Monday, January 28, 2008

New Britain

Whilst many of these suggestions to make Britain better may be—as Timmy points out—very good, some are absolutely abysmal.

First, the good ideas...
Paul Ormerod economist

I would make more explicit the connection between tax and services received by abolishing the PAYE system. Instead of income tax being deducted by employers at source, I would make everyone sign a cheque to pay their tax. While it would increase administration in the first instance, it would bring home to people what they are paying for. When you physically hand money over, you inevitably question whether you are receiving value for money. This system would put political pressure on public services to ensure they deliver efficiently and would prevent the waste of public funds.

Yes, a good idea although, of course, still not radical enough for my liking as it is predicated on the idea that the state is, in fact, still taking substantial sums of people's money off them.
David Starkey historian

I would remove everyone earning less than £25,000 a year out of the tax system. At the moment we have a ridiculous circular system in which people are taxed, then given their money back in tax credits. It produces the idea of the state as provider – for something like one-third of the population. It imprisons people we should be liberating.

Quite so.
Chris Woodhead former chief inspector of schools

I would introduce an education voucher for parents with school-age children. The voucher would pay for a state education but could be cashed in at independent schools as payment or part-payment. It would help to make the rhetoric of parental choice a reality; would promote new providers of education in to the market and at a blow, would destroy the state monopoly which has created appallingly low standards which we see in so many schools today.

Yes, definitely agree with that.

But now, what with me being the negativist bloggertarian that I am, let us have a look at some of the really stupid answers—and please, bear in mind that these are the selected s'lebs singlwe biggest idea for a better Britain.
Rory Bremner satirist

I would introduce compulsory youth community and environmental projects for 18-year-olds. A six-month programme split between community projects in the UK and abroad – like a flood relief programme in Bangladesh – it would apply to everyone whether from state or public school and would work like conscription but, instead of military training, school-leavers would learn the importance of contributing to their community.

First, Rory Bremner probably does have to be labeled a satirist rather than a comedian simply because he is not fucking funny and hasn't been for some considerable time now.

Second, his solution for a better Britain is to greet all those who have just become adults with a six-month period of indentured state slavery. Why am I not surprised?

Third, I don't see how forcing young adults to contribute to arbitrary state projects and then the projects of foreign states is going to teach them the value of contributing voluntarily to their community. I mean, for fuck's sake, I know people who have done that kind of thing voluntarily (they call it a "GAP year") and they don't contribute to their communities (although, to be fair, for many of them, the nearest "community" is a fifteen minute car journey away).

Rory Bremner—satirist? Or fuckwit?
Bob Geldof campaigner

I would get a submarine, throw a rope around the island and drag it 300 miles south. That way we would all be living in a tropical paradise.

Says a man who campaigns against global warming. I mean, I know that he's probably being tongue-in-cheek but seriously...
Nicholas Serota director of the Tate

I would like to see art as another “R” in the school curriculum. Visual education is as important as being able to read and write.

Righty-ho, Nick. And that would involve getting a lot more funding for your museum business, would it? And lots of school trips to boost the numbers passing through the door?

Typical rent-seeking.
Andrew Motion poet laureate

I would like a project called WhizzGo to take off. Instead of owning your own car, you hire small, environmentally friendly cars. We should set a target date within the next 10 years for all vehicles to run on something other than petrol – something green.

And that "green" substance is...? Oh, that's right, you don't know, do you, Andrew? That's because such a technology doesn't exist yet (or not in the way that you would define it). But despite this inconvenient fact, you still want to set a target date to replace all petrol cars and the accompanying infrastructure within the next decade.

Fucking hellski, Motion, you are bad enough at poetry but I am still going to recommend that you don't give up the fucking day job. As the saying goes, don't call us: we'll call you. You nut.
Sarfraz Manzoor writer and broadcaster

It should be harder to buy alcohol and drink it in public.

Why? Why would you wish to punish the majority of people in order to control a particular element of society? Although one does wonder, given his Pakistani heritage, whether Manzoor is, in fact, a Muslim and thus merely projecting the prejudices of his religion.

So, something of a curate's egg there; there are a few more suggestions, by the way: I have simply picked out the most notable. The one that I most agree with the sentiment of, though, is this one.
Grayson Perry potter

Ban chewing gum. It makes you look dumb and makes the street ugly.

Chewing gum is utterly crap.


Serf said...

Whilst I disagree with Bwemner's slavery idea, I do sometimes wish that the somethingmustbedone lefty middle classes had actually seen what a shit life was, before lecturing us all. A few months in Bangladesh, Zimbabwe etc would help put things in perspective.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Sarfraz should be put in the stocks for drunkards to piss on while they're on the way home from the pub.

Geldof's idea is quite good (if somewhat impracticable), bearing in mind all this global cooling we are going to be getting. Bay of Biscay sounds about right. As a bonus, we could leave Ireland and Scotland (which is geologically not joined to England) behind!

BigMC said...

What I loved most about Bremner's comment was his breezy assumption that the state would pay for a load of teenagers to fuck off to Bangladesh for a few months (or that Bangladesh would want them)!

serf - I wish the somethingmusbedone lefty middle classes would just fuck off and die.

El Draque said...

Andrew Motion's wishful thinking for a "green" fuel - quickly - rmeinds me of an incident in WW2. The Japanese generals were losing the oilfields of the East Indies and were trying anything - like fermenting pine-tree roots into ethanol for fuel. They said to the scientists: "Can't you make an engine that runs on something readily available - like air, for example?" The scientists grinned at the joke - then realised it wasn't a joke.

Sarnia said...

Jilly Cooper's suggestion was the stupidest (something about dogs).