Being a public servant with a degree of concern over my job, and a Libertarian who absolutely believes that government is far too big, far too intrusive and far too expensive puts me in an invidious position. Sometimes I sound like the turkey voting for Christmas, knowing that the policy I support could result in my standing in the dole queue. But there you go.
So it is not without sympathy that I learn 75 public sector jobs are to be lost with the disbanding of the British Film Council. But I find myself asking the question, 'whilst the BFC may have had a hand in the production of some fine movies, is it really the place of the state to be making them?'
The arts is without doubt important, but it is also very divisive. Is it acceptable to throw large amounts of public cash at the opera or the ballet, despite the minority appeal? Many would say not. Is it more or less acceptable to do the same for a more popular entertainment medium?
I don't know how the BFC works, but I do know how the public sector works. Whilst films like Vera Drake and the Last King of Scotland were undoubted artistic successes, and I should imagine made a profit, would private investors want to be involved? There's a simple answer, it is yes. If there is a profit to be made of course private money can be attracted. But I'm betting that the bureacratic restraints that the public sector will always bring to the party scares off more private investors than it attracts. Thus it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that films are hard to make without the help of the BFC, but the BFC makes it hard for people to make films. Sounds rather like the benefits system.
It is rather predictable when Tim Bevan, chairman of the Film Council says, 'Abolishing the most successful film support organisation the UK has ever had is a bad decision'. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?
It is also rather predictable when the UCU lecturers' union warned that an expansion of the private sector would be a "disaster" and that the creation of a new private university was the "beginning of a slippery slope.
Note that there's no suggestion that any existing universities will be closed, but apparently, "Encouraging the growth of private providers and making it easier for them to call themselves universities would be a disaster for the UK's academic reputation. It would also represent a huge threat to academic freedom and standards."
Well, I hate to break it to you, but our academic reputation ain't what it was. We have people going into remedial classes when they start uni because they karnt rite proper, and when they do get a degree it is a BA in Eastenders or a BSc in Climate Change Management or somesuch guff. My experience of uni, where I did a perfectly useless journalism (sort of) degree was that the tutors were more interested in using us as guinea pigs for their PhD research and making us parrot their political dogma than actually delivering anything of worth. A private uni won't have that luxury. Fail to deliver a course in an acceptable manner and that is worth something, and pretty soon the university will be closed.
As for academic freedom, a bigger lot of rot it is hard to imagine. When has a centralised system ever resulted in freedom?
And finally to the boys in blue, their not at all political brass are complaining about elected commissioners. Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers[. . .] said Acpo would "need to examine in detail the government's proposals for maintaining operational independence against the practical reality of directly-elected police and crime commissioners".
Operational independence? Give me a break will you. Firstly, the police are not independent. Chief Constables have been effective political appointments for years now, as evidenced by the Sir Ian Blair mess. Secondly, the Home Sec says jump, you jump. Unless that is a new Home Sec says something you don't like, then you ignore it. So by independent, do you actually mean unaccountable? I think so.
Finally, the police should not be independent. They should be wholly dependent, dependent on the support and wishes of the community that they serve. If you aren't producing the results and performances that the public want, then too bloody right your arse should be shipped out.
I refer you to the Peelian Principles:
The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.That does not mean impounding kids toys such as happened at the Kingsnorth power station protest.
That does not mean beating a man sufficiently to kill him, such as happened with Ian Tomlinson.
That does not mean demanding innocent people delete photographs such as happens time and time again.
Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.You are entirely dependent upon us. You would do well to remember it.
Any candidate Commish who promotes such a simple, clear and effective policy will get my vote in a heartbeat.