Friday, 29 October 2010

Back To Coventry, Metaphorically-Speaking. And The Birth Of A Youth Activist.

Marvellous. It's Friday again, and The Boss isn't speaking to me, also again. This is probably how things are between Boris and Dave at the moment, too - but it makes surgery rather difficult to handle, to say the least.

I start off by trying to persuade Andrew to be moderate in his responses to enquiries, but he soon makes it plain that he's not willing to listen to a word I say. This results in things becoming farcical quite quickly.

The first constituent is an ex-con, who wants The Boss to write to his GP to persuade him to issue a prescription for Viagra.

"I can't get it up no longer," he says. "It's right traumatic."

The Boss nods sagely, as if he can imagine this only too well.

"Terrible thing, terrible," he says. "Have you tried asking your doctor yourself?"

"Yep. He won't agree to it. He's prejudiced against offenders."

"What were you in prison for?" I say.


Now The Boss wants me to write to the doctor to point out that this constituent has served his time and is as entitled to a sex-life as anyone else. (That's debatable, from my perspective. It's not as if everyone is having rampant sex, after all.)

The next constituent is no better. He's a convicted paedophile. (Is the bail hostel running a day-trip to our office, or something?) Now I'm supposed to persuade the man's victim to meet him - to help the paedophile deal with his feelings about the event.

By this point, it feels as if the world has gone stark staring mad. God knows what the press will make of The Boss' intercession in either of these bloody cases, if the news gets out.

The last constituent's a bit of a shock, too. When I go to the door, and call for Mr Johnson, a teenage youth stands up. Followed by Josh.

"Oh, hi, Josh," I say. "I'm busy at the moment. I'll be about half an hour if you want to wait for me."

"I'm with Ben," says Josh. 'I'm his McKenzie's friend." (I wondered why he asked me about that the other night! Reminder to self: always dig deeper before answering.)

"Oh. I see." I don't, actually. I have no idea what is going on.

"We've come to see our MP," says Josh. "There's something very dodgy going on at the cinema, and someone needs to do something about it."

Now it seems as if The Boss agrees. When Ben has told Andrew that he's been forced to resign, Josh takes over. (I think he may have missed the bit where the McKenzie's friend is supposed to remain silent.)

He explains that the cinema has just taken on another batch of new employees. Before anyone can think that this is an early indicator of the private sector stepping in to fill the gap left by public sector redundancies, Josh says that most of those who already have jobs are being got rid of - by stealth. Like Ben.

Apparently, a steady stream of cinema workers are being called in to see the managers, accused of small misdemeanours such as taking a day off sick, and then advised to resign "if they want to make sure they have a good reference."

Josh says that these culls of employees happen fairly regularly, according to the few staff who have managed to keep their jobs for longer than a year.

"But what's the point of that, if the company then has to recruit to fill the jobs again?" I say.

"Well, Mum," says Josh. "Oh, sorry, Mrs Bennett - the rumour is that the company gets financial incentives for every worker it takes from the dole queue. And they don't have to employ them for long to earn it."

"Bloody hell," says The Boss. "So they can claim for a new lot every six months or so?"

"Seems that way," says Josh. "If everyone goes quietly. Only I don't see why they should, do you?"

Well, that was a surprise. Even The Boss is impressed. When we get back to the office, he actually speaks to me.

"Quite the young activist, your son - isn't he?" he says. "Seems he's inherited your reforming zeal. It's just a shame yours seems to have disappeared, eh, Molly?"

Then he picks up his briefcase, says, "Come on, Vicky - I'll buy you a coffee," and walks out of the door.

"Well, we can't all be red-soled philanthropists," I say - to his retreating back. All my best lines, doomed to remain unheard.


  1. This is proof I've been right all along to hero worship your son ;) Go Josh! Embodiment of the Broken of Britain spirit!
    BG Xx

  2. I know! Was quite proud of myself....though am hoping it doesn't cost him his job ;-)

  3. The incentive no longer exists under Flexible New Deal, but might change with the introduction of the new Work Programme.
    But, go Josh!! your influence is obviously making him a compassionate member of society.

  4. Ah, that's interesting. So is there currently no incentive for companies to employ and then fire young previously-unemployed people in batches as it sounds as if the cinema may have been doing, then?

  5. Not at the moment no, but this could change of course!

  6. Bother. Josh will be so annoyed he's missed the chance to expose corruption :-(