Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Big Society - In action

Here is a story that encapsulates the Big Society, and what it can and should be about. It dates from 2006, but you will be pleased to know that it continues to date.

It concerns one Bennet Levin "native Philly guy, self-made millionaire". One of the interesting things about Mr Levin is that he owns some train carriages - in his case some luxury Pullman style train carriages with serious historical background.

He came up with the idea of transporting war wounded from their hospital, the US version of Selly Oak, to the big Army v Navy Football match.

He then got in touch with other private owners of Luxury Pullman carriages, ( a clsoe knit community I guess) and put the whole shebang together. You haven't heard of this because of his very basic, and thoughroughly maintained rule,
No press on the trip, lest the soldiers' day of pampering devolve into a media circus.

No politicians either, because, says Bennett, "I didn't want some idiot making this trip into a campaign photo op"

And no Pentagon suits onboard, otherwise the soldiers would be too busy saluting superiors to relax.
It is a warming tale.

Can you imagine trying to do that here in the UK, the insurance the pettifogging, the annoyance that 'can't be done' misery, the CRB checks god alone knows what.

If the Government really want the small battalions to operate, if it really wants the 'big society' to work, it should re-jig - repeal (thanks Spartacus) legislation to allow this sort of thing to happen.

If it does, the imagination and generosity of the people of the country will surprise us all. If it doesn't we will continue down the route that allowed this to happen. Do you remember when taxi drivers gave time and money to take disadvantaged children to the seaside? Do you know why it stopped?
Child protection laws and red tape have ended more than 50 years of trips to the seaside for Manchester's children.
The city's taxi drivers are ending their annual day trip to Blackpool for the city's disadvantaged youngsters.

The balloon festooned cavalcade began in 1949 when a cabbie was asked to show blind passengers around Manchester.

But a lack of support, child protection checks and health and safety rules have forced organisers of the annual ride to wind up their charity.

At its height the convoy of taxis attracted more than 100 cabs carrying 200 plus children and attracted a great deal of attention as it headed to Blackpool Pleasure Beach.


He's Spartacus said...

I'm sure you meant "repeal" not "rejig".

Otherwise, well spotted. Good piece.

Tufty said...

Good stuff - we all need to be reminded of what we have lost.