The Trap (BBC 2 Sunday 9.00)

I watched the second of this three-parter, last night. It is an analysis of how the US and British governments have slavishly followed a doctrine of hands-off government, when it comes to the shape and direction of society. By reducing Big Government and tossing the stubborn infrastructures of bureaucracy and class into the liberalising air of free market economics, our leaderships assumed that the space created would be filled with millions of human butterflies, intoxicated by choice and motivated by consensual priorities. This would lead to an invigorated society of upwardly mobile citizens.

Instead it has produced a partial maggot heap with constituent features such as corporate Enron type greed, Hospital Executives twisting data to increase funding, greater divides in schooling and an increasing overall acquisitiveness and self-serving cruelty. When Government reneges on its role to lead on moral accountability, there can be no public service ideology. The public sector and private sector meld into a force that rigidifies social strata. Meritocracy feeds greedily on the vulnerable and disadvantaged, wearing wealth as a badge of cold disdain. The poor are poorer, their choices ever more limited.

Running vast computer programmes that create targets for a homogenised society, covering everything from waiting lists to birdsong in an urban garden, the government then leave the means of meeting those targets to public and private agencies. They do not have the wit to see that this laissez faire capitalism unleashes the disease of self-interest, not least in their own high ranks where sleaze, deliberate trampling on moral imperatives and arrogant careerism is a feature of a leadership that conjoins New Labour with recent Conservatism.

In their arrogance they have reneged on their duty to see that humane and compassionate behaviour needs constant nurturing and protection or they will choked by the vigorous growth of burgeoning self-interest.

I switched over to watch the end of the 100 greatest stand up comics. Here I found hope and despair. Hope in the bravery of comedians to take on tyranny in all its forms and despair that Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson draw crowds with their virulent and degrading effluence towards anyone they do not perceive as like them. On comparing his wealth to the poverty of the Third World, Davidson smiled and said, “Fuck them”.

Well, fuck you and your ilk, Jim, whether on stage or in government. It is our greatest quality, human tolerance, that allows you all to continue to vandalise the delicate filigree of public service and moral sentiment. What an irony.

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