Voice of the People

Every week the London Broadcasting Company invites listeners to ‘phone in suggestions for dealing with various problems.

The other week it was Inflation. The listeners had a ball! Funnily enough, not one listener or the jockey on the receiving end even mentioned Harold Wilson’s £6 limit, or his expensive pamphlets. They all had their own ideas – and what ideas! None of that silly Socialist rubbish about the Government which is saying it wants to stop inflation printing the millions of banknotes which cause it; or the articles in the Socialist Standard making out that deflation (before the war) was just as bad.

No, the People’s ideas were all solid, practical, down-to-earth: right down! Not one said that the real trouble was the capitalist system – that inflation, deflation or reflation, the working class was always in the same boat. Oh no! Or that rigmarole about the capitalist system working regularly through booms and slumps.

Unfortunately we cannot spare the space to report every brilliant suggestion, but a brief re-cap of the main ones should suffice to show that the spirit of pioneering initiative which made Britain great is not dead but still flourishes. One bright lady kicked off with the suggestion that everybody should buy secondhand clothes at jumble sales: “I haven’t bought a new coat for years.” (How everybody could be second without any firsts, she did not say.)

Another had discovered that although football-pool promoters ask for 14p a go, it is possible to get a coupon accepted for 8p. He’d had quite a bundle with them over this, and they had finally succumbed. We commend this to Denis Healey; after all, it’s no sillier than his Budget proposals. One other suggestion was that everybody should refuse to pay their rates – although when this is to start he did not say.

The only point which was argued about was a proposal for a 100 per cent tax on all foreign goods – in fact, this listener said “no foreign goods at all”. Even the simple-naive disc-jockey had to point out that inflation worked in favour of exporting countries, of which Britain has always been one.

Someone else weighed in with a master-stroke. He had observed that most voluntary societies – anglers, cyclists, bird-watchers, etc. – have, in addition to an annual subscription, a “life” one. He had worked out that quite a sum could be saved here (if you live long enough). Them of course, we were bound to get the old wartime chestnut: “Dig for Victory!” Why don’t we all grow our own spuds, etc? Very good! Thank you for calling! Call again! Another wanted the Government to subsidize mortgages. A real heart-cry, this one: poor devil!

But the cream was reserved to the last. Even the imperturbable “public ear” got aerated over this one. One listener had discovered that if you write “OHMS” on letters you get away with it, because the Post Office can’t collect on them. As was pointed out, what happens of it costs the Post Office 50p or £1 to collect a few pence from the Ministry of Power or the War Office?

And so it went on and on for an hour. What finally emerged was that most of those ‘phoning in were so desperately anxious to save a penny or two somewhere that they had no time to think about inflation. They were all too concerned with their own dire poverty, and literally beating their brains out to try and save a couple of coppers somewhere by doing without something or other. Still, it’s nice to know that the London Broadcasting Company is giving “the People” the opportunity to have their say and make their proposals.

As Harold Wilson says in his pamphlet: “Democracy works best when it relies on persuasion and consent”. Armed with suggestions like these to add to the appalling mess it is already in, Wilson’s Labour Government can now march confidently forward to further disaster – as they always have done.

Harry Young

Leave a Reply