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Friday, July 24, 2009

Good intentions makes good PR but don’t change the world

If you are busy and don’t have time to read something that is only tangentially related to the 50-plus marketing then farewell and have a good day. If you have a minute or two and are interested in reading a few more of my moans about the UK, then thanks for hanging around.

The “bottom line” is this; over the past decade “doing things” has been replaced by an endless stream of consultations, initiatives, enterprises, action-groups, commissions and all sorts of expensive bodies that generate words but no action. To feed the government’s need to be seen to be doing something, a whole parasitic industry of agencies. NGOs and consultants has exploded to generate the impression that things have or are about to change. Let’s be honest, over the years I have worked on this type of Government related work so I am not blameless.

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean. Back in early June it was announced that the government was going do something about the “Digital Divide” – the great unwashed who don’t pay broadband bills. With a great fanfare it was announced that one of the UK’s most charismatic entrepreneurs was going to help tackle this problem. Older people were specifically mentioned as a group who would benefit from her work. I wrote about this at the time.

A month passes and we learn that this objective has been dropped and that the focus of her attentions will be poorest 6 million people in the UK – obviously this will include a good number of the old. In truth it doesn’t matter a jot since the chance of her having any impact, with a budget of £2 million and working part time, is next to zero. The point is it generated a slew of headlines that gave the impression that something was about to happen when nothing could be further from the truth.

Another example. This week we read the headlines:” Urban allotments, reading groups and computer training for the over 50s are just some of the good practice initiatives detailed in a new approach to public mental health.” You might be mistaken for thinking that hordes of over-50s were about to start reading books on growing potatoes, checking the weather forecasts on the web before descending in their legions on a carpet of allotments that will magically appear across the country. No. Wrong. This is all part of a “consultation process” (i.e. it wont happen).

This farce reminds me of the line in Evita: “As soon as this smoke from the funeral clears, we're all gonna see, and how, she did nothing for years! You let down your people, Evita.” Substitute “British Government” for ‘Evita’ and you have the state of UK Ltd in one. OK, moan over, onwards and upwards etc etc etc.

Another aside. Is this cynical and defeatist attitude one of the negative effects of ageing or one of the benefits of having been around to see so many of these initiatives come to nothing? Dick Stroud

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