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Swellboy on… work placements

With the possibility of electoral reform, one’s thoughts turn to the perils of change

Swellboy on… work placements

Image: Brijesh Patel

April 19 2011
Nick Foulkes

I wonder if I am alone in not knowing what I will be voting for in the coming referendum on electoral reform. I naturally resist change, while also accepting, however grudgingly, that it is all that we can rely upon, so I do not know what to vote for: I doubt whether there will be a box to tick that will enable our electoral system to return to the days of rotten boroughs and family seats. Instead we must propel ourselves into the future and I daresay that whatever complex formulae of democracy we end up adopting will deliver us the government we deserve… as has seemed to be the case all along.

Innate conservatism aside, I do worry about changing too much in our society. Take, for instance, the cherished middle-class custom of work placements. This relatively harmless form of nepotism has enabled parents to foist their children onto friends, who use them as unpaid coffee-makers and photocopying machines for a few weeks before returning them to their families. As an introduction to the world of work, I have always questioned the value of a fortnight’s experience of picking up the boss’s dry cleaning and taking parcels to the post room, but from the kerfuffle in the coalition it seems that I have been totally misinformed and that, far from being a harmless and relatively inexpensive way of occupying one’s offspring during their holidays, it is in fact a class privilege that hinders social mobility – a shameful stain on the national escutcheon that needs to be expunged.

Nor is this the only social inequality that the Cleggeron coalition has identified as being in need of redressing. There is the question of the as-yet-unborn children of the as-yet-unwed Prince William and Kate Middleton. In the fullness of time this child will inherit the throne from his or her father; however, before he sits on it, Wills will have to wait for his father to finish with it; who will only take it over after his mother has completed her reign. Given that our current monarch is a youthful 85-year-old who looks as fit as an orchestra of Stradivarius fiddles and shows every sign of following her centenarian mother in a long well-lived life, this is exactly the sort of pressing matter with which our government needs to be occupying itself. Still, while the reformers are straining at the leash to get rid of the first past the post system at the ballot box, conservatives can comfort themselves that the Coalition appears dedicated to a first out of the womb system when it comes to determining our next monarch.

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