According to the BBC News website, our increasingly bemused and bemusing Prime Minister has come up with a splendid new vote-winning election promise: COMPULSORY VOLUNTEERS!
He does not, of course, mean compulsory VOLUNTARY service, but compulsory UNPAID service. Some difference there, I should have thought.
One of my earliest run-ins with authority was when, as a wartime schoolboy, I was sent to a boarding school which proudly proclaimed that all activities – apart from lessons – were “voluntary”.
In practice, if you refused to take part in weekday games [the head was cricket-mad] or the Sunday cadet corps, you were relegated to an especially disagreeable gym session conducted by an utterly incompetent master.
I strenuously objected to this, as I considered it to be arrant humbug.
After long tussles with the head, and the intervention of my parents, I was grudgingly permitted to spend my Sunday afternoons on my own as I wished – usually going for solitary walks.
I considered the concept of “voluntary compulsion” or “compulsory volunteering” a totally dishonest and bogus one. It was dishonest and bogus then, and it is dishonest and bogus now. But it is precisely what we have come to expect from New Labour.
They should call it Youth Conscription, and have done with it.
Come back, George Orwell. We need you.