Daniel Korski

There is such a thing as society, and it comes out in the snow

There is such a thing as society, and it comes out in the snow
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Snow makes people statist. Or at least that is what you'd think if you went by newspaper headlines alone. Why has the government not bought enough grit?, they scream. Why has Mayor Boris Johnson gone abroad instead of commanding London's snow-clearing? Should the PM not freeze with the rest of us? (As it happens, the Foreign Office heating system has broken down so at least the Foreign Secretary's gilded office is as cold as anywhere else in the country).

It is true that only governments can order salt in industrial quantities, clear roads and grit streets. But dealing with a snow blizzard can also put the big in Big Society, so to speak. In times like these the overwhelming majority of people, up and down the country, show common sense, neighbourliness and generosity of spirit.

People help each other when their cars are stuck in the snow. Neighbours check on each other. Postmen ask how the elderly are coping. Neighbourhood groups get allocations of salt for use in their streets, while churches and other community organisations become distribution hubs. In Sheffield, for example, sixty volunteers have been given a tonne of grit and equipment to clear smaller roads that the council cannot reach. Companies often clear snow outside their offices.

This may not make up for the failings of central and local governments. But the statist urge is offset by countless voluntary and community actions -

offset, in other words by a naturally emerging Big Society. Too bad the media only focus on one side of the story.