Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Quality of Life - A Two-fingered Approach

Last December our Government announced its intention to create forty ‘respect zones’ in Britain where people would be obliged to tip their hats as opposed to cocking their snooks, as has become the standard form of greeting from Lands End to John O’Groats. Normally these announcements are followed by a period of what Government likes to call ‘consultation’ where it ‘listens to people’. Showing a rather steely resilience, ministers refused to allow the sight of 60 million people crumbled up in hysterics to put them off this latest innovation and those areas were announced today.

Thankfully Hackney is not one of the lucky recipients of ‘respect’ status which is just as well as I don’t think I could handle the thought of irritable Argun at the stationery shop being legally obliged to acknowledge the fact that I am standing in front of him with two hideously expensive pink Pilot Hi-Tecpoint pens in one hand and a tenner in the other. In Hackney, bus drivers will still be allowed to watch in their wing mirrors as you sprint in the pouring rain and against an 80 mph wind and then slam the door in your face just as you reach it. Assistants in Woolworths will still be free to carry on their conversations as you wait in a queue for one of them to put the wrong DVD in a case and charge you the wrong price for it. Cyclists may weave their way through crowded footpaths at will hissing ‘sku me’ and expecting you to leap aside. Builders can still dump their waste in the middle of your street because they are too mean to hire a skip. We in Hackney reserve the right to scowl and sneer at each other for no apparent reason and to dive for any bus seat that an elderly person looks like they may have designs on. Vive La Ponce.

The Prime Minister, Tony ‘Blah Blah’ Blair launched the initiative today in Brighton, one of the chosen areas. Blah Blah does seem to be getting all the crap gigs these days. No more swanning off to Washington, it’s dud initiatives in the regions for the soon to be ex PM now. Next week he’ll be standing outside KFC in a chicken suit handing out pamphlets on healthy eating. He told our BBC this morning,

‘It is the worst thing that happens in local communities. What happens outside someone's front door where the quality of life is good or bad and where it is intimidating, threatening and unpleasant and where the quality of life has diminished, that's why this is vitally important.’

No one was all that clear about what he meant and it looked for a moment like he’d mislaid the first page of his speech as he seemed to start mid-sentence. Then we all remembered that’s how he always talks. I was interested to discover that this ‘quality of life’ that we’re all so desperate to have these days actually lives on my door mat. I hope it hasn’t minded me wiping my feet on it all these years. It has never been intimidating, threatening or unpleasant to me as far as I can recall so I must be doing something right. Things got a little more confusing as Blah, Blah continued,

‘If you look at the French election, which is happening in the next few months, this is a major issue there, too, as well. It's a major issue everywhere and it's part of the changing nature of modern society, but we have got to make sure that we have the powers and the people in place to make a difference.

I’m still not that clear in my mind about what the ‘it’ is but since Hackney is not a ‘respect zone’ I don’t suppose I need concern myself that much with the nature of ‘it’. Lucky for Blah Blah, he has a ‘respect tsar’ or perhaps tsarina, Louise ‘Hard Case’ Casey. Tsar is an unfortunate choice of words as it means ‘tyrant’. I seem to remember that Hard Case is something of an expert in anti-social behaviour, having displayed quite a bit of it after getting herself sherried up and extolling the virtues of binge drinking to an audience of senior police officers. She told them,

‘I suppose you can't binge drink any more because lots of people have said you can't do it.I don't know who bloody made that up; it's nonsense ... Doing things sober is no way to get things done.’

Respect! She then took a swipe at her own benefactor,

‘If No 10 says bloody 'evidence-based policy' to me one more time I'll deck them,’ she revealed, ‘and probably get unemployed.’

Obviously an exemplar of ‘respect’. As far as clarity goes, she may have spent too much time around Blah Blah because this is Hard Case explaining how the whole thing is going to work,

‘We want the 40 areas to show how we can take the programme forward and point people in the right direction as well as keeping up the unrelenting drive to tackle anti-social behaviour. These are the areas that are doing parenting classes and family projects that tackle the really, really difficult people in our communities.’

‘Family projects tackling really, really difficult people?’ What is this? The Tony Soprano waste management led approach to community relations? Massive respect! Now, if you will excuse me I must go shake the mud out of my quality of life…

Cartoon from The Guardian


Dave Hill said...

You mean you don't love Argun The Stationer? You're so weird!

That's so pants said...

Dave - of course I love Argun - but he is irritable.