Choice is a choice subject, but not, to keep the pun rolling, a subject of choice. For one thing, it is a complete chimaera, a nonsense. We are told that parents and patients need more choice. They don’t. Like everyone else, they need reliability, which is not the same thing. We don’t need in any sense to be be treated at every turn to an encyclopaedic paint-chart. The continuing obsession with being able to choose schools – including the ability to choose schools who are themselves able to choose what they do – is just nonsense. It’s odd, really, because one thing that the government has sort-of cracked is that the idea of community is a good one. Community means sharing, not choosing, or, in the case of schools, competing. The illusion of choice has always been that it denies other people choice. The more postal systems and train companies there are, the more there is not choice but complete and utter chaos.

I don’t know why this is not obvious.

I do not really want to be able to choose my doctor. I want to have a doctor. I may be being a bit Panglossian, but there are not many Shipmans out there (Shipmen?), and I’m prepared to take my chance. It might seem a bit rich, to pun again, coming from someone who was given a stash of ‘privilege’ when a child, which, when examined, means that my parents paid a lot of money not to have me in the house in term-times, but all the same, it was not a choice my parents made. It was an investment, and about as stupid an investment as having a flutter on the Equitable Life (my father, in a Polonius mood, offered me always one sage piece of financial wisdom: make sure you insure with Equitable Life … lucky I always did the opposite of what he told me).

What strikes me repeatedly is how the bonus culture is more than nuts. I’ve worked now for coming up to 40 years (36, anyway), and by the time I come to the end of my working life, some of it in reasonably responsible positions, I will not have earned in all those years what some bankers are declining for a single year, out of the generosity of their pockets. And I’m one of the prosperous ones, living also in one of the prosperous countries.

Odd how many of the rubbish buzzwords begin with ch-: challenge, change, choice. Political rhetoric has rarely risen above the level of a Peter Sellers sketch (‘Let us look forward to the future which is to come …’).

I’m for chance. That would be a fine thing.


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