For the past few weeks, unnoticed by all but the most sharp-eyed critics, BBC1 has been running a Celebrate Communitarianism season. The first programmes were:
Envy of the World!!!, in which children at Great Ormond Street hospital spent a week being forcibly denied vital drug treatment. Then, in a touching scene right at the end, just as they were all on the brink of death, a big pink bunny with NHS printed all over his fur came hopping in with all the medicines and dialysis machines they needed, accompanied by Sir Jimmy Savile saying, ‘Now then, now then. As it ’appens, I have fixed it for YOU to understand why it is we have the best healthcare system in the world.’
So You Think You’re Hard Enough? sent a mixed group of 600 ‘Call of Duty’ players, Millwall fans, nightclub bouncers out to Helmand with presenter Rod Liddle to undertake a six-month tour of duty, without arms, training, air support or communications in order graphically to illustrate the indispensable role of the State when waging wars.
If You Didn’t Pay Taxes THIS Would Happen! was a gritty, 28 Days Later-style future-shock drama by Russell T. Davies showing the appalling potential consequences of a world in which earners were allowed to spend all their money on whatever they wanted. The result? Hideous Ferrari pile-ups; cocaine-fuelled orgies featuring the finest Estonian hookers; starved bands of ex-public-service employees roaming the streets desperately offering their vital diversity training and ethnic-monitoring skills to heartless private-sector workers uninterested in anything save gratifying their own selfish desires to have a nice house and send their kids to Eton.
Unfortunately, I missed them. I did, however, catch The Street that Cut Everything (BBC1, Monday), which offered pretty much more of the same. This involved a ‘unique social experiment’ in which presenter Nick Robinson persuaded an ordinary street in Preston, Lancs, to forego all council services for six weeks. Instead, using their council tax rebates, the 50 residents were invited to club together and fend for themselves. Gosh, who could imagine what shenanigans and travails might possibly ensue?
Er, me, actually. And you, too, I expect. It was a disaster. And to make absolutely sure it was a disaster, a smirking Robinson appeared at intervals through the ordeal to impose new, Big Brother-like penalties on the residents. So, when they broke their street lights in the first week, he sent in a gang of nocturnal graffiti artists to spray paint the lampposts; followed by a gang of lads to park their car and play noisy rave music in the middle of the night (as, of course, always happens on quiet, leafy streets such as the one featured in the programme). Then, two of them had to be up by 5.30 a.m. to do some municipal street cleaning; then they were denied police and fire services; then they were subjected to unexpected cuts in line with the government’s reduced spending programme.
Then, a subtitle appeared on the screen saying: ‘Do you see how vital, caring, nurturing and important a role the State plays in your lives? Well, DO you, citizen?’ And then an extendable finger came out of the side of the TV set and prodded the viewer really quite hard under the ribs.
There’s a rumour that Nick Robinson is a closet Tory. Well, so would Keir Hardie and Aneurin Bevan have been in today’s conservatism-free party, but just suppose for a moment Robinson is — a proper, old-school one — just what did he think he was doing getting involved with so blatant a propaganda project as this?
Well, perhaps, just perhaps, he suspected it might reveal a subversive subtext entirely contrary to the BBC’s communitarian agenda. We glimpsed this, for example, in the obvious reluctance of several residents to shell out for the perfectly able-bodied and mentally unimpaired single mother claiming all manner of housing benefit, free school meals, and ferrying services with the articulate I-know-my-rights-down-to-the-last-penny shamelessness that is the hallmark of our Bludgers’ Culture.
But lest this should prompt incorrect thoughts such as ‘Yeah. Why should the lazy cow be sponging off the earners? Make her get a job like everybody else,’ the voiceover stepped in quickly to remind us that was just the kind of tough decision councils had to make. Tough decision? Really? I call a tough decision one where at least one of the possible outcomes is ‘No’.
Of course, what would really happen if councils withdrew their services from every street in Britain is this: quickly, very quickly, a whole host of private contractors would appear offering useful services at a rate far, far more competitive and effective than the ones offered by the council. And the services people didn’t want: recycling adviser; climate-change officer; £250,000 p/a council chief executive would equally quickly be relegated to the Microchipped Eco Bin of history.
The BBC doesn’t want you to think that, though. Its default position, the length and breadth of its programming from the World Service to Springwatch to CBBC, is that Big Brother is your friend, the public sector is good and the private sector bad. And the real joke is, we actually fork out for this brainwashing, 24/7, 365 days of the year.