When comedy veers into tragedy

It’s a funny old world and no mistake. Not many people seem to do what they’re supposed to. Things are just not what they seem. We’ve become accustomed, almost inured, to banks that won’t lend money and hospitals that kill you, newspapers that tell lies and children’s television presenters that abuse minors.

It’s enough to bring out the inner curmudgeon, even in those with the sunniest disposition. One is astonished (and driven to comment in public) when one receives any level of customer service whatsoever. Oh, and we’ve got snow in April.

Some of this unwitting (and witting) stuff, these “signs of the times”, would verge on the comical if they were not so tragic. Last week the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) put out a press release about localism with an accompanying photograph of… yes! A central government departmental building. As Julian Dobson, that master of the understatement said at the time “Ineptitude would be putting it generously…”

 

This was followed, in short order, by Mr John Moss, the consultant retained by Stephen Greenhalgh (when he was leader of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham) commenting on Dave Hill’s blog of 25 March.

His comment begins with: “Where all Councils… is in using the two tools at their disposal which can make regeneration work for both the existing communities and the new ones. Their ownership (or ability to acquire ownership) of land and their ability to control development once complete if they do”, and ends with: “But if all you do with that is impose developers’ visions of high-rise, high-density housing then you’ve wasted it”.

Is it just me, or isn’t this rather peculiar? Seeing as it was his piece of work that underpinned Hammersmith and Fulham’s insistence that the two council estates (West Kensington and Gibbs Green) be included in CapCo’s plans to redevelop Earls Court in the first place. When Mr Moss wrote his report for Mr Greenhalgh, was it not his intention to knock down those two estates to impose a developer’s “vision of high rise high density housing” then? Because he certainly didn’t make that very clear at the time. Not to Mr Greenhalgh in any case. Perhaps he’s changed his mind.

 

Forgive the gallows humour, but you have to smile.  And it would seem that whatever is confusing John Moss may have spread to Mr Chris Rumfitt of Edelman (and the person retained by CapCo to do its PR on Earls Court).

I understand that Mr Rumfitt rather touchingly describes himself as the “last Blairite in the Labour Party”. And just this last week he tweeted that “The bedroom tax seems crude and unfair, but Labour does need an alternative policy to tackle under-occupancy in social housing” leaving one to wonder whether the policy he would advocate would be the knocking down of council estates (say… West Kensington and Gibbs Green for example?) as a policy position, rather than merely to facilitate his client’s development plans.

 

No, things are not all they seem. The bien pensent among us can only look on in despair really. And only yesterday the wondrous Paula Hirst drew my attention to the New London Awards 2013 announced as open “for built and unbuilt projects” by those venerable folks over at New London Architecture.

Yes you did read that correctly, you can enter your scheme, whether or not it actually gets built. Beggars belief really. Now this is a really serious sign of the times: you can now win awards for things that didn’t or won’t happen. You can win an award for not delivering. Marvellous.

 

Why oh why?

 

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