grand scheme of government, but to a young person with nothing, they may add up to the difference between success and failure. Many may not take up these few, free, basic rights, but for every one that does, society should be proud. In a year or two, will there be anything left that we can be proud of at all?


  1. Maybe Britain is ill and breaking like many individuals, finding itself floundering with those awful little voices taking it to the brink of destruction and to its knees, like a person breaking down physically and mentally before they hit rock bottom and start climbing back out. Maybe the voices of reason will reach the consciousness and we can come out of this breakdown without hitting rock bottom so violently...that is the option I am focusing lots of good vibes towards...I've considered how bad it may get and I am looking towards the recovery I have gone through the individual breakdown many times, I have found it can make me stronger...that is the best I can hope and dream for happening to the country I used to be proud of and hope to be able to be again, without the need for rose coloured specs or blinkers xxx

  2. Save Our This and Save Our That will, as you quite rightly point out, divide the protest into neat little boxes that the ConDem's can deal with on an as needed basis. With all the problems and pain this lot of Tory-led public schoolboys are laying on our backs, we should instead by concentrating on "ConDem Out!" campaign. Ignore Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt at your peril Mr Toffy-nosed Elitist. That's my message anyway.

  3. Sue !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You are up to 23rd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. I think it's worth noting here that CABx aren't a part of councils or government. They do receive some funding from local councils etc (or at least mine does) but they are completely independent and it's part of what makes it possible for us to do what we do. Whilst also making the funding side of things harder. Certainly the one I volunteer at has had it's funding cut and may have to reduce hours or even close.

    I've said before that if any of the ConDems had a real understanding of what it's like to live with a disability things would be different. The same is true of funding for legal aid and CAB. I'd challenge any MP to spend a week doing what we do or what legal aid practitioners do and still say cuts are necessary.

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  6. "There is an alternative" is a really powerful message.

    The TUC has produced some brilliant leaflets entitled "Myth-buster" and "Cuts are not the cure" that explain the case against the cuts, and challenge misconceptions about government debt. Why not take a look and pass them on?

    You might like to join the March for the Alternative on 26 March or post your experiences on the False Economy wesite.