Once upon a time at a famous school in La-La Land, Cammy Cam and Boris Bunter were sitting under an oak tree plaiting yellow ribbons and scoffing buns.
“Penny for your thoughts, fatty,” said Cam.
“Jolly good buns,” said Boris.
“No, I mean proper thoughts like Mao had.”
“If you must know, I was thinking about a tart.”
“Haven’t you had enough?” said Cam, shocked at his friend’s greed.
“I can never get enough!” Boris smirked, “particularly when they’re someone else’s. What’s this you’re swotting up?” he asked, picking up the book Cam had been reading.
Cam pursed his lips and tried to look intelligent.
“It’s called Utopia.”
“Is it about Japs?” asked Boris.
“No,” said Cam.
“Yaboo, swiz,” moaned Boris, “I like books about Japs.”
“Let me explain,” Cam said excitedly. “You see this tree we are sitting under?”
“Pretty hard to miss it,” mumbled Boris.
“Just think how super it would be if one could sell off all the forests in the land and give civil society groups a chance to buy them.”
“That seems a bit silly,” said Boris dismissively. “They can buy trees whenever they want.”
“Not trees that we already collectively own.”
“Who do you mean by ‘we’?” asked Boris.
Cam looked despairingly at his fat friend. He was so out of touch with the people’s needs.
“I mean you and me and the rest of our pals and everyone else in the country. We will all be in it together.”
From over by the river Ozzie was approaching. He looked cynical and glum.
“What’s up, Ozzie?” cried Boris. “Lost more money at the races? I suppose you backed Deripaska again? Come and listen to Cam’s new idea. What are you going to call it, by the way?”
“Something really grand and important,” said Cam. “Maybe ‘Jolly Good Society.’”
“Will there be any gingerbread men in it?” asked Boris. “I love gingerbread men; they’re yummy!”
“No, there won’t, they’re staying in Ulster,” said Cam.
“Oh, boo-hoo,” wailed Boris.
“What about ‘Big Society’?” asked Ozzie. “Sounds better than ‘Jolly Good’?”
“Eureka!” shouted Cam. “That’s a really cool name!”
“So what’s this Big Society going to do?” asked Ozzie. “Oh look, Nobby Clarke’s appeared—can he be one of the gang?”
“I thought you were confined to your room,” said Boris.
“Used my Get Out of Jail Free,” said Nobby. “Not that you need one; you can come and go as you please these days.”
“Cam has invented a fab new game called Big Society and he is just explaining the rules,” said Boris.
Cam said that the idea was to put more power and opportunity into people’s hands.
“What people?” Ozzie sneered.
“I mean the citizens, communities, and local government.”
“A bit Liberté, Fraternité, and ‘Let them eat cake,’ isn’t it?” asked Nobby.
“Pompous old windbag,” Ozzie muttered.
“Did I hear the word ‘cake’?” asked Boris. “Goody goody!”
Cam was on a roll.
“We will give communities the right to take over local state-run services, we will train a new generation of community organizers, we will support the creation of neighborhood groups, and we will never surrender.”
A crowd was gathering.
“We will encourage people to volunteer. We will support the creation and expansion of mutuals, cooperatives, charities, and social enterprises. We will give public-sector workers a new right to form employee-owned cooperatives, and we will abolish Regional Spatial Strategies.”
“What are they?” cried a voice.
“I don’t know, but we’ll abolish them,” said Cam.
“That’s Marxism!” someone shouted from the crowd.
“Bollocks—that’s Thatcherism!” cried another.
“All the same thing,” muttered Ozzie.
“What about the Church? Where do they stand?” called an altar boy.
“What Church?” grunted Boris.
“Good point,” said Cam.
Around them things were getting out of hand as more and more people flocked to join the mob.
“What about law and order?” implored an Albanian crime victim.
“We will oblige the police to publish detailed local crime statistics every month,” Cam promised.
“It will take them more than a month to write!” said a man in a Mackintosh raincoat.
“Why do you say that?” asked Cam.
“Because I am a policeman and you, by the way, are in danger of causing a disturbance.”
“Furthermore,” Cam went on, “we will create a new ‘right to data’ so that government-held data sets can be requested and used by the public and then published on a regular basis.”
“We’ve already got that!” shouted a bigoted old woman.
“He’s called Julian Assange!” yelled another.
“Anyway, who’s going to pay for this Big Society?” continued the bigot.
“The banks are,” said Cam. There was a general outburst of laughter.
“Who are you kidding?” they hooted. “Which planet was it?”
“We are going to have a special Big Society Bank and they are going to help small- and medium-sized businesses.”
“Never!” howled the mob.
“It must be hard being a stand-up comedian,” said an ex-undergraduate who couldn’t afford the fees.
“And they will be doing this for nothing, I suppose,” inquired an old campaigner.
“Well, not exactly,” said Cam. “They will be charging a normal commercial bank rate plus a bit to make their bonuses stack up.”
“Making profits, then.”
“It’s a wizard plan,” Cam screamed above the din. “It’s going to be called Project Merlin and I will lead the initiative personally to victory!”
Another wave of raucous laughter followed.
“You and whose army?” shouted a redundant one-legged soldier.
“He’s right, you know,” said Foxy, who had only just arrived. “We haven’t got one.”
“Lord Wei has given me his word. I have a document to prove it,” shouted Cam.
“That’s what Chamberlain said!” came the response.
“I’m afraid to say that Wei just left,” Foxy whispered to Cam.
“We know what you’re up to,” slobbered a man with horrible lips who was standing opposite Cam. “You think you can break up the public sector by getting rid of public servants and trade unions. You think that you can get thousands of poor sods to work for nothing while their businesses go under because the banks won’t provide them with the help they need. And in the meantime you and your greedy private-sector chums can get as fat as that pulpit poof scarecrow over there.”
“I say steady on,” grumbled Boris.
Police reinforcements were arriving, and just in time, as people had begun exchanging blows.
“I never even got onto health and welfare and things like that,” said a disappointed Cam.
“Better leave it, old chap,” said Boris, “and while we’re about it, I would chuck that utopia rubbish in the river.”
“What a shame,” muttered Cam, tearing up the pages and hurling them into the stream. “So much for ideology; it never even floated. Do you think there was a leak?”
“It was riddled with holes,” said Boris, “rather like old Major Currie’s Back to Basics. Come on, let’s go round to Cleggy’s for a kick-about.”
“He hasn’t got a ball,” said Cam.
“He is the ball,” said Boris, and they both burst out laughing.
Cam suddenly grabbed Boris’s arm.
“I’ve just had a brilliant idea,” he cried, “It’s called multiculturalism.”
“Why not leave it for another day?” Boris chuckled.
“All right,” said Cam.
And they all lived in coalition ever after.
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