What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?
While drying the washing-up by my window just now, I spied a very strange thing. Not only was general, non-wheelie bin rubbish being collected - which rarely happens round here, such luxury being mainly confined to 'Maritime Greenwich', and which is not unwelcome, given that local youth set fire to some piles of uncollected rubbish not very long ago - but there were several rubbish collectors. All of them were wearing orange waistcoats, so that presumably they could be spotted on this grey February morning, giving them the look of a day-glo chain gang. Suddenly I caught sight of what was emblazoned upon them - 'COMMUNITY PAYBACK'. Oh, except one who was captioned 'SUPERVISOR', or overseer if you prefer.
This was one of those moronic ideas which New Labour throw out and which you never actually expect to come to pass. Charlie Brooker wrote about this only a couple of months ago, pinpointing just why this was such a spectacularly brutal and stupid idea: '"Community" is pure British wonk-speak - the simpering language of milquetoasts - while the embarrassing yee-haw showboating of "payback" must have been included in a half-arsed attempt to impress the tabloids.' It's this only seemingly contradictory combination of Daily Mail machismo and pseudoliberal let's-all-hold-hands communitarianism which has marked this utterly pernicious movement from its mid-90s outset, but so many of their more idiotic ideas seem to be thrown out merely as threats that I was very surprised to see the orange bibs out in effect, to signal the shame of this crowd of young people with their rubbish bags to the good people of the Caletock Estate, East Greenwich.
As the New Labour edifice of economic illiteracy and idiocy collapses round their ears, it has been difficult not to enjoy a certain schadenfreude. But the idea that this is shifting them to the left is a nonsense - take for instance the decision to bail out PFI contractors, making this corporate welfare scheme into something, astoundingly, even more grotesque than it was in the first place. Yet we know that whatever comes next will be much the same, if not worse, viz the defection of their Welfare Expert - an investment banker who claimed 'I didn't know anything about welfare at all when I started, but that may have been an advantage ... In a funny way the solution was obvious.' - to a probable cabinet post in a year or two. What we have had over the last few years is a situation where bankers who, as we now know, can't run banks, have tried to run a welfare state. So 'Community Payback' bibs might at least be vaguely forgiveable if they were given to the likes of David Freud to pick up nappies and bone-filled fried chicken boxes, but execution-free show trials and jobs in the shadow cabinet are the payback instead. Curious. Yet New Labour aren't going to go without some attempts at clawing back a few votes via a bit of flirting with Fascism - the dogwhistle papers in London yesterday led with the story of Newham's Labour council, an entity which has presided over extreme poverty while selling off its land for the Olympics and for all manner of 'stunning developments' stretching from Canning Town to Barking, complaining that the Olympic contractors are employing East Europeans. This is already getting very ugly.