The faux Churchillian stuff gets in the way

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL. @campbellclaret
“He’s gone from straining every sinew yesterday to moving every mountain today. Please stick to fact and detail and cut the cliches and rhetoric? People just want to be told what is happening, what it means, and what they should do. The faux Churchillian stuff gets in the way.”
On the Health Secretary’s Friday evening briefing.
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Dear, oh dear.
Spokesperson statements and language.
In trouble as soon as they use adjectives and metaphors.
_
And part of a trick that covers up for the confusion on testing.
Plus the nonsense regarding green shoots.
“Perhaps the end of the beginning ” and “Some chicken, some neck” are next.
“The Battle of China is over”?
Or even, “I have nothing to give but my dry cough, fevered sweat and headaches.”

Part of the problem is talking about this being a war. It’s not. It’s a challenge, a project with milestones to come and takes to be delivered. Something to brief people on and to educate people about. It’s why the science and medical officers often seem better (except when they try to do green shoots stuff too).
The public schoolboy exhortations positively irritate.
Nor should we thank anyone for the lines about “we’ll get through this”. Cos it’s true. irrespective; there will be a time when it won’t be this bad. It’s in the nature of previous pandemics.
Nor is it easy to emote for individuals you don’t know, can’t know.

Rather –
– know your own sorrow when things are bad and personal, and know how those more gravely affected must be feeling; and
– say, we will learn from this, and never again must we tolerate poor practice and lack of preparation.

Complying with the new rules

People walking along the watersides were following the new rules; Meadows play equipment was not being used; and London Road on a Tuesday at 5:15pm was near empty.

Walkers by the river and the canal are clearly respecting social distancing.
Play equipment was not being used.
The dentist’s receptionist was working via an intercom.
Traffic on London Road was very very light at 5:15.

Various streets have established their own small networks of neighbouring, using things like WhatsApp.

The Bridgeway shopping centre Chemists has a sign up advising people what to do.
Shopping was “one out, one in” at the Co-op who are also advertising a delivery service. Customers were waiting outside and apart from each other.

One Stop Shop, the chemists, the hairdressers and the Post Office share information on using notices on their shutters (as of 24th March, 5p.m.

No doubt there are people not following the the guidance, and that non-compliance might be most associated with expectation of some groups of workers and some locations more than others.
– – –
But I think it’s pretty clear that the vast majority are trying to follow the rules.

I remain concerned about journalists’ continued use of vox pops, including attacks on politicians (e.g. BBC 6 o’clock news).

Working through the crisis in systematic way

Across our neighbourhoods, or (in this 21st Century, I might more accurately say) extended networks, all kinds of people are making all kinds of arrangements to support each other when we are ill, or isolated, or socially distancing.
At times like these, people will be getting on with getting on.
And where they can’t, they will be looking to the NHS or the council or their social landlord or the emergency services to do what is necessary.
Including reporting neighbours who thought it was fun to have a street party yesterday to the Police.

Now as an elected representative, I feel this urge to do something more; and that people might expect it of me.
But the reality is people need a structured, organised and (dare I say it) a properly financed set of services to assist.
So I won’t be putting out any special leaflets to say I can help as an individual. Cos the systems should provide and I expect that of them.
Part of this is cos I don’t want to confuse any organised systems and messages.
And part of this is cos I might be carrying the virus and not know it.

What I can, should and do do is report failings in the systems set up to help.
I am going to expect that people know that I do that already.
Cos this ain’t the time to be trying to fix, or even make, reputations.

Meanwhile, my main political criticisms are –
1. if we are “at war”, all available capacity should be mobilised for a purpose through our public services; people no longer selling holidays, or serving in shops or on public transport, could be commissioned to help the public services; and others could be mobilised to keep their immediate neighbourhood looking neat (not litter or waste, obviously, but grass cutting and weeding);
2. councils should be told publicly that they are to receive finance to provide more capacity;
3. the economic packages should be emphasising funding people and consumer demand rather than financing businesses.

Young peoples debate

“It was an act of vandalism” – Cllr Sally Longford on the abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance.
Sally has recently retired as an F.E. teacher. Such a simple measure as E.M.A., helping those most in need, but in return for actual attendance transformed her teaching experience and brought a new focus to learning.

During the full council’s young people debate, Nottingham Conservatives moved an amendment seeking to remove all the elements of the motion that was critical of the ConDem government, but didn’t bother to reply to the debate on their amendment.

It is a shame that politics isn’t better. As Alexei Sayle said recently, “even politics doesn’t seem able to change politics”.
Already that day, the leader of UKIP had blamed traffic delaying a visit to Port Talbot via the M4 on immigration; go figure.
And a Conservative member of the House of Lords had apologised for suggesting that the poor were poor cos their cooking skills were not good enough.
We deserve better.

But one of the problems for Councillors is that emphasise how much they, indeed we, try to maximise the opportunities for local youngsters for employment through education and employment services, when the firms are only offering low hours, temporary work.
The lump is back and society is not yet re-learning why we need secure work, and the powerful trade unions that delivered it, back again.
Same too for the working conditions – listening to young people at an event organised by Glenis Willmott MEP, it was clear that they thought some of the conditions in bars etc., were not safe enough.
Exploitation is in the DNA of business – witness Next recruiting in Poland.

And we need young people to vote in bigger numbers to make the point clear; to lower the age of majority so that the E.M.A. debacle is fixed and never happens again.

Pride

fmp-pride
The new movie “Pride” evokes the 80’s and tells big political stories. History. Tales from our own time.
The miner’s strike.
Victimisation of gays.
Public health responses to HIV and AIDS.

pride-movie-2014
Big tales of the time to tell, and the film does it well. Of personal suffering. Of victimisation. Of struggle. Of defeat, and of victory.
Perhaps too much at the expense of one family portrayed.
Perhaps too much of the other worldliness of South Wales – despite them dancing to the same disco music as the rest of the world – well, the women anyway.

Pride directed by Mathew Warchus
But some great humour. A favourite scene – a Welsh gay, returning home after many years, and pretending to be from Rhyl. No – we won’t have that – not someone from North Wales. A wind-up, masterfully executed.
And an excellent, triumphant end, with some sadness.
Authentic. Makes you think about the value of making bigger demands in politics.
Reminds you of some of the events of the time at work and in Nottingham.
One tiny moan. Celebrating the NUM driving the Labour Party conference to adopt gay rights. But no mention of the New Labour government passing the legislation that was sought.

#PrideMovie