What’s going on? Where did that £15,000 come from? Why was a 17-year-old holding public office? What on earth is a youth police commissioner?
Such was my mental process upon picking up on the Paris Brown story. Needless to say I found it all very confusing and I’ve still got a mild case of face-palm going on.
The former youth police commissioner for Kent’s ‘ricin handshake’ into the world of politics has proved to be not just a mildly entertaining farce with (mostly inaccurate) lessons about ‘young people today'; it serves as a damning indictment of the kind of frivolous waste of public money and nonsense politics that has proved surprisingly resistant to the financial realities of the times.
What people are calling Brown’s racist, homophobic, violent and generally irresponsible tweets when she was between 14 and 16 years old are not bothers me about this affair. Unfortunately, a lot of teenagers are like that – naïve, irresponsible, stupid, even – I certainly was.
What bothers me is the fact Kent police commissioner Anne Barnes maintains that setting up the role in the first place was a good idea and will consequently be appointing another young lamb to the slaughter in due course.
By her own admission, she told the Guardian, “it would have been absolutely impossible to have found a young person who had not made a silly, foolish or even perhaps a deeply offensive comment during their short lifetime…Unfortunately, today we live in an internet world where many people air their views in the public domain.”
Surely that in itself is reason not to press ahead with another appointment? That, if such a thing can force Brown to resign, the process would merely be repeated with her successor? Why put another young person through such a thing at the public expense?
The fact is it’s simply not worth it. Not for the unfortunate young person involved, not for the people of Kent and certainly not for the UK taxpayer. As the the very definition of a non-job and a typical example of collectivist identity politics the position should never have been created in the first place.
Barnes justified its creation on the assumption it would “reduce the gap between younger people and the authorities, particularly the police”. But what does that mean? Ask any adult if they feel there is a gap between themselves and the authorities, especially the police and you can be sure they would answer almost unanimously in the affirmative.
The electors of Kent need to start asking themselves whether this is really a productive use of a £15,000 a year salary and whether such a sum might not be better spent on actual policing or even, just maybe, not prised from the public purse in the first place.
My opinion, however, is clear. It is a complete waste of money and is a sad indication of how little the scale of the financial crisis this country is in is being grasped. It’s almost as though the headline figure of £1 trillion sovereign debt is simply too much to sink in.
Local authorities, particularly Labour ones, complain they are midway through a parliamentary term of spending cuts with already no fat left to cut off the joint yet this spectacular waste of public money is still going on – and still funded by ever-increasingly public borrowing.
We just don’t get it. Lefties like to label the Government’s negligible scratch on public spending ‘austerity’ yet I somehow doubt anyone who lived through the last world war would recognise it as anything of the like.
My great worry is voters and politicians alike will only wake up to the fact governments cannot spend more than they raise in taxation year on year until the system collapses and it becomes impossible to borrow any more. At that point, spending cuts and real, grinding, squalid, austerity are no longer ‘policy choices’ but cold, hard, reality. We ignore this at our peril.