My youngest child has just left the village playgroup and started at the local school; another child is a Brownie; my mother is the social secretary of the W I; and I have just come back from inquiring after the health of a neighbour's dog, hit by a passing car, while my husband delivered a card to the local post-lady who has just had a baby. A very quiet majority in this village, I can assure you.
I was pleasantly surprised, too, to learn that Mr Portillo is familiar with post office queues. I confess, however, to being puzzled by his account of what people in those queues get upset about. In my village they get upset about a lot of things, but competition in schools or hand-outs to the unemployed or cruises for delinquents is rather low on the list.
Lately there have been quite a lot of topics that have exercised village opinion. Top of the list is the closure of schools all over the county. The village down the road is plastered with 'Save our School' stickers. I have just been told my Brownie will be in a class of 30 or so next year.
People without children get much more agitated about the loss of the health visitor, which, combined with the abolition of meals- on-wheels, has had devastating effects on some of the disabled older people living alone. My mother has been up in arms about meals- on-wheels. Even wrote to the MP. Her neighbour wrote, too, about the abolition of the monthly visit by the paediatrician at the village baby clinic. They have been told that there are going to be splendid new clinics in nearby towns. The problem is that nobody from the villages can get there, because the bus services have been run down or abolished.
It's all very well for Mr Portillo to tell us that he wants to see a nation of individuals ready to take on the demands of personal responsibility and build a self-confident nation. But in this village people want to know why, after so many years of supporting Conservative government, all we have to show for it is a deterioration of the transport system, huge classes in the village school, an impoverished health and welfare service and no new homes that villagers can afford to buy. It is time to ease off the back to basics rhetoric and get down to grass roots.
23 AprilReuse content