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A refusal often offends

David Allen Green’s recent post on Common Carriage reminds me of an anecdote related to me when I was working in a pub.

Although in principle a publican can refuse to serve someone, there is an obligation to provide a good reason for doing so. It is also illegal to serve someone who is drunk. This leads to a quandary for the person behind the bar, because the classic symptoms of drunkenness, unsteady gait and slurred speech, may also be caused by a disability or illness. Falsely accusing someone of public drunkenness could well be defamatory.

Because their livelihoods depend on it, publicans make it their business to apprise themselves of the laws that affect them. The subject of the story certainly was aware enough to come up with an ingenious solution.

A pub landlord was working behind the bar when a middle-aged man staggered into the pub and, slurring his words, ordered a drink.

“I’m sorry sir, I’m afraid I’m unable to serve you.” said the landlord.

“Why not?” asked the man

“You’re underage.”


This BS just got real

I’m concerned for the Big Society. On paper it looked so good. By increasing the ranks of the unemployed, you create an army of people with lots of time on their hands, who can then volunteer to provide the public services you just cut. It’s hard to believe that it is going wrong, especially as the first part of the plan has been so successful, but going wrong, apparently, it is.

It is clear that the BS needs a big win: some high profile success to demonstrate that it is not the deluded fantasy of a deranged government. So, in the spirit of the Big Society, I am offering this blog as a “think tank” to “crowd-source” ideas.

One of the problems with the BS is that the services that we are expecting to be provided by volunteers are not the ones that anyone wants to do. By aligning Big Society services with people’s aspirations, we can unleash the potential of this great society of ours. To get things moving, here are a few ideas.

1. Ministerial Security

Currently millions of pounds are spent protecting government ministers from terrorism, etc. What few realise is that there is already a volunteer organisation dedicated to protecting the country from such threats. Calling itself the English Defence League, it is pledged to combat extremism. Having seen these civic minded folk round my home in Stoke, I can attest that they appear to have both plenty of spare time and an appropriately fearsome aspect. I cannot imagine any organisation to whom I would rather entrust David Cameron’s safety.

2. Economic Policy Advice

The government pays Civil Servants and outside advisors huge sums for this. Meanwhile on the Guardian’s Comment is Free such services are provided by a huge untapped resource of unpaid commenters. It is difficult to gauge their qualifications, but they certainly seem jolly confident. And it’s not as if the professionals have set the bar that high.

3. Disposal of Evidence

The government currently pays to destroy the drugs, weapons and counterfeit goods seized as criminal evidence. I understand that there are “blokes down the pub” in all major conurbations, who would be happy to “take them off our hands, gratis and for nothing” on a “no questions asked” basis. A Big Society win win.

4. Tax Collection

Working as unpaid bailiffs, my team of BS irregulars are ready to collect goods in lieu of payment from Vodafone, Arcadia Group, et al and redistribute them to more worthy recipients, unencumbered by the dead hand of government.

As our Prime Minister has so perceptively said, “we are all in this together”. The Big Society is, in a very real sense, all of us. So it’s over to you. Comment below, or tag your contribution #BSIdeas on Twitter.


Due to a confluence of factors (or clusterf**k, as I prefer), I’ve recently been commuting over four hours a day. I’ve been wondering how to profitably spend this time and it has occurred to me that blogging might be a worthwhile use of it.

Of course, to paraphrase Clint Eastwood, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: “what do I write about?” (Well, don’t you punk?). I have recently come up with a peg that I plan to use to hang my bloggers hat upon. That peg is neologisms.

So, a couple of times a week, I’m going to coin a word or phrase and use it as an opportunity to muse upon an aspect of politics and culture. I hope you find it diverting.