A Petrol Panic in a Jerry Can

I must confess I didn’t even know what a jerry can was until Francis Maude made his unhelpful intervention in a fuel crisis of the government’s own making. As commentators have said, it has not only been fanning the flames but lit the touch paper this time around. In an attempt to pin the blame on Unite and, by association, Labour, the government have quite irresponsibly got themselves in a spot of bother. Again. After the granny tax, pastygate and all that trouble about party funding, the coalition are having a bad time of it. But there is something else going on here. However accident-prone ministers have been, and however attributable the awful accident today to those ill-judged comments, what is being said here about us ordinary folk? The government have been talking up the threat of a strike because they are anxious managerial types and because they want to generate some political capital at the expense of their opponents. This has badly backfired. But regardless of this fear-driven politicking, people are well able to make up their own minds and the sense of panic is less apparent than we are being led to believe. Yes, there are more people than you’d usually expect at Homebase looking for the jerry can aisle. And there are, apparently, some queues at some petrol stations. But if the Sky News coverage from Kidderminster is anything to go by – you’d think I’d have better things to watch – the dominant mood is one of patient resignation not panic. While the motoring public are not immune to top-down scaremongering, what is of much greater concern is that this latest farce confirms once again that the coalition is already running on empty.

The other job

When an article in the Telegraph reports that even the United Nations has an obsession with the UK’s alleged gangs problem (see my latest Huffington Post) it seems there is nothing stranger than the world of social policy. Which is why, despite what I had to say about the ‘grey managerial world of local government‘, I can’t help but be intrigued by it all the same. So it might be worth mentioning that in addition to the day job I convene something called the Social Policy Forum at the Institute of Ideas. We’ve recently been busy making plans for the year ahead and collaborating on ‘Society Wars: The Battle for Social Policy’, a publication that will give a taster of the strand of debates we organised at the Battle of Ideas last year. We have also been thinking about how we might do things a little differently this year, especially with regards introducing our members to new writing and reports and upcoming meetings and events that we think might be of interest. Do drop me a line or post a comment if you’re interested in joining us. You can also visit our page here or join us on Facebook or Linkedin.